Much ado about non-news stories
Did you see those pictures of Michelle Obama sashaying around Europe -- Spain I think it was -- and staying at that fancy hotel? I mean, who does she think she is, Nancy Reagan? Isn't she kind of getting ahead of herself, putting on airs?
Whoa! Wait a minute. Stop. Apparently the IT officer of the local Tea Party coven has hacked into my computer and these are the distressing results. I have deleted him.
The Tea Party tempest unleashed by the first lady's mid-summer vacation -- only Marie Antoinette would have left her husband alone on his birthday, apparently -- is a function of the August news cycle.
Every August, real news slows to a trickle. Even real journalists are forced to join Fox News in concentrating on some mini-scandal. Usually it's a sex scandal, but we've had so many of those already this year that this August we had to make do with Mrs. Obama's vacation. On a scale of 10, 10 being the most scandalous, I rate this one a minus-two.
What is it with the honkers of the Right? Every time one or both of the Obamas seems in danger of having a good time, talk radio goes ballistic. Remember when the couple went to New York City to take in a show? You would have thought they'd made off with the Crown Jewels.
And Cokie Roberts once objected to their vacation in Hawaii as too "exotic."She said they should have gone to Myrtle Beach. (Someone should tell Ms. Roberts that by definition Hawaii isn't "exotic," which literally means "foreign."It is a state. Myrtle Beach on the other hand is in South Carolina, which still hasn't decided whether it wants to be in the Union. And that Barack Obama grew up in Hawaii, making this a trip home.)
I'm all in favor of the first couple taking vacations. The White House is its own kind of jail and it's good for them to get away once in a while.
George W. Bush carried it a little far, however. He was more or less permanently on vacation and only made brief visits to the White House.
Leave the Obamas alone, I say.
But the great August story this year was the saga of Steven Slater, the fed-up flight attendant (although you know times are tough when the feel-good story of the summer is about a flight attendant going berserk).
Faced with an impossibly obnoxious passenger who ignored his instructions on landing and cursed him out, Slater snapped.
He took over the plane's intercom, redirected the curse back at the passenger, then activated the emergency-evacuation chute and slid down to the tarmac, after swiping two beers from the beverage cart. Then he ran to his car and drove home, where he was arrested a short time later.
Who among us, in similar circumstances, hasn't wanted to do the same thing? It's the ultimate "take this job and shove it" gesture. (Taking the two beers was an especially nice touch.)
I've often marveled at the composure of airline personnel. Airline passengers are a cranky lot and why not? They've missed their flights, slept badly (sitting up, in their clothes), eaten bad food and endured dirty restrooms. They can be rude and hysterical. And yet, almost always, airline clerks and attendants deal with their complaints with an almost supernatural calm.
I salute them.
But I salute Mr. Slater too, sort of. He did a dumb thing but he did it with a good deal of style.
Everybody, once in his or her lives, should have the right to say: "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore."
For their sanity.
OtherWords and retired Des Moines Register columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Mich.