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I Repeat
This essay will be the 300th Eaganblog. Another two years under the bridge, over the dam, and out to the open sea. As I have done at previous century marks, I will take this moment to reflect on the state of my blog.

I like that series of water metaphors in the first paragraph, especially with the last one being unlike the first two. That form is a classic set-up for a laugh or at the very least a little wrinkle in an otherwise flat stretch of prose. It may be a sin to over-use such forms, but it’s only a venial sin. Mortal sins like using too many modifiers are much more of a cause for concern, and all I can say is that I’m trying. More editing and better verbs are my way to salvation.

I try to avoid repeating anything, though. For instance, I’ve tried to keep things fresh by mixing in some doggerel and a few epigrams to go with all the classic five-paragraph essays. There’s nothing wrong with essays, I suppose. Most columnists never deviate from that format, and they manage to get their points across. But I am not bound by word counts or column inches. There is no reason to limit myself, so I’m always on the lookout for something new. An occasional palindrome, perhaps, or themed lists, or mini-fables. Or just one word, if it’s a good’n.

There is one kind of repetition, however, that I have fallen prey to over the last hundred weeks. I keep coming back to one particular category of subject matter, and I can’t seem to help myself. In case you haven’t noticed, there is a link on my blog archives that will take you to all my blogs in a particular category. [This one, for instance, will go into “Language,” even though that might be a stretch. “Writing” would be a better classification for this piece, but there are only eight choices currently available and that is not one of them.] If you hit that link and bother to look closely, you will find that the “Politics” group has grown alarmingly of late. My last reflective blog (#201, The Upside of Down) was listed under “Politics.” That essay, it appears, was a harbinger for what has been an explosion of blogs under that heading.

Even though I am a political cartoonist, I had tried to avoid writing too much on that topic. Eaganblog gives me a chance to talk about a lot of things that my cartoons never touch. I like that. There were only six “Politics” entries in the first year, for example, while my other writing roamed all over the place. Over the last twelve months, by contrast, I’ve produced twenty-one. I tell myself that we have entered a dangerous time in our domestic politics, and that the elevation of he-who-must-not-be-named requires that I step up and speak.

I try to resist that call, but it’s hard. I’ve got one bubbling up even now that is burning to get out and get heard. It’s better not to suppress such impulses, but I am concerned that “Politics” is now the second-biggest category in a feature I had hoped would be more about the broader world. I need to get back to such categories as “Sports,” which has a mere eight entries to its name. “Humor,” poor thing, only has four. As soon as we get rid of this guy, I hope to get back to Plan A. We’ll all be relieved when that day comes.

So I promise…as soon as the fever breaks and harmony begins returning to our world, I will give politics the rest it deserves. Until then, we will have to wait for explorations of such topics as the LIGO gravity wave detector, the play of Good vs. Evil in athletics, and why farts are funny. See what I did there?
Too Much Gun
I have friends who are members of the NRA. We don’t talk about guns very much because our views on the subject are strong and diametric. The specter of the latest slaughter of schoolchildren demands, however, that I address this essay to these good, law-abiding gun owners.

Let me start by saying that there is nothing inherently wrong with guns. The same goes for drugs or poison or TNT or transfats. There is also nothing inherently good about any of these things. We have to be careful with them, is all. Common sense should tell us, however, that the more catastrophic the misuse of these things can be, the more careful we have to be. I don’t think we need to outlaw unhealthy food, for instance, but I think it makes sense to say no to private ownership of, say, H-bombs. It’s a question of degree.

I’m okay with the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. It’s right there the Constitution, after all. I do not, however, put that right on the same level with the rights to free speech, free press, or the freedom of religion. I think that these aspects of our humanity are inherently good. The history of human expression and personal conscience has been around for as long as we have. Firearms, on the other hand, are not fundamental to the human equation. They are simply one of many technologies our species has developed in the last few hundred years. The protection of one relatively new technology just doesn’t deserve the importance we give to rights that are innate to our nature as human beings.

That said, I am content with protecting your right to hunt. I’m okay with you arming yourselves as a defense against harm. These school shootings, however, are not acts of self-defense. They are large-scale attacks on children using weapons of war. That is wrong on its face. I don’t want to hear how much fun it is to shoot an AR-15 at a firing range. If we can trade that little bit of pleasure for a child’s life, we should take the deal.

I don’t want to take away guns, I want to take away the ability of moody loners to conduct large-scale slaughters at schools and other public places. The NRA, it seems to me, does not care about these shootings. Its believes that the Second Amendment represents a nearly absolute right — an honor that no other Constitutional right enjoys. True to its doctrine, the NRA has encouraged the proliferation of these weapons of war among ordinary citizens — with awful consequences.

If you are a member of the NRA and disagree with its position on this question, I am asking you to resign your membership in that organization. Now. Keep your guns, but please don’t fund a group that elevates them to a place of honor above the lives of children. Whatever the NRA may do to protect the right to bear arms under the Constitution, it also supports efforts that undermine our right to enjoy lives safe from this kind of atrocity. It is not a question of degree to them, but an obsession with firearms. That is not healthy for anyone.

So defund the warmongers. Abandon the NRA. I’ve got your back, I promise.
Dead Etiquette
The walking dead are everywhere these days. They’re on TV. They’re down at the local cinema. For all we know, they might be walking among us. And that raises an important question about manners.

Ordinarily, if someone is determined to eat your brains, you don’t need to observe the courtesies expected in polite society. No one demands that we say “please,” or “thank you,” or “after you, I insist” to a zombie. Their willingness to crack open our skulls and gobble our gray matter clearly absolves us of such duties.

When it comes to appropriate terms of address, however, I think we should not be so quick to abandon etiquette. Proper greeting is a base-level sign of respect that is fundamental to our social order. And why should such rules apply to the undead, you ask?Well, as I understand the zombie phenomenon, any dead body can be reanimated and made to lurch around in search of other peoples’ thinkmeat. The person (or soul or life force or consciousness) who previously inhabited the body has (according to many) gone on to its reward. If that person has lead an exemplary life, so the story goes, he or she is welcomed into Heaven and invited to sing Hosannas for all eternity.

Such folks aren’t just good people, they’re saints. Doesn’t that entitle their remains to a certain level of respect? I think we have to say yes, if only to honor their memory and all the fine things they did and stood for while alive.

It’s tricky, though. You wouldn’t want to get caught, frozen, struggling to choose the most respectful way to address a saint, while the saint’s revivified carcass tries to eat you. Oh, I know what you’re thinking: “Come on, dude, it’s a zombie! Just blow its head off with a 12-gauge and let God sort it out.” Okay fine, but what if it’s a Jesus zombie? What if he has rolled the stone away and come out as one of the living dead? What are your chances of getting into Heaven if you blow the head off the Son of God? All I am saying is that it never hurts to be polite.

So how does one address a saint, exactly? For instance, do I call Saint John the Baptist “Saint” or “Saint John” or just “John?” “Baptiste” has a nice flair to it, but none of these seems right. Sir or madam seem wrong, somehow, too. How about something appropriate to their station? Your eminence? Your grace? Reverend? Those seem too stilted — and might even be taken as a mocking jibe by an already agitated zombie.

As an alternative, I am suggesting the simple term “friend.” It is, after all, the highest honor we can grant to a fellow human being. It is intimate without being too familiar, welcoming without demanding anything in return. I can’t imagine anyone, living or undead, objecting to it as a proper term of address. I haven’t had the opportunity to field-test this greeting with an actual zombie, but I feel confident in recommending it as a respectful and polite greeting for anybody who does meet one. As the being staggers toward you, hail it cheerily with a “What ho, good friend?” and see what happens.

If it still insists on eating your brains, there’s always the 12-gauge. At least you tried. That is all polite society expects.
We Are the Champions
I’ll admit it. I can’t drain the three from half court the way Steph Curry does. I might be able to heave it in once in a hundred tries, but not with such grace and ease — and certainly not with such regularity. There is no way I could pick the hot grounder in the style of Brandon Crawford, either, much less plant and throw in one smooth, powerful motion. I am not a professional athlete.

But I am a fan, and I can appreciate these feats. My sinews twitch sympathetically when I witness that kind of physical mastery. It is as if my muscles are dreaming of such acts themselves, imagining greater versions of something similar they might have done.

What’s more, I have never brought tens of thousands to their feet, roaring their approval for my on-field heroics. I’ve had my moments, but never that kind of acclaim. Such ovations are reserved for a special few.

I am fine with that. When I root for Steph Curry, I can feel his basketball wizardry as if it were my own. Through Brandon Crawford, I can exhilarate in the cheers as if I were on the field with my teammates, hoisting the World Series trophy in celebration. This is the single greatest benefit of sports fanhood — being a vicarious champion.

And even though I find myself drifting away from the brutality of football, I can still stand at the very peak of that sport. This week I shared that mythic moment with journeyman back-up QB Nick Foles of the Philadelphia Eagles. We rose to the moment with our against-all-odds, career-defining, MVP performance in the clutch. We basked together in the glow of victory. I have no bruises to show for my borrowed triumph, no gaudy ring, no winner’s purse. But I am fulfilled.

A paycheck? No thanks, I’m in it for the glory.
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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee