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SPOTLIGHT
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I read the news today, hoo boy!

Published on -8/12/2013, 7:28 AM

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Tim Leary put it like this: Life is funny. It can be sad, or difficult, or even tragic; but at some level it's still funny, if only because we take ourselves so seriously while more than a billion Chinese don't even know we exist.

We gripe about the news media's seeming obsession with negative topics, ranging from murder trials to ... other murder trials. Walter Cronkite said nobody is interested in hearing about all the cats that didn't run away today. This view has some merit, but we may observe that even if the reported events are sad, the coverage itself can still be funny.

Unlike most of the people in the world, I wasn't the least bit interested in the pending birth of some English kid who would become a king -- if everything works out all right, that is. For starters, he would have to outlive the two people who are in line to become king ahead of him, his father and grandfather. And he must not go insane, like George III, whose antics, among other things, sparked the American Revolution.

The new kid's name is "George" too.

Having seen elsewhere that the royal rug rat had finally been born, I turned on the TV news to see if they would finally move on. Too soon. The first sentence uttered by some anchorperson offered congratulations.

Not congratulations to the royal couple. He was congratulating one of his reporters for being "among the first" to "break the story" that the infant had been delivered. Like nobody saw that coming.

* * *

Since the Zimmerman acquittal, there's still a lot of outrage -- outrage! -- seething out there, some justified. What's funny is that anyone thought any other verdict would be possible if the jury faithfully implemented the existing stand-your-ground law. (We didn't hear anything about "jury nullification," in which a jury essentially declares that although an action falls within the scope of the law, they consider the law itself unjust, and therefore to be regarded as "null," and probably void as well, for purposes of the verdict in a given case. However, "nullifying" the SYG law would've convicted Zimmerman, presumably, and maybe only exoneration is an acceptable nullification outcome. Ask someone who knows.)

Zimmerman acted unwisely, ignored sensible advice, and likely based some of his decisions on racial stereotyping. But despite this age of ubiquitous surveillance, there is simply no objective record to reveal exactly what happened right before the fatal shot.

Trayvon Martin knew he was being followed, didn't know why. Did he decide to launch a pre-emptive strike? Hide in some shadows and jump the mugger or serial killer or whomever it was that was stalking him through the dark? Was he the first to attempt an actual blow that Zimmerman could've interpreted as an imminent threat to his own life?

There was simply no way the prosecution could've eliminated the element of reasonable doubt. The jury's hands were cuffed.

Gavel-to-gavel coverage of such trials, rendered "sensational" only by the hype applied by news media to both justify and market their coverage, monopolizes air time for weeks. This leads some dedicated TV viewers to take up reading newspapers, surely an act of desperation.

But which trial was the most sensational? Which victim inspired the most empathy? Which defendant looked antsy, or seemed most, well, defensive? Which cases kept us glued to the screens like flies on fly-paper?

Other spectator sports stage playoffs.

Time for national sue-offs. A Battle of the Litigators. A Superbowl of Jurisprudence. A World Series of Lawsuits. Knock-down, drag-out disputations where innocence is not presumed, and The Syringe awaits the losers!

We'd have to skip the coin toss, because there would be lawyers present, and the coin would never hit the courtroom turf.

* * *

Sometimes newspaper headlines are funny, and it's not always easy to tell if that was intentional.

Take, for example "Pigs pull in large crowds at county fair." I'm not making this up, but somebody did. Kudos.

Only a mentally ill person would interpret such a sentence literally or concretely. So, immediately, I thought of harness racing. Strap the pig in the traces, and train him to pull in large crowds, one passenger at a time.

Or we could train the porkers as sled-pigs; just don't holler "mush!" or they'll only waste time looking around for something to eat.

I'd pay to see a pig demolition derby. The losers could be turned into sausage instead of scrap metal. After a derby, the pig-eating contest should feature greased piglets instead of pork cutlets, though. More entertaining.

Reality might be funnier. Around the same time as the putative pig pull, Ellis County voters "elected" someone to kiss a pig in public. Time and place were specified in the paper, so presumably there are members of the public who would go out of their way to watch this lips-on Public Display of Affection. Exactly what Herr Huelsmeinkampf predicted would happen if we legalize same-sex marriage -- and so far, we've only talked about it. Dude's prescient.

Yes, the news is often funny, even when it's not.

If the constant litany of laments starts to get you down, just ponder these eternal questions: What is the singular form of "news"? And why don't we refer to historical commentaries as the "olds"?

Over to you, Walter.

Jon Hauxwell, MD, is a retired family physician who grew up in Stockton and now lives outside Hays. hauxwell@ruraltel.net

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