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Wayne Post
  • WES A. GIFFORD: 'Splain yourself'

  • We have a host of news broadcasters, day after day, feeding us with mindless chatter instead of news. Most of these folks know less of history than a pig knows about flying.

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  • As Ricky Ricardo, a Cuban-born American with a distinct Hispanic accent, said to Lucy, following a disastrous hijinks episode with Ethel, “Splain yourself.” In that vein, most of us remember a teacher who had a great and lasting influence on our lives. Mine happens to be a professor of law at Columbia, a tall rangy fellow, whose appearance was somewhere between a crane and an ostrich. The one thing that stuck with me over the passing years was his favorite expression: “Spell it out,” much like Ricky’s “Splain yourself.”
    After having given a reading assignment of several judicial decisions, Prof. Reese would call upon some hapless student to respond to a question he would pose, trying to elicit some understanding of what legal principles the cases held. The student would stand in place and, while shaking a bit, respond with some off-target answer and try to sit down unnoticed. Reese would crank his head around like a big bird and shout, “Spell it out!” It was like being shot without the bleeding.
    It has occurred to me that there are too few Prof. Reeses in this country and too many Lucys. Politics is a perfect example. Over the years, we have succumbed to slick advertising campaigns from the siren calls of Madison Avenue, which began over six decades ago. The original purpose was to sell soap. We are now forced to choose our elected representatives with the same reckless abandon as we buy a detergent to wash our socks. Unfortunately, only the detergent cleans something. The politicians seldom clean anything.
    To further exacerbate the situation, we have a host of news broadcasters, day after day, feeding us with mindless chatter instead of news. Most of these folks know less of history than a pig knows about flying. Every event reported is a humongous, catastrophic disaster unparalleled in all human history; or, it’s a new record of some innocuous event, ie., the smallest, largest, longest, coldest, wettest to have occurred since a week ago last Thursday afternoon. Statistics gone mad.
    On top of all that, we have to deal with the ever-present scroll line moving across the bottom of the screen. For a long time I was under the impression that I was not sufficiently gifted to be able to comprehend two thoughts at the same time. However, a qualified expert in the workings of the human mind recently informed me that it is quite impossible for anyone to grasp two thoughts at the same time. The net result is that we often don’t get either message. It’s like listening to the banter going on all at the same time from the Sons of Italy morning coffee corner at McDonald’s. If it weren’t for the hand waving, nobody would understand any of it.
    Page 2 of 2 - The lightweight chatter of Kathie Lee and Hoda doesn’t pretend to be serious, so it’s not offensive. On the other hand, the roundtable discussions on CNN, supposedly a serious news source, often descend to the level of gossip over the backyard clothesline. Along with that, we have the “serious interview” of some poor citizen who has just lost a loved one to a shooting or automobile accident and the “reporter” asks that dumbest of all questions, “How do you feel?”
    Then, there are interviews of the politicians running for Congress. Every last one of them promises to go to Washington and “fight for you.” I say stop fighting and start thinking. Both sides talk about saving the “middle class.” The Democrats think anybody earning less than $250,000 is middle-class. The Republicans think everybody is middle-class regardless of how much they earn. They both tell the gullible voter, “I’m going to create jobs.” And, the reporter doesn’t have the brass to ask, “How do you plan to do that?” Or, in the eloquent words of Ricky Ricardo, “Splain yourself.”
    Wes A. Gifford, a lawyer and one of the founders of Sonnenberg Gardens, lives in Canandaigua.
     

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