Who Are You? … And Other Stuff

New Playing: Souvenirs, by John Prine. “I hate graveyards and old pawn shops, For they always bring me tears. I can’t forgive the way they robbed me of my childhood souvenirs.”

Don’t misunderstand me. U.S. Rep. Bobby Etheridge got it all wrong when he grabbed the snot-nosed punks posing as student journalists working on a school project the other day in Washington, D.C. The Lillington Democrat should have just kept walking, his only words a terse, “No comment.” Grabbing the punk’s wrist and neck went way over the line, and I’m not too sure he shouldn’t be charged with assault.

I’ve seen some comments that say Etheridge should apologize to the punks. That’s not a bad idea. But how the hell is he supposed to find them? They didn’t give their names, remember. Or identify their “schools.” Or let their faces be shown in the video. So what’s he need to do. Crash every Young Republicans meeting in D.C., northern Virginia and Maryland to find them?

And about that. As a former professional journalist, I started every phone call with, This is Arthur Murray, “I’m a writer with the Daily News/Gazette/Dispatch/Business North Carolina and …” That was even if I knew the receptionist had just passed my name on to the person on the other end of the phone. I never wanted the interviewee to be confused about who he or she was talking to and what my intentions were (up to a point, anyway).

Guess that ain’t how they’re teaching it these days. These students not only didn’t identify themselves then, they haven’t since. Fear of reprisals, the story goes.

Yeah. ‘Cause the jails in this country are full of investigative reporters sticking their noses into the wrong places.

Don’t be fooled, even if Etheridge was a fool. These punks were on a mission, and they got what they set out for. They knew there was no good answer to their question, Do you support President Obama’s agenda. A “yes” answer meant supporting everything, including, for example, the plan for offshore drilling along the East Coast. Think that wouldn’t have shown up in a campaign commercial? A “no” answer could have used politically, too.

I can hear the voiceover now: “Bobby Etheridge says he doesn’t support President Obama’s agenda, but he voted for the president’s health-care overhaul. So just where does he draw the line? We’re waiting, congressman.” I was a no-win question, too broad for an adequate answer on a D.C. sidewalk, but innocent sounding enough to get under the skin of some voters. Because make no mistake, Etheridge had been targeted for his vote in favor of health-care reform. The Republicans said early on that he was vulnerable. His performance in this brouhaha has been enough to shine attention and shower money on his Republican Renee Ellmers, a Dunn nurse.

Etheridge was dead wrong. Rudeness is never the right response. Take it from someone who’s been rude a time or too himself. But those punks shouldn’t be glorified. I don’t know they are, and I don’t want to. Methinks they’ll surface for their 15 minutes before everything’s said and done. Probably wind up as correspondents on Fox News. Which will effectively remove them from my radar.

Here’s the And Other Stuff …

OK, the results are in: I did the wrong thing. Yesterday I posed the question, Did I Do The Wrong Thing?, as far as Craigslist etiquette goes, when I sold our bunkbeds to the second couple that called about them but the first who showed up at my house. I got two responses from Facebook friends, both from people I respect for their honesty and forthrightness. They said I should have not let Isobel come see the beds until Caller #1 had her chance, or that I should have gotten in touch with Caller #1 and told her that a rival was coming an hour before she was and given her a chance to get here first. Fair enough. That’s the path I’ll take next time I’m selling bunkbeds …

But if you want to buy the other bed we’ve got up on Craigslist, I suggest you call now and get here soon.


“If names are not correct, language will not be in accordance with the truth of things.” _ Confucius


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