Butler County Times Gazette
  • Kent Bush: What's the matter with Kansas now?

  • I know how frustrating it is to see your state ravaged by forces beyond your control
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  • I like Emporia.
    I’ve never spent a lot of time there, but I have driven through several times on the way to Kansas City and back. It is a fine place to grab a bite to eat, get gas or even cover a high school football game.
    I’ve done all of those things in Emporia, but none of those are the reason I like the town. It makes me happy that the city is known for The Sage of Emporia – William Allen White.
    The town loves newspaper publishers who write columns. That’s my kind of town.
    White was a political force locally and nationally around the turn of the 20th Century. He even won a Pulitzer Prize for his posthumously published autobiography.
    White is well-known for his heartfelt column after the death of his daughter “Mary White” and of course, his most famous work, “What’s the Matter With Kansas?”
    What’s the Matter With Kansas is an editorial White wrote lamenting the loss of population and economic resources in Kansas in the years leading up to 1896.
    In White’s defense, we would all probably be a little grumpy in August of 1896. With temperatures soaring into the triple digits and no air conditioning, I bet he felt a lot of frustration.
    When White considered the plight of Kansas across the country, he said, “Go east and you hear them laugh at Kansas; go west and they sneer at her; go south and they cuss" her; go north and they have forgotten her. Go into any crowd of intelligent people gathered anywhere on the globe, and you will find the Kansas man on the defensive.”
    After the past week, I know how he feels. The temperatures aren’t in the triple digits and my typewriter is connected to the world via fiber optic cables, but I know how frustrating it is to see your state ravaged by forces beyond your control.
    But unlike the time White was describing where Kansas was losing population despite growth all around her, the negative recent publicity is over ideas that will never even be codified.
    Look, every family tree has nuts and a few squirrels.
    Our legislature is proof of that. The Kansas House did pass a bill that would allow discrimination against homosexual couples if providing services would violate a private business or governmental employee’s religious beliefs.
    Funny, after reading John 8, I don’t see a Jesus that would withhold services from a gay couple. This bill was misguided at best.
    But despite the huge outcry and satirical reports based on how intolerant Kansans are, that bill will never become law because the State Senate won’t even consider it in its current form.
    Page 2 of 2 - Thanks to the national scrutiny we were receiving for that bill, another goofy proposal was noticed.
    I guess the best title for this bill would be the “Spank ‘em til they bruise” bill. This time it was the Democrats who give the state a black eye as a Wichita legislator proposed a measure that would allow daycare workers, school employees and anyone else who is allowed to utilize corporal punishment on a child to leave visible marks while doing so.
    Of course, this bill is no more likely to make it to the Governor’s desk than a photo of Hillary Clinton. But the national media had a lot of fun at our expense.
    The bad thing about all of the time and attention that these two non-starter proposals have received is that the real problems within the legislature have been ignored.
    Everyone is so busy chasing controversial bills that will never become law, that no one is talking about how much time and effort the Governor and both houses of the legislature are devoting to not funding education in this state.
    What’s the Matter with Kansas? We have plenty of problems, just like every other state.
    As long as the headlines focus on the futile and foolish follies, we will fail to fix them.
     Kent Bush is the publisher of the Butler County Times Gazette and can be reached at: kbush@butlercountytimesgazette.com

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