As this troubled nation endures widespread cultural and political divisions, violent crime continues to soar. That's one reason I acquired my concealed-carry license two years ago, hoping never to use it defensively in an unavoidable encounter.
Such an encounter may not be nearly as unlikely as it may sound nowadays.
Ask the unsuspecting customer at a Church's Chicken the other evening in Port Arthur, Texas, when he walked in expecting crunchy delight to discover two men conducting an armed robbery.
Drawing his weapon, he exchanged fire with the thieves. The two fled the store only to be captured soon afterwards. One of the men died at the hospital from his gunshot wound and the other was treated for injuries, police said.
The customer who stopped the robbers was unharmed.
"Several shots were fired and both suspects were struck," the Port Arthur Police Department said in a press release. "The suspects fled the scene and were later located by police officers."
Yet this development and many other random incidents of violence of late are enough to convince me that unless politicos we elect to lead us take control of this pandemic of crime, those with concealed-carry permits or who carry a weapon for protection have a bona fide reason to do exactly that.
In the event you're still wondering about the moral and spiritual nature of our "woke" nation, perhaps you heard about rapper Lil Nas X who earlier this spring refashioned with an art collective an ultra-expensive, limited-edition version of a Nike sneaker containing traces of his blood while glorifying Satan.
Only 666 such shoes were created under that biblical Mark of the Beast and rapidly sold out at more than $1,000 a pair before a court ordered them recalled and customers reimbursed after Nike won a settlement against the collective.
Yes, valued readers, evil, ego and greed clearly have made deep inroads into the culture.
The "Satan shoes" were developed in correlation with the rapper's polarizing music video "Montero." The plan apparently was to create a limited-release sneaker of Nike design (and without Nike's permission) "all about the Prince of Darkness and his kingdom ... right down to the box artwork and even the shoe design itself, which features a pentagram emblem sitting on the laces," according to a March column by Rod Dreher in The American Conservative.
The shoe body is a reinvented Nike Air Max '97. The shoe itself, which I assume has become a collector's item based on the $4,000 price tag I saw for one pair, does contain a nod to the Bible, Luke 10:18, which references Satan's banishment from heaven.
"There's also a 666 reference toward the back of the shoe," wrote Dreher, explaining that the number in front of it refers to what number of the 666 limited units that pair is. "Apparently, these shoes will contain one drop of human blood somewhere along the soles. And no, not the metaphorical blood, sweat and tears of the factory workers who will presumably put these together ... like, actual plasma-filled red stuff."
The shoe announcement came after the release of the video by the gay rapper, which depicts his seduction by Satan in the form of a serpent.
Although Nike said in court it didn't approve of the Satan sneakers and had nothing to do with creating them, I've nonetheless chosen to become a Skechers aficionado after having never detected a hint of religion, sexual gratification or political partisanship in shoes they charge me to wear.
Fortunate by birth
I'm wholly unsympathetic to addled Americans who say they hate our nation, or want to radically alter our constitutional republic to resemble totalitarian nations.
One need only read our daily newspaper to see just how many millions of people in other nations are suffering, many of whom many are flocking here illegally seeking freedom.
Conversely, here stands our bright, shining United States with citizens still fortunate enough to have been born in the most prosperous, generous and envied bastion of individual freedoms in history.
I wonder just how (and why) any Americans would envy the extreme poverty, suffering, starvation, diseases and all forms of enforced hardship happening across most of the planet, including mass killings, and the flagrant mistreatment of females and children.
Speed trap ahead
Hats off to the property owner who erected a sign along U.S. 412 on the outskirts of Alpena headed toward Harrison.
The person, who I strongly suspect had his or her own experience with police inside the Alpena city limits, raised the bright-yellow sign that warns motorists to beware of a speed trap ahead in the next two miles.
I admire the person who clearly refused to accept what he or she believes is a trap to catch travelers who fail to suddenly reduce their highway speed by less than half as they head downhill into Alpena.
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.