As we roll into summer, I am reminded that for me, at least, this is a relatively unfocused time of year. Schedules are looser with meals when we feel like it, and Lilly the Lab gets walked when the spirit moves both of us. So, too, with the news.  

Politics are gearing up for the 2016 election  but they, too, are unfocused at this point, and other stories snag my attention more often.

Here are a few of those:

From the “here we go again” department comes yet another book banning effort in North Carolina. Buncombe County has had book challenges in the past, and last month a parent complained about The Kite Runner, a book that has been taught in that system’s high school Honors English class for years. (As a side note, it is also one of my own favorites.)  It tells the story of young Afghan boy and his best friend, the son of a family servant. The plot includes a violent rape of the friend. The book received critical praise, and was number one on The New York Times bestseller list for more than two years.

Book banning efforts always remind me of a time when the Precious Jewels were young, and I objected to the “action figures” little boys were playing with in those days. I found their distorted plastic musculature, humanoids on steroids, offensive, and Mom arbitrarily banned them from chez Dickson.  Needless to say, my boys were furious and hightailed it to neighboring houses, where the mothers were more enlightened.  

In the midst of this family brouhaha, a wise friend counseled me this way:  “Margaret, you cannot protect your children from their own culture.”

She was right.  

Nor can we protect our children from the painful aspects of life, be they actual or fictional.

Americans, including this one, love polls, political and otherwise. We want to know what the rest of us are thinking about all aspects of American life.  All polls, Gallup and otherwise, are snapshots in time, and tomorrow may be different. That said, a recent Gallup poll on what the venerable polling outfit calls “moral issues” finds that Americans are moving to the left. I suspected as much, but Gallup gives us numbers, and here we go.

Now, 63 percent of us, accept same-sex couple relationships.  Only 40 percent of us did in 2001, which is the greatest shift of public opinion in the history of Gallup polling.

Children born to unmarried mothers?  Ho-hum. That is fine by 61 percent of us, 16 percent more than when Gallup asked the same question in 2001.

Which brings up the obvious question of pre-martial sex. Most of us, 68 percent, are fine with it, compared to only 53 percent in 2001.

What a difference a decade and a half makes. C’est la vie!

All of us have had houseguests from time to time. Some are family. Some are friends.  Some may be business associates, exchange students, neighbors of neighbors,etc.

Our Dickson guests have generally been lovely, although teenagers occasionally left gum wrappers and dirty towels on the floor. A parental tutorial was clearly in order, but I never went there with other people’s children. I am always grateful for the house gifts — scented soaps and sachets, tea towels and lovely wines.

The White House has had some vastly different experiences.

Every event at our President’s home is carefully orchestrated, as it should be. It seems, however, that more is managed than ordinarily meets the eye.  Take, for example, the discreet removal just before the dessert service of all the vermeil eagle placecard holders from the dining tables because too many White House guests have, there is no polite way to say this, sticky fingers.  

Lifting White House mementos is not an issue only at state dinners. The Washington Post reported last month that thievery of Presidential loot has seen everything from towels with the Presidential seal to beverage cups to cut glass crystals dangling from sconces in the White House ladies’ room disappear into the pockets and pocketbooks of lawmakers, reporters and ordinary citizens who visited the White House or have had occasion to fly on Air Force One.  

Sticky fingers have been a problem since our second President John Adams, and his wife, Abigail, moved into the brand spanking new White House. Says John Bushong, chief historian of the White House Historical Association, “The main temptation is the fact that you want to have something that is a memento, that gives you a connection to that experience you had in the house. The temptation is just irresistible.”

Oh, dear! Perhaps the White House should spring for some cheap pens embossed with the Presidential seal to pass out at the door.


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