The Dallas City Council adopted the new Please Lord Make Dwaine Shut Up Act on Wednesday, reducing the amount of time council members may speak on any issue. The Dwaine part of the title, which I made up, is for council member Dwaine Caraway. The rest of it you can probably figure out.
And, yes, I know, in my extremely predictable role as a libtard scribbler, I’m supposed to go on a big rant right about now on the First Amendment and freedom of speech and what a terrible thing it will be for the future if Caraway, against whom the ordinance was clearly intended, is only allowed to spend nine minutes getting on his colleagues' nerves as opposed to spending 18 minutes under the old rule getting on his colleagues' nerves.
OK, fine, all of the above, check, check, check, every box. Good. Are we done here? Can we all just go home now and resume searching for Honey Boo Boo reruns on YouTube? But let me tell you something first, what really bothers me about this. I think this is all art of the ninnification of America.
Since when is everybody just totally unable to listen to anybody who disagrees, insults them or, even better, makes fun of them? When did everybody become such a big fat baby?
It’s mostly Caraway. Caraway is given to loquaciousness. Frankly, speaking as a person sometimes chained to a chair in that very chamber in punishment for the sins of my forefathers, I find Caraway refreshing. As a colleague observed yesterday, Dwaine (everybody calls him that) is like a Baptist preacher. The first eight minutes are just warm-up.
One of the most ardent proponents of the Please Lord Make Dwaine Shut Up Act was council member Kevin Felder, and I can tell you exactly what’s going on there. Dwaine teases Felder. I love it.
To everybody else, it sounds as if Dwaine is making absolutely no sense, wandering all over the field plucking a bouquet out of unrelated thorns and thistles. But if you know the backstory, oh my gosh, it’s the best show downtown. Let me give you an example.
Several weeks ago, Felder hosted his version of a public meeting at the Dallas Horse Park. Citizens were invited to discuss a cement plant. Well, I say “invited.”
When people showed up on the parking lot, they were informed that they were to wait in their cars until council member Felder summoned them to join the discussion inside. It was a cold night. But people, being, as always, more polite than me, did as they were bid. Then, once they were granted access to the meeting room, they were in for another surprise.
Persons who expressed thoughts that were painful to the ears of the council member were asked to leave. When some of them refused, the council member called the police. When police officers appeared, council member Felder asked them to arrest those persons who had expressed thoughts painful.
According to witnesses, the embarrassed but highly professional Dallas police officers on the scene found some way to explain diplomatically to the council member that expression of thought is not a criminal offense for which one can be arrested in America — yet. After that, the meeting sort of drifted apart. I think most people were relieved that the cops were able to get off the parking lot without having to arrest Felder.
A couple of weeks pass. (I so wanted to say, “So, a couple of weeks passed,” but now I’ve screwed myself out of that, and I feel like I cut off my big toe.) Time passes. I find myself back in the City Council chamber, chained to a chair, unable to leave because I guess some ancient forebear must have violated a dietary law. I can’t think why else my destiny would have wound up this way.
And Dwaine starts in on Felder. The topic was something entirely extraneous, and very few people in the chamber, including other council members, had any idea what Dwaine was up to. But I did, and it was great.
In his mellowest, sweetest, most free-flowing and honey-toned, loquacious voice, council member Caraway offered council member Felder advice on how to host his next community meeting. Rather than hosting it at the horse park, Caraway suggested Felder think of doing his next one at City Hall, where there is a large seating capacity, so everybody can kind of come in and sit down at the same time.
Felder twisted away from Caraway and stared off into the distance, grinning furiously.
Council member Caraway further suggested that City Hall would be a good place for Felder’s next meet-and-greet because there are so many cops at City Hall. That way, he wouldn’t have to call the cops and cause them to make a long trip to see council member Felder if someone at the meeting said something he didn’t like.
Felder grinned angrily at his shoes.
I thought to myself, “Thank the Lord for Dwaine. My suffering has been relieved.”
It was exquisite. It was high theater. Council member Caraway turned Felder the spit and roasted him to a fine crackling glaze. Of course, it wasn’t so exquisite for Felder.
Now apparently Felder has succeeded in persuading a slim majority of the other ninnies on the council that they, too, need protection from hearing things they don’t want to hear, especially from Dwaine, so they voted with Felder to pass the Please Lord Dwaine act. In alphabetical order, those brave council members who voted in favor of full debate and against the Please Lord act were Scott Griggs, Philip Kingston, Omar Narvaez and Adam Medrano.
Yes, council member Caraway voted in favor of the Please Lord Make Dwaine Shut Up Act. I can only imagine he did so smiling at Felder and thinking, “Son, I can fry you up in 30 seconds if I want to.”
All of which brings me to the ninnification issue anyway. In my car on the way to run an errand yesterday, I heard a lady talking about the entire new industry that has grown up around protecting people from all of the offensive ideas to which they might be exposed on the internet these days, the internet being so limitless and all. The story was all about human monitors and mechanical filters to protect people.
It was very impressive, and I do get the need. Children, especially, need protection. But how much time and treasure needs to be expended protecting the rest of us? Or let me put it another way. If there is something potentially bruising or overwhelming out there that might cause us pain, is the most efficient solution going to be found by trying to limit the information? What about going at the problem the other way, encouraging people to get thicker skins?
I thought we already had. It seems to me there’s an amazing amount of exposure we suffer with aplomb already that would have put medieval man off his feed for weeks. I think I mentioned Honey Boo Boo above.
Not even the Middle Ages. One episode of Honey Boo Boo would have put my Grandmother Alice from Wichita, Kansas, into an apoplectic frenzy for a week. Now I can watch Honey Boo Boo, and, hey, I’m nonchalant.
And then think about all the terrible stuff we’ve totally forgotten. Five minutes in a wooden pen with a couple of Medieval hog-slaughterers, and most of us would have to go on antipsychotics for the rest of our lives.
We’re very adaptable. Just tell us what the plan is. Show us the layout. History argues that we can take it. We can make the necessary adjustments in our sensibilities. Honey Boo Boo scared me at first, too.
By ninnification, I mean the idea that people have some kind of constitutional right not to be picked on, not to be made fun of or insulted, and that institutions have an obligation to provide those protections. And I’m not talking about that phrase political correctness, which is about crazy white people who just found out last week they can’t use the N-word socially any more. That’s one of those self-correcting problems, usually in about 30 seconds.
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I compare our City Council meetings to the custom of the prime minister’s questions in the British House of Commons — three people in weird white wigs at one end and a room full of “back-benchers,” relative nobodies in the House, some of them, jeering, shouting, hooting, asking the prime minister any kind of insulting question they feel like asking.
His or her job, her role, her duty, in fact, is to sit there and take it, to show that she can give back as good or better than they can throw at her. It’s wild, raucous, two-fisted, smart, funny, and the absolute test for all of them is whether they can keep their cool. For such a civilized people, there is something very street about PMQ.
I’m not sure how well Dwaine would do. After about two minutes, he’d have a lot of backbenchers shouting at him to shut up and sit down. Something tells me he’d roll with the punches after landing a few good ones of his own.
Felder is the one who would be grinning maniacally at his cufflinks, saying nothing, with steam coming out of his ears. And now he’s the one whose example a majority of the council has followed, enacting into law a measure designed to shelter council members from playground jokes. Maybe the new ordinance ought to be named The Kevin Felder Local Ninnification Act.