I am a born-and-bred Missourian and proud of it.
I bleed Black and Gold, am quick to point out that the Chiefs and Royals reside in the State of Missouri and play their games in stadiums built by Missouri taxpayers and have a general disdain for the neighboring state to the west that only a lifelong Missourian can harbor.
But some embarrassing headlines from the Show-Me-State the past year have made me wonder if some of my fellow Missourians have that same pride.
Let’s recap some of the Missouri stories that have put our state in a negative national news spotlight the past year:
• Republican senatorial candidate Todd Akin’s “shut that whole thing down” comment last year about women who become pregnant as the result of rape.
• Missouri voters shooting down a modest sales tax increase proposal on tobacco products, leaving the tax at 17 cents, which is the lowest state tax on tobacco by such a wide margin that it would have to nearly triple to approach the next lowest in the country.
• The GOP-led state legislature trying to hammer into law several inane bills this past spring, including one which would make it illegal for law enforcement agents to try and enforce federal gun laws in the state. This, of course, only makes sense if the State plans to secede from the Union and, if passed, will cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend in court.
One would think that those head-shakers would be enough for one year’s time, but apparently not.
I’m speaking of course about the recent Missouri State Fair rodeo clown debacle, which I’m sure you have no doubt heard about by now.
If not here’s the skinny: a clown donned a President Barack Obama mask last Saturday night during the main rodeo event at the State Fair in Sedalia and engaged in a “comedic” routine that involved announcements over the public address system such as “We’re going to smoke Obama, man,” and “As soon as this bull comes out, Obama, don’t you move. He’s going to getcha, getcha, getcha.” The clown waving the President Obama mask was then chased by a bull.
Even worse, according to witnesses, many Fairgoers in the crowd appeared delighted by the stunt and clapped wildly.
I was pleasantly surprised the past few days when I heard state politicians and elected officials on both sides of the aisle condemn the stunt. And the appropriate action was taken by State Fair officials, who announced the clown — whose name had not been released as of Tuesday — was permanently banned from the Fair.
Here’s what I think.
For starters, while there may have been an air of racial ridicule in Sedalia last Saturday night, I don’t think that’s the big story.
To me, what’s most disturbing is the lack of respect the clown — and by inference the State Fair — and Fairgoers themselves displayed for the highest office in the land: the President of the United States.
Now, there is no doubt that President Obama is not the first Commander in Chief to be ridiculed or made fun of. Just about every president in recent memory has been mocked and a popular way to do it is by donning a goofy mask.
Free speech is great, but I’m not a supporter of hiding behind that when it comes to disrespectful behavior toward the President. And I’m not saying that just because President Obama is the recipient of it this time. Though I was not a big fan of George W. Bush the President, I always tried to treat George W. Bush the human being — and the office he was duly elected to — with respect whenever I mentioned him. I instructed my kids at home and my staff at The Citizen office to do the same.
Sadly, the behavior at the State Fair last weekend is proof that common, every day respect and courtesy cannot even be afforded the leader of this great nation, let alone toward each other.
Take a foray into Twitter and Facebook and it will not take you very long to find someone name-calling, mud-slinging or otherwise debasing the object of their ire, President or not. There are no consequences, no repercussions. It’s one big open season and everybody is a target.
When we were all kids, we were taught to respect others and show them the same courtesy you expected. Just because you can hide behind a computer or phone screen on a social media site — or mask at a state fair –— doesn’t mean those rules don’t apply.
We all know better. At least I hope we do.
Thanks for reading.
Lee Stubbs is owner/editor of The Citizen. He may be reached by email at email@example.com or by calling 858-5154. Follow him on Twitter @leejstubbs.