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Exploring the nature of things

Look and listen long enough in a certain neighborhood on Marion’s north hill and you’ll experience the world in miniature.

From what seems to be a burgeoning urban chicken ranch down the street comes the regular crowing of a hens-only flock. Rippling like waves from south to north, then off to the east, come serial alerts from overly vigilant cells of canine soldiers, each progressively notifying the next of the slightest movement of pedestrian or feline troops. In the background is a moaning horn of a lonely freight train, traversing a rough crossing soon to be repaired and punctuated hourly by baritone tolling of a distant taxpayer-supported bell.

Then, suddenly, you hear it — “Nyah! Nyah! Get out of here!” — a nonagenarian alto voice channeling its inner Donald Trump in a vain attempt to rid the neighborhood of undesirables: blackbirds who, in a week and a day, have managed to consume all 14 pounds of a social welfare safety net of seeds provided not for them but for songbirds they chase away.

On the corner, a petit jury of judgmental neighbors — a clowder, clutter, or glaring of cats, depending on your dictionary of choice —sprawl impassively across a corner’s pavement, defying passing cars to run their blockade.

Dickens would find both the best and the worst of times in this very small corner of our very large globe. Sadness of a squirrel plunging 20 feet from an ancient tree to an ignoble death on pavement below is quickly offset by joy of discovery, scant feet away, of an English spotted rabbit, presumably an escapee from human bondage, now crouching fearfully flat in tall grass.

Nature is everything — good, bad, and sometimes both at the same time. Describe our very small corner to a cross-section of people and some will find outrage over pet peeves while others will find solace in favorite things.

It’s pretty much the same as the response to last week’s mythical interview with Horners Corners resident William Payer, whose friends call him Bill. We’ve heard it labeled everything from a populist manifesto with which readers totally agree to just another exercise in supposed mean-spiritedness.

The challenge is neither to agree nor disagree — either with editorial or with small corners of the world — but to think before seeing every issue as if it were an English spotted escapee, all black and white with no gray.

We’d all most assuredly be proud of a new $16,000 video signboard in front of Marion High School, but we also have to wonder its role vis-a-vis to an existing, barely used manual sign, purchased as a memorial.

A social media eruption of “stranger danger” concerns in Hillsboro this week is at once an understandable outpouring of concern and something not far removed from a virtual lynching. We all want kids to be safe and laws to be enforced. But publicly condemning an outsider — an African American at that — and cyberstalking him by posting photos of his car raises almost as many legal concerns as do the crimes he is accused in Salem witch trial fashion of wanting to commit. To a parent, the social media outpouring is totally understandable. To a citizen, it’s not so clear. The problem is, most of us are both.

We want to support healthy family values in such places as public libraries. No one wants little kids seeing porn on library computers. But exactly who decides what’s porn and what isn’t? Take a few books off the shelves of those libraries and you — or your child — will find plenty of X, R, PG-13 or PG-rated passages. Do we ban those, too? And exactly where do we draw the line: R but not X, PG but not R? Who decides? And what happens if a classic like “Of Mice and Men” falls on the wrong side of that line.

Sad as the events in Orlando this past weekend have been, we’re left with the confusing question of whether yet more weapons in the hands of yet more people would help or hurt. An even sadder truth is that one of the core beliefs that united fundamentalists from otherwise loving Christian and Muslim faiths is intense dislike for those specifically targeted in the attack, which may be less about terror and more about religious-induced hatred.

Agree or disagree isn’t the point — in editorials or in life. Considering what hasn’t previously been considered is. That’s why we have newspapers and editorials.

What you decide after thinking is up to you, as long as you think before you decide. The only people we’ll categorically condemn are those who blindly support or oppose without first giving it thought.

This is, after all, Kansas. Our world is filled with gray cottontails, not English spotteds.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified June 16, 2016

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