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James Shott / Apr. 22, 2015

Slices of Life in America, 2015: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good: Jordan Speith, 21 year-old Masters golf tournament champion — In this day of giant egos among athletes, entertainers and politicians, we hardly ever expect to see someone behave with dignity and humility when they have a big success.

But following his magnificent win at the Masters on April 12, where he shot a 2-under-par 70 in the final round to finish with an 18-under 270, four shots ahead of three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson and 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose.

This was his fourth win worldwide in four months, placing him No. 2 in the world. But no self-congratulatory, boastful behavior comes from this young man. “It’s the most incredible week of my life,” he said. “This is as great as it gets in our sport. … This isn’t an honor that’s carried lightly.”

He is as even when things don’t go so well. A bad tee shot on the 16th hole in Sunday’s final round elicited a disgusted “dang it!”

“He’s just a classy guy,” Phil Mickelson said of him on Saturday. “He just represents the game very well and at a very young age, and he’s just got a lot of game. So if he were to come out on top, it would be wonderful for the tournament, wonderful for the game.”

The Bad: Silly enforcement of a San Antonio ordinance — It’s another case of government run amok, sometimes seeing the good things people do as bad, and following sometimes-silly rules that interfere with religious freedom and the good works people do.

San Antonio lawyer and author Joan Cheever owns The Chow Train, a licensed non-profit food truck that she uses to provide hot, healthy meals to the homeless each week. She has been doing this since 2005, feeding between 25 and 75 homeless people each time. But four of San Antonio’s Finest took exception to this voluntary effort to help those less fortunate, and issued Ms. Cheever a $2,000 ticket.

When she told one of the officers she was merely following the tenets of her religion, he responded, “Ma'am, if you want to pray, go to church.” The officer apparently is not familiar with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which clearly allows one to freely practice their religion whether in church or not, something that is of a higher authority than city ordinances.

Charitable works have been under attack for decades by a growing attitude among big government advocates that holds, despite dramatic evidence to the contrary, that government can do it better. And now in San Antonio government directly halts a private sector effort to help people in need, people that the city government is not feeding once a week, as does Ms. Cheever.

She will appear in court on June 23 to defend herself, and plans to argue that this expression of her religious convictions is protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Let us hope the court will see the value of her works, and allow her to follow her charitable impulses to help the less fortunate unimpeded.

The Ugly: Two examples — “Ugly” is a term with a variety of meanings, and applications: very unattractive, disagreeable, unpleasant, objectionable, morally revolting, threatening or dangerous, mean, and is applied to things that are really dumb and defy common sense.

With that in mind, two ugly items:

  • A New York Police Department officer who drove his replica of the General Lee car from “The Dukes of Hazard” TV show to work has been told by his superiors not to drive it to work anymore. Why? Because the General Lee has a Confederate flag painted on its top, and some might consider that offensive. According to a local TV news report, a police spokesman said, “due to the fact that its presence at the NYPD facility may be considered offensive and/or inappropriate, the registered owner is being instructed that the car should not be parked on NYPD property.” Maybe the officer should be forced to sell the car as a provision of continued employment, so he can’t offend anyone, even when he’s off duty. No one must be offended. Ever.

  • A Virginia college girl and two friends were set upon in her car in a store parking lot after making a purchase by seven plainclothes officers of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control agency. The girls did not realize the un-uniformed people were law enforcement agents, and got scared when the agents aggressively approached their car. They tried to escape, prompting one officer to pull a gun and another to try to break out a window with a flashlight. In the effort to escape, the driver brushed two of the officers. She was later charged with three felonies and spent the night in jail. What had these girls done? The officers “thought” they “might” have bought beer and “might” have been under age. They had bought bottled water, not beer. Eventually, the charges against the girl were dropped. Who thinks hiding in store parking lots waiting to catch under-age customers buying beer is efficient use of ABC resources and taxpayer money?


James Shott is a columnist for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, and publishes his columns on several Websites, including his own, Observations.

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