Richard Crowson Commentary

Politicians can run but they cannot hide from political cartoonist (and banjo player) Richard Crowson and his watchdog, Al. Tune in on alternate Wednesdays to hear the latest.

Sometimes a little distance from something can give you a completely different slant on it. There’s a whole lot of distance now, between my 60-year-old self and the summer of 1962.

That was the summer I played drums with The Ventures. Lee Edward Sonny Smith was my next-door neighbor in Memphis, Tenn. Sonny had gotten himself into the classic quandary of so many youngsters back in those days—he had secretly enrolled in the Columbia Record Club.

I was performing a musical program on Kansas history last week to a group of 3rd graders. While talking about our state’s tumultuous birth in 1861 and the songs of the American Civil War, I came to the well known tune, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.” I asked how many knew someone serving in the military away from home and was surprised at the large number of hands that went up.

Maybe you’re one of the many Kansans who don’t pay an awful lot of attention to the Legislature. We have busy lives, and the idea of wading through news stories about political intrigue in Topeka can make the eyes glaze over and the prospect of rearranging one’s sock drawer sound suddenly appealing.

But while many of us were preoccupied with the necessary duties of running our households, driving the kids around, and gulping down coffee on the way to work each morning, a tireless effort to upend your life has been winning the day in our state’s capitol.

Of all the many lines in the movie “The Wizard of Oz” that are regularly quoted by us cartoonist and commentary types, the one that is probably most often used is spoken by Dorothy. Looking around in amazement at Munchkinland, she says, “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!”

One day years ago during a frantic morning, I was darting around and doing the usual scramble-dance of a person with a tight schedule who is running late for work. As I sped my daughter to daycare, I was lamenting the fact that I really needed a few extra minutes. Why wasn’t there a Minutes R Us store nearby where you could pick up some extra chunks of time, take them home, store them on a shelf in the garage, and grab one the next time you’re late for something?

Ah, yes—delayed gratification. I remember it well.

Back in the days before we live on 5-hour Energy drinks, triple-shot Starbucks lattes and the irresistible urge to text while we drive, we were sometimes willing to wait a bit in order to obtain something worthwhile.

I was recently reminded of some of Wichita’s visionary leaders of the past as I drove down Kellogg. I’m talking about the kind of leadership that concerns itself more with the long-term public good instead of handing out quick-fix, instantly gratifying lollipops like tax cuts and such.

We’re in the throes of a kind of “March madness” that most likely will not be going away come April. It is a sort of madness that has a much more profound impact any than basketball game could ever have.

I’m talking about the kind of madness that could leave thousands of Kansas Medicaid recipients stuck in that crazy-making, Alice-in-Wonderland place of having to deal with for-profit companies who will make decisions about those folks’ health care.

Driving down Douglas this past Tuesday I couldn’t help noticing a forelorn figure, shaggy head down, slumped despondently on a street-side bench. His large, bare feet instantly identified him to me and I swung over, pulled to a stop in the parking lot beside him, rolled down my window, and said, “Hey Bigfoot, why so sad?”

Surely no one is surprised that parents are very concerned about the proposed boundary changes in Wichita’s school district. Schools are about our children and our children are an emotional subject for all of us. So if you’re going to start messing around with my kid’s school, maybe even closing that school and making my child go elsewhere, then you’ve got some serious explaining to do.

There’s a bill before our Kansas legislature to make the Cain Terrier the official State Dog of the State of Kansas. I applaud our esteemed deliberative governing body for its willingness to take up this issue. But I have this advice: Go slowly, dear legislators. Weigh the pros and cons. Consult with recognized experts in this field. Public hearings would be advisable as well. Have your staffs arm you with reams of research. Take the time required to get this issue right. Many wonderful dog breeds may have Kansas connections that you should consider. There may be field trips necessary.