• Boorish, Predatory, and Al Franken

    • Posted on Nov 26, 2017
    Today's Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier column--submitted last Tuesday, and the news about Al Franken may have changed my judgement--is he really a predator after all? 

    I don't think so, but he certainly carries on like a  lifelong boor.  

     Breathes there a soul anywhere who hasn’t behaved boorishly?  Doesn’t growing up mean outgrowing boorish behavior?  

     Let’s be sure we agree on “boorish.”  The dictionary defines it as “rough and bad-mannered, coarse,” and adds as synonyms “uncouth, rude, ill-bred, ill-mannered, uncivilized, unrefined, thuggish, loutish, oafish, lubberly, lumpen, vulgar, unsavory, gross, brutish, Neanderthal, cloddish.”   That pretty much covers it, though I wonder about “lubberly.”  

     How well I remember my own and others’ occasional boorish behavior, starting in junior high and running through early college and beyond.  We blurted and bumbled through bottomless insecurities, seeking distracting breaks from growing up. Those who never grew up remained locked in boorhood, not to be confused with boyhood.  

     Yes, males are more susceptible to boorishness, but females aren’t exempt. We can all remind female friends about their cringeworthy behavior.  Granted, male boors likely outnumber females by a good ten to one, and at least that much for predators.  As a former bar musician, I can testify that female boors, after a few drinks, are louder than males and just as boorish.  

     These days if we were to run for office, we’d experience a pang of fear of being exposed for the boors we were, if only rarely. This fear could well stop otherwise solid candidates from running.  

     So, let’s give us all a break.  Yes, Al Frankin behaved boorishly. I would guess that a huge percentage of those who are offended by Frankin’s grinning grab have behaved similarly, though translated a thousand different ways for each gender. 

    So, hypocrites, lay off.  

    If we were to learn that Al Franken acted in a predatory manner, his political career would likely tank. He deserves scorn, which he admits, and of which he’s gotten plenty. However, reverting to childish behavior at times hardly makes him a predator.  

     Boorishness can be offensive and downright hurtful, for sure.  But it can’t be prosecuted, since we’d have to arrest thousands, from Trump to troll.  And maybe we should, but we don’t yet live in a society where boorish behavior can get you arrested.  

    Now, predatory behavior is different in kind. All predators are boors, but not all boors are predators. Predators are on the hunt, disregarding personal space in favor of their own gratification.  Predators undertake all manner of perverse behavior, from voyeurism to indecent exposure to sexual assault. Many predators are likely also sociopaths, and operate without concern for anyone but themselves.  

     When predatory acts are newly exposed they’ve caused major falls from the heights to the depths. Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Charlie Rose serve as prime examples, but more are crashing daily. 

     In contrast, Judge Roy Moore behaved like a predator, according to at least nine women, whose consistent stories stand the truth test.  Mainstream Republicans agree that he deserves oblivion, if not eventual legal action.  And what of President Trump, who behaved more like a predator than a mere boor?   

     Moore and Trump are cut from the same bolt of dark cloth.    

    Go comment!
  • Ban the Booms

    • Posted on Oct 15, 2017
    Here's today's Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier column.  Fireworks is now a major issue affecting quality of life in Cedar Falls, and everywhere else that's deciding whether to allow consumers to blow off fireworks in their back yards.   

    It was a bad idea, as residents with ears and sensitivities know, and Cedar Falls will start reading (and I hope passing) a ban ordinance on Nov. 20.
    I grew up in Iowa, where fireworks stayed illegal for decades until last June. Fireworks were outlawed, so only outlaws had fireworks.   

     I also witnessed injuries and barely escaped a few myself. Those little gunpowder sticks and rockets were dangerous, and injuries could be serious, even life-

     True story:  I spent days in Sartori hospital during my early teens being treated for emergency hernia surgery. I shared a room with a man in his early twenties, a good-natured fellow who had lost the tip of his thumb and first two fingers to a cherry bomb.  

     He was wearing a tux at a wedding and as a joke, someone had tossed the cherry bomb at him.  It fell into his cummerbund—that decorative waist-band that completes the front of a tux—and he pitched it out just as it went off.  Maimed for life. 

     To be fair, “cherry bombs” and “M-80s” have since been banned everywhere.  

     Still, injuries from less lethal but still legal fireworks in Iowa have in fact
    increased.  Deb Krebil, Marion Fire Chief and president of the Iowa Association of Profession Fire Chiefs, emailed me the following statement from the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics: “In 2017, there were as many firework injuries at UIHC as were seen in the previous three years combined.  In addition, the injuries seen this past summer were more severe, resulting in a greater proportion of surgeries and hospital admissions.  Lastly, the number of patients injured who were under the age of 18 increased.” 

    Yet public safety is only the first reason to ban consumer fireworks.  

    Let’s hear it for peace and quiet. Celebrating national holidays can get noisy just from sheer exuberance, and I’m all for that as long as citizens can choose.   
    But neighbors shooting fireworks don’t allow choice. Booms, bangs, and falling hot ashes impinge on a whole neighborhood. This is especially true for pets and PTSD sufferers, who struggle mightily with explosions that mimic both thunderstorms and battlefield firefights.     

    Though state legislature legalized sales of fireworks, they also allowed cities to continue banning them.  That has generated statewide controversy, and Cedar Falls will be reading a new ordnance banning the booms on November 20th, according to Mayor Jim Brown. 

     Those against a city-wide ban set forth three arguments:  Revenue, freedom, and enforceability.  Granted, revenue from consumer explosives now stay in Iowa. That’s also one solid argument for legalizing recreational marijuana. So fireworks will stay legal for purchase.  For use, go outside city limits.

     Freedom?  It stops at the eardrums.  That’s why we have noise ordnances.  
    Enforceability remains a major issue. Fireworks shooters will always be with us, and bans might even make fireworks more attractive for scofflaws. 

    Still, a ban means possible arrests and fines.  Even though it’s hard to catch fireworks shooters, they’re subject to neighbors’ complaints and citizens’ arrests.  
    These Iowa cities have already completely banned explosives as private entertainment:  Davenport, Cedar Rapids, Ames, Johnston, Burlington, Iowa City, Coralville, Dubuque, and West Des Moines. 

     Cedar Falls and Waterloo should join them.     
    Go comment!
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“Even before the advent of the Internet, Cawelti’s columns went 'viral' in the Cedar Valley… the role of a columnist is to be thought provoking, to take tacks that shed a different light on an issue or possibly cause a reader to reevaluate a position. At the very least, it should bring clarity to a particular perspective, whether you buy into the commentator’s worldview or not.

Scott's work does just that.  Enjoy this collection of his writing.”

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