Ignorance in America

Ignorance in America

History is unkind to multi-generational family business success.

“Wealth never survives three generations,” warns the ancient Chinese proverb.

Corollary linguistic lineage is traceable across multiple cultures.

“Rice paddies to rice paddies in three generations” is the Japanese version, which Europeans recast as “clogs to clogs” in the 19th century and we Americanized in the 20th to “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves.”

The verbiage varies but the core meaning stays constant: subsequent generations tend to squander inherited wealth.

Business statistics bear out the adage. Only three percent of family businesses survive to the third generation.

The reasons, established by exhaustive research, are fairly straightforward and attributable to two primary characteristics: entitlement and expectation.

Simply put, wealthy grandchildren know neither the work ethic nor drive of their forebears. So they undervalue the handsome world they inhabit, and the risks that threaten it.

Successful grandparents mean well in seeking to provide a more educated and more luxurious life for their offspring.

The fatal flaw is the lack of longer-term vision and structure in formal planning—and the education and communication of that plan to posterity.

If we substitute the blessings of liberty for wealth in this scenario, the saving grace for the American republic has been the wisdom of our collective grandfatherly Founders and Framers. In particular, their establishment of our Constitution.

Essentially, it is and has been the wildly successful succession planning document that has consummately thwarted the “three generation rule” for two centuries.

Monday is Constitution Day, and our contemporary political rhetoric is drowning in doomsaying dialog.

Citing “The American Crisis,” The Atlantic categorizes a series of stories purported to answer the provocative headline “Is democracy dying?”

One essay claims America is “living Madison’s worst nightmare,” asserting that the Virginian founder’s fear of mob rule is now being realized.

Another, titled “Why Technology Favors Tyranny,” cries Chicken Little over data concentration, artificial intelligence and digital dictatorship.

“The Constitution Needs a Reboot,” crows a Politico Magazine columnist.

“When the Constitution Hurts the United States,” opines an economist at Equities.com.

Emanating in one way or another from these and other raving commentaries are short-sighted attacks on the Electoral College, the amendment process, indirect democracy, representative republicanism and federalism itself.

In short, anything that a left-leaner thinks might have prevented the election of Donald Trump, or stands in the way of a more socialist U.S. tilt.

None of the those writers, or others voicing various verses of the same song, were involved in achieving our national independence or conceiving our Constitution.

Nobody alive today was. We are all part of a descendant generation born into a king’s opulence of liberty’s blessings.

Some of us behave more badly and more squanderously than others.

But for all of us, the blood and sacrifice and toil of nation-building is the stuff of story and legend, which we casually second-guess from our comfortable, prosperous perch of inheritance—and ignorance.

What we don’t know about our own founding documents will hurt us; indeed, it is hurting us. The painful polarization decried so loudly is caused not by the Constitution or its concepts (those have well stood the test of time and trial), but by lack of constitutional knowledge (which is at record highs).

Those who seek to subvert the due process selection of the president tear at the fabric of our common allegiance to freedom through constitutional self-government.

Like it or not, and like him or not, the office of the president deserves civic and civil respect, period.

Contentious presidential elections and vehemently sore losers are nothing new; see the outcomes of 1800, 1824, 1876, 1912 and 1948. But the opposition’s first instinct was not to doubt, blame and challenge the brilliance of our government charter.

Too many citizens today have become utterly disconnected from the principles, tenets and doctrine on which the U.S. Constitution and nation was built.

Madison, the Father of our Constitution, studied democratic societies going back thousands of years; most of his source material came from Jefferson, already a scholar of classic democracies and their failings.

Modern surveys show large majorities of citizens can’t even identify key constitutional components, such as the three branches of government, much less explain the political theories behind them.

Ignorance begets devaluation. It’s folly to expect citizens without understanding of constitutional rights and responsibilities and reasoning to rise to the occasion for defending and preserving them.

The solution is education: specifically, full-fledged, every-year civic and constitutional instruction in the public school curricula.

Such a move will not only afford Arkansas marquis billing at a critical moment in national history, but also deliver priceless practical benefits.

If we start teaching our kids in primary school about the virtues and values of our constitutional form of government, and carry that instruction annually through high school graduation it will transform subsequent generations.

Making better citizens will make better neighborhoods, communities, businesses, workplaces, schools, government—in the end, a better Arkansas.

Ultimately, repairing our damaged political system requires fixing us, we the people. That starts with remedying constitutional ignorance and illiteracy.

As a small, agile “laboratory of democracy,” Arkansas can take the lead.

Now’s the time.

 

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Fab Four fever-fest

Looking back, it’s difficult to comprehend just how truly groundbreaking those young British chaps known as The Beatles were in 1964.

Playing on The Ed Sullivan Show in February of that year, the band attracted approximately 73 million viewers (the entire U.S. population was only 191 million at the time).

In the first week of April, all top five pop singles on the American Billboard chart were Beatles songs. That’s never happened since for another musical artist, and likely never will.

The Beatles’ debut U.S. tour tackled a staggering schedule: 32 concerts performed in 24 cities over a mere 33 days.

None of those venues were in Arkansas, though the next-to-last performance was close (Dallas). The Fab Four would never play together in the Natural State.

They did, however, grace our state with their presence—and the ongoing annual commemoration of that event has not only claimed a celebratory side note in Beatlemania, but also catapulted a small Arkansas community’s festival to national recognition.

Walnut Ridge, Ark. (pop. 4,800) sits literally at a crossroads. U.S. highways 63, 67 and 412 all converge there.

The nearby municipal airport just north of town is also an intersection point that forever linked the quartet of John, Paul, George and Ringo to Arkansas, and still connects fans of all stripes—from casual admirers to raving devotees—to the band and their local visit 54 years ago.

Now known as Beatles at the Ridge, the two-day event every third weekend in September is a success story for a small town that figured out a way to capitalize on a footnote.

For years, the travel-stop detour by The Beatles after their Dallas concert in 1964 was a trifle of anecdotal trivia treasured by Walnut Ridge residents, but neither known nor regaled by few others. It had been pure happenstance that the old air base’s mile-long runways made the airport the ideal spot for the singers to park their large airliner and sneak off to a ranch getaway in Alton, Mo., before their final U.S. performance in New York.

Word had leaked out locally—it was and is a small town, after all—and several hundred people turned out to witness the fleeting but famous moments of the Fab Four switching planes before taking to the skies and heading back to the Big Apple.

A coterie of civic-minded townsfolk can be credited for turning an item worthy of Trivial Pursuit into a tourism triumph. The first Beatles at the Ridge celebration was convened in 2011, and not without some skepticism by the usual naysayers that inhabit and inhibit every little town. The growing collective vision that persevered in promoting the festival as a way to put Walnut Ridge on the map in a distinctive way also swept a new mayor into office a few years afterward.

Ever since assuming the office, Charles Snapp has epitomized the combination of community cheerleader and civic strategic planner. His tireless efforts on both fronts have paid off in ways that can only be called “big time.”

Beatles at the Ridge is expected to draw flow-through crowds in excess of 17,000 next weekend, and the festival has found nationwide fame and prominence in publications and news outlets such as USA Today and Huffington Post.

Earlier this year, Mayor Snapp and Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce director Lesa Walter accepted the Festival of the Year award by the Arkansas Festivals & Events Association–beating out much larger events in Little Rock and other more populous areas.

That’s quite a feat considering Beatles at the Ridge is a free-admission event, and is 100 percent volunteer-led and sponsor-funded.

The revitalization surrounding Southwest Second Street, which was renamed Abbey Road and is the site of a 20-foot metal sculpture recreating the album cover of the same name, has sparked other development and initiative.

The city’s Christmas in the Park light display has expanded to far exceed normal expectations in a little town. Main Street has experienced a virtual explosion of commercial development this year with the opening of two new local restaurants, a Casey’s convenience store and a Dollar Tree.

Growth compounds growth, and next weekend’s Beatles at the Ridge promises to be bigger and better than ever. Set for Sept. 14 and 15, the festival will feature 12 different bands, including four contemporary Christian acts. Grammy-nominated tribute band The Liverpool Legends takes center stage on Saturday night. Playing vintage instruments in authentic costumes with meticulous attention to every musical detail, their rendition of “Hey Jude”—on its 50th anniversary as the overall No. 1 song of 1968—will undoubtedly bring down the house.

There’s also an Artists and Authors Symposium that attracts Beatles experts from around the country, a barbecue-wing cookoff, a car show and more than 100 vendor booths. Downtown stores, such as The Spider’s Webb bookstore (one of my favorites), will also be open for visitors to stroll and shop.

Small towns everywhere face struggles. Whether you’re a Beatles fan or not, this festival showcases one community whose leadership and residents are doing a lot of things right.

That alone is worth enjoying, and applauding.

Virtue in education

Last week, a video of a random arrest in Houston went viral. In that video, a police officer is shown struggling on the ground to subdue a 17-year-old suspect, who had fled after being pulled over in a car associated with an armed-robbery report.

The singularity of the video is not the actual arrest itself, but the behavior of both the teen suspect and the small spate of bystanders.

Specifically, their collective refusal to respond to the officer’s request for assistance.

A security guard arrives at the scene, but instead of aiding the officer, pulls out a cell phone and walks around while filming the incident, presumably to capture it from every angle.

The crime-related implications of the video and the “gun grab” attempt by the suspect—5 percent of police deaths come at the hands of criminals who manage to gain control of officers’ weapons—are obvious.

But there’s a more subtle, fundamental dynamic on demonstration in the shaky cell-phone footage, which ties back to the most basic purpose and function of public education and the fruits it should deliver as a result of the enormous expenditures we fund as taxpayers.

The state of Texas has invested to date roughly $100,000 in the 17-year-old suspect’s public education. But watching just 60 seconds of his behavior raises a pressing question: What has it taught him?

A hundred grand is quite a sum to spend only to see fear, stupidity and insolence on display.

It’s a small fortune wasted entirely when the subject has failed to grasp the concepts of right and wrong. Indeed, there are far cheaper ways to produce a lawless underclass.

Modern cynics and social apologists may cry foul, arguing that parents are mostly to blame for ill-behaved children.

That’s a half-truth cop-out. Irresponsible parents are irrelevant to the purpose and accountability of public education. On the contrary, for children who get no moral instruction at home (or worse, horribly immoral or criminal examples), their only hope may be to get it at school.

As with other “modern” mindsets, we’ve lost touch with our nation’s founding principles pertaining to public schools.

Noah Webster spoke in eloquent summary for the collective wisdom on the subject in a 1788 essay when he wrote, “The virtues of men are of more consequence to society than their abilities.”

During the formative years of our republic, it was universally understood that virtue was necessary for liberty, and the idea of tax-supported education was to produce a virtuous citizenry capable of perpetuating self-government.

The 17-year-old Texan would have taken a battery of standardized academic tests as part of his public schooling to gauge his mastery of math and science.

It’s unlikely he ever took a school test designed to measure his proficiency at being good or acting respectfully in preparation for situations such as getting pulled over.

A hundred years after Webster, English essayist and critic John Ruskin turned his prolific pen to the topic of teaching, with some keen insights worth repeating.

“Educate, or govern, they are one and the same word,” he wrote. “Education does not mean teaching people to know what they do not know. It means teaching them to behave as they do not behave.”

He saw no use at all in teaching students letters and numbers, only to “then leav[e] them to turn their arithmetic to roguery, and their literature to lust.”

Sterile information without moral direction, in other words, defeats the true object of education, which he described as “to make people not merely do the right things, but enjoy the right things.”

Teaching the value of virtue was acknowledged to be paramount by the same great minds that conceived our nation and built its foundations.

Value-neutral instruction is a contemporary myth that corrodes and corrupts the moral compass of students.

For example, writing in The Atlantic, a high school teacher in Kentucky described posing an ethical quandary to his junior English class: “Your boyfriend or girlfriend has committed a felony, during which other people were badly harmed. Should you or should you not turn him or her [in to] the police?”

Exhibiting what the teacher termed a troubling “unequivocal unconcern” for the people harmed in the hypothetical scenario, not one student said they would do the right thing and report the crime.

Instead, they all proclaimed fidelity to a misconceived notion of the virtue “loyalty,” apparently comfortable with becoming accessories to a violent crime themselves in the doing.

Character education has given way to a sole focus on academic standards in public schools over the last 40 years or so, and in that same time span the incarceration rate has increased 500 percent. Corollary spikes in parolees and persons on probation have occurred as well.

The degree of coincidence is debatable.

What seems clear, however, is that the trend will not be reversed—or restored to pre-1980 levels that had been stable for decades—without society doing a better job of teaching young people how to behave morally, ethically and legally.

That once was the hallmark of good public education and, for what we’re paying, should be again.

Asterisks to gun ranking

The headline from a well-researched story has been well-repeated: Arkansas ranks seventh in gun deaths.

But a few asterisks apply to that headline, and especially to its sub-theme concerning possible correlation with weapons restrictions.

The first asterisk is the semantics: “gun deaths,” rather than “gun murder” or “gun crime.” Failing to separate suicide from criminal homicide hopelessly muddles applicable analysis. The state of mind, motivation and methods employed are completely different between an otherwise law-abiding person intending to end their own life and a violent criminal intending to harm others.

The majority of gun deaths in Arkansas are suicide; indeed, the number of gun suicides over the measured 17-year period is almost twice the number of fatal gun assaults (5,002 versus 2,635).

That is not the case in all states, however. And as that ratio changes, so does the measure—and the state rankings—of criminal gun homicides. In Illinois, for example, six of 10 gun deaths are homicides.

Counting only firearm murders reduces the Arkansas rate from 15.7 percent to 5.1 percent. All of a sudden, instead of us ranking significantly higher in the rate of “gun deaths” than Illinois, we’re ranked slightly lower for gun murders.

That’s more in line with the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report homicide rate data, which ranks Illinois fourth in the nation and Arkansas 10th (which is still too high).

A second asterisk applies to “weapons restrictions,” which sounds authoritative, as though the words themselves would somehow alter or curb the behavior of armed outlaws. It seemingly suggests we could restrict weapons, but simply aren’t.

The nagging reality is that adding more laws about guns only adds to the list criminals who use guns illegally will break. The result is most such laws wind up needlessly hassling the overwhelming majority of gun owners who do not commit crimes, and failing miserably at regulating gun criminals or reducing gun crime.

One of the laws examined in the story is a mandatory reporting restriction, which requires gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms to the police. Illinois has that law, Arkansas doesn’t.

From 1999 to 2016, Illinois had almost five times as many gun murders as Arkansas (11,793 versus 2,635).

In the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’s Annual Statistical Update for 2017, Illinois has 146,487 National Firearms Act-registered weapons compared to Arkansas’ 79,841. According to a gun ownership survey published by Injury Prevention, Illinois residents own an estimated 3.4 million guns.

Yet the National Crime Information Center’s most recent figures on number of guns reported stolen annually show a total of only 3,302 for the entire state of Illinois. That contrasts strangely with the fact that Chicago police recover some 5,000 stolen firearms every year.

Arkansas, on the other hand, with one-third of Illinois’s population and half as many guns owned, reported 4,049 firearms stolen in the NCIC report–without any legal requirement to report at all.

The mandatory reporting is essentially just another meaningless statute on the books, one of the 64 various gun-control laws the Illinois legislature has enacted.

Despite all those “weapons restrictions,” Illinois still has a higher gun murder rate than we do, and a significantly higher rate than neighboring Indiana, which has only 12 gun laws.

Another asterisk is required to clarify the ranking of gun deaths in a purely per capita manner.

A more accurate representation would factor in gun ownership. For example, a state with a high percentage of gun owners would be expected to have a higher gun murder rate, all other things being equal. Conversely, a state with lower ownership rates would be expected to have a lower gun murder rate.

Would Arkansas, which has a higher than average gun ownership percentage, still rank high if the gun murder figures are factored in?

Assuming the Injury Prevention study’s 58 percent gun ownership rate, and 151 firearm homicides in 2016 according to the FBI, that means 0.0084 percent of Arkansas guns were used murderously.

Compare with Michigan, which only has a 29 percent gun ownership rate, but with 443 firearm homicides (and twice as many gun laws as Arkansas). The percentage of Michigan guns used for murder at 0.0154 is nearly double the Arkansas figure.

Measuring gun homicides in the context of guns owned, Michigan residents abuse their guns for homicide at a higher rate than Arkansans.

Asterisks aside, violent crime in the Natural State has been far too high for far too long.

A much better metric than murder rate for gauging the violence of criminals in society is aggravated assault, and we don’t need a special study for that.

The FBI publishes it every year, and in the last report the Arkansas rate was fifth in the nation, and 60 percent higher than the current national average.

The average for the 10 states with the lowest assault rates is about what the national rate was back in 1965. There’s no reason we can’t be among them.

The priority is controlling violent criminals. As FBI data clearly show, do that first and gun crime falls as well.

Then, now and next

You might call it summer serendipity.

I was mildly amused by a Facebook post featuring a blackboard sign in a cafe with the following chalk message: “We do not have WiFi … Talk to each other. Pretend it’s 1995.”

Nice thought, neat idea. We don’t talk enough—indeed, in one of the comments under the shared photo, someone wrote that he and his wife of 25 years were dining out and both were looking down at Facebook on their phones.

It was just one of those passing happenstance moments, until a little later when I picked up and perused a Victoria magazine lying on the table in our kitchen.

The cover’s subtitle was “Our Summer Journal,” appropriate to the season.

I absentmindedly flipped through the pages. A few were earmarked, highlighting flowers without and decor within.

One creased page marked a feature story titled “A Whisper of Summer Past,” which showcased Meadow Croft on Long Island. Built in 1891, the rambling colonial revival, with its “historic, breeze-swept rooms” and placid rural setting was a retreat for the Roosevelts.

Another bent-down-corner story chronicled “the summerhouses we love,” be they cottages, cabins or mansions, with correlating images and captions of each.

Traditional fare, true enough. But as I turned more pages, something seemed strangely “off,” though at first I didn’t even try to put my finger on exactly why.

Then an ad caught my eye: a large photo of a piece of cheesecake, with a few blueberries and raspberries grouped on top, creating a patriotic effect. The advertiser was a leading national brand of cream cheese, and the ad offered a recipe beneath the photo.

I scrutinized the page for a moment. Quickly, I thumbed through to other ads, and the mysterious indeterminate “glitch” became suddenly apparent.

There were no websites on the ads. No social media icons, either.

I looked back at the cover.

There, in small script, was the publication date. July 1995.

I was examining a pre-digital relic, a time capsule that pre-dated current consumer behavior by a generation in time, and an entire era in technology.

Mobile phones in 1995 were pricey brick-sized devices with long, floppy antennas; smartphones weren’t even on the radar. Internet was dial-up only (28.8 kbps speed), and the dominant browser was Netscape Navigator.

Google.com didn’t exist, but AltaVista and Lycos did.

My curiosity kicked into gear in earnest, and I studied the advertising in particular. The back cover was a Lancôme ad, the inside back pitched the latest flavor of Crystal Light, and the inside front cover promoted “a different kind of car company,” aka Saturn.

From front to back I looked at and read every ad, frozen in original form from nearly a quarter-century earlier.

What a contrast, in style and function, to modern print advertising. How, I wondered, would it compare to the July 2018 issue of Victoria?

Within moments I was looking at the digital print edition of Victoria on my iPad, with “Delights of Summer” as the cover subhead.

A few things had leapt out immediately about the old issue. Several advertisers (Spiegel, Lands’ End among them) ran ads promoting their catalogs.

A two-page spread, plus a stitched-in reply card, advertised the benefits of membership in The Literary Guild book club. Small stamp-sized book covers lined the page, with an enlarged image of John Grisham’s The Rainmaker leading the group.

Targeted toward a female audience, advertised products tended to be those that women wanted and needed.

In the current magazine, surprisingly enough, the inside cover pitched six romance novels for summer reading. The advertiser was KensingtonBooks.com (evidently Victoria subscribers continue to be a book-buying crowd).

The back cover ad belonged to jewelry merchant Ross-Simons, which also had another full-page ad near the middle of the magazine.

Overall, there were fewer ads in the 2018 edition, and more advertisers were online merchants. All the ads listed websites, and several solicited emails or texts to engage readers online for offers or coupons.

There were no ads for cars, beauty products or cream cheese.

There were more feature stories and more varied subjects, all wonderfully photographed and written, and more in tune with the modern marketing model of content as king.

The editorial sections echoed unchanging summer themes of flowers, food and outdoor fun, full of beautifully decorated home interiors, scenic gardens and scrumptious culinary selections.

The magazine self-describes as “designed to nourish the feminine soul,” and despite not being a gender match, I can recognize and appreciate soul-soothing subject matter.

Originally a Hearst publication, Victoria maintained a fiercely loyal fan base (99 percent female) but consistently struggled to attract advertisers. When Hearst shut it down in 2003, the number of subscribers had fallen to 800,000.

Four years later, Hoffman Media revived the magazine and has published it since. The current print circulation number is about 160,000.

Times are ever-changing, and it’s interesting to see and measure that change in snapshot form against a constant.

Victoria is still Victoria, but it also isn’t.

That’ll be true of many other things a generation from now as well.

Cost of a moment

How long is a moment? Contemporary meanings are indefinite, but our ancestors in the middle ages defined it as 90 seconds, which was calculated from their sundial-driven division of an hour into 40 minutes.

As time has become more universally regulated and measured, a “moment” as used in literature and language since medieval times defies any widespread understanding of a uniform duration.

One particularly insightful if not quantifiable description of a moment, by someone somewhere, was: the amount of time that can pass you unawares.

Thus, a moment varies according to its context—longer than an “instant,” perhaps a matter of seconds that would stretch no further than its original minute-and-a-half boundary.

Nicole Hughes of Knoxville, Tenn., knows the forever cost of a lost moment. She joined a grieving fraternity of parents who share that knowledge last month when her 3-year-old son drowned at a beach-house pool in the Gulf Shores area.

In the ensuing maelstrom of such despair, answers are desperately sought but rarely found. In her search, Nicole began to learn what she hadn’t known about toddlers and water safety, and wondered why.

Why isn’t it drilled into parents’ heads, like car-seat safety, that drowning is the No. 1 cause of unintentional-injury death of children age 1-4?

Why aren’t parents warned that two out of every three child drownings occur when they’re not supposed to be swimming?

Why don’t pediatricians constantly remind parents that a child drowns silently in 30 seconds?

Why shouldn’t there be a thunderous, unending chorus of caution, especially in the summer, imploring constant supervision?

Parents all know the dangers in general. That ubiquity is often precisely what lowers the collective guard; everyone is assumed accountable, and thus no one is assigned accountability.

What they don’t know is the particulars: the prevalence the risk presents, the lack of any real margin for error in supervision, the complete preventability of nearly every child drowning.

In her son Levi’s instance, Nicole had just shared a brownie bite with him. Because the day’s swimming was over and it was dinnertime cleanup, Levi had only recently removed the life jacket he’d worn all day.

People were standing around talking, and Nicole was still chewing on her brownie bite when she walked across the room and–like protective moms tend to do—cast a watchful eye toward the pool outside as she passed.

“That’s how fast it happened,” she said. In that briefest moment among a vacationing crowd of a dozen adults, Levi had managed to go downstairs, out the heavy door, through the gate and into the water.

The six families all included doctors, friends from medical school in Alabama who gathered annually at the beach.

Nicole screamed as she descended the staircase. One doctor leapt from the balcony into the pool and reached Levi at the same moment his mother did. They pulled him from the deep end, intubated him, performed CPR and shocked his heart, coaxing a weak pulse.

Levi had skilled physicians trying to revive him till paramedics arrived. But after being airlifted to the hospital, he was pronounced dead a few hours later.

On average, drowning claims the lives of three children every day. In the sweltering Southern heat, with the water a welcome respite, the average is exceeded in the summer months.

Nicole’s nightmare will become reality for a thousand other families this year. Most readers probably know families touched by this tragedy.

But most may not yet know of Nicole’s idea, born of her loss and conceived in hope of saving others from her fate.

She created what’s called Water Guardian tags—credit-card-sized, waterproof cards attached to lanyards.

The idea, she said, is to literally “tag” someone (as in, “you’re it”) as the adult in charge of providing constant supervision of young kids both while swimming and when they’re not supposed to be around water (unloading the car, preparing dinner, etc.).

It’s designed as a visible physical reminder not to be multitasking, checking phones, or looking away even for a moment in distraction.

The cards cost $10 to produce, and are sold at cost through the foundation Nicole started (levislegacy.com).

For a leading cause of death to be 100 percent preventable, Nicole confidently believes drowning can be eradicated if enough parents know the facts and adopt a constant supervision-with-accountability mindset. She’s also determined to funnel her pain into fueling that change.

Arkansas summers can be as brutal as anywhere, and residential swimming pools are as popular as ever. There’s been a viral rage over the latest mosquito-killing gadget in the news, and heaven knows that in rice-field country those pests can ruin all quality of life after dark.

But really, that’s essentially a creature-comfort issue, not a lethal one.

It would be nice if Nicole’s Water Guardian tags could stir up an even bigger rush to buy, and catch fire as a true cause with real lifesaving results.

If you’re on Facebook, share the idea and her site. Do it in honor of someone you may know who, like Nicole, will always wish they could get back just one lost moment.

Trifecta trends

Hindsight is generally regarded to be 20/20, but for trends affecting the nation’s political parties and voters, it is more accurately 2010.

That was a midterm election year imbued with subtle, though powerful, literal red flags that signaled sweeping change bubbling up across flyover country. Arkansas was a harbinger of the remarkable nature of that change, breaking a blue-state chokehold on majority-Democratic House of Representatives delegations that stretched all the way back to Reconstruction.

Looking back, the destruction of a nearly 140-year-old record should have registered higher on the political Richter scale for the national Democratic Party. Change was in the air all across America, and not the kind Barack Obama had campaigned for two years earlier.

Indeed, one likely reason Democratic leaders ignored the seismic shifts in the nation’s electorate was their delusion rooted in confusion: They misread Obama’s victory.

He won the presidency in 2008 on his personal merits, not his party affiliation—had Democrats watched 2010 more keenly, they would have seen critical indicators that Obama’s popularity didn’t translate to the party.

We are a federalist nation of self-governing states, and while national headlines often revolve around Washington, the lives of citizens are affected most by statehouse politics.

A “state government trifecta” occurs when one political party holds three positions of power in government: the governor’s seat and majorities in both legislative chambers.

Starting with the election of 2010, there have been eight different election opportunities to change the various states’ trifecta status. The 10th opportunity will occur this fall.

Prior to the 2010 midterms, there were 16 states with Democratic trifectas (Arkansas among them), and nine states with Republican trifectas. After the polls closed on Nov. 2, however, the landscape had changed radically: 21 states experienced a change in their trifecta status.

Imagining a U.S. map with red and blue coloring, the pre-election 2010 states were scattershot. Half had divided governments, and the other half were spread out across the continent, with no more than three or four of either color adjacent to each other.

When the dust had settled after the 2010 midterms, the total number of state trifectas had grown to 32. Even more telling, the red trifecta states had increased from nine to 21, and formed swaths across the mountains, plains, Rust Belt and South. The number of blue trifectas fell from 16 to 10.

But the tone and tenor of Democrats was anything but reflective or contemplative, and even seemed contemptible in consideration of exit polling data from around the country.

When asked about the nation’s most pressing issues, 62 percent of voter respondents said the country was headed in the wrong direction. Significantly, the number of voters who identified themselves as conservative jumped by 28 percent from the previous midterm.

Suddenly the sagacity of a campaign slogan like “Make America Great Again” starts to settle in.

With the 2012 elections, the Republican trifecta dominance continued as the party added three more states, while Democrats added only one. Apparently, the identity of key transition states was either overlooked or ignored amid euphoria over Obama’s re-election.

Neither Michigan, Indiana, Ohio nor Pennsylvania had been under single-party control before 2010, and Wisconsin had a Democratic trifecta. After election day in 2012, all five were in the Republican trifecta camp, joined by North Carolina and Virginia.

Maybe the slippage seemed gradual at the time to Democrats charged with watching for icebergs and minefields in the roiling political waters, though it’s hard to imagine any Democratic strategist monitoring the trifecta map data and not becoming alarmed.

On the eve of the 2016 election, the stark significance of the political trifecta shift in six short years painted a national picture of freight train momentum. The 2010 Democratic lead of 16-9 had dwindled to a deficit of 6-23.

One day later, the red sea swelled even more, as Republicans picked up trifectas in Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri and New Hampshire, as well as the presidency. After West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice switched his party in 2017, the GOP held trifectas in 26 states, as it still does today.

The trifecta factor may well figure into the coming confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Among at-risk “red state Democrat” senators who are up for re-election this November, four represent the Republican trifecta states of West Virginia, Missouri, North Dakota and Indiana.

Trump’s popular vote victory by percentage points in those states was, respectively, 41, 20, 36 and 19.

Even though it’s not a trifecta state (yet–both legislative chambers are Republican with double-digit majorities), Montana gave Trump a 20-point victory, and Democratic Sen. Jon Tester’s seat there is at risk this year.

Were Kavanaugh a weaker nominee, conservative trifecta electorates might understand a nay vote. But most conservatives hold fast to principles above partisanship. At the end of the day, they believed Obama was right when he said elections had consequences, even when they disagreed with his Supreme Court picks. They believe that still, and harbor expectations accordingly.

Red-state Democratic senators would be wise (more than their party’s leadership has been) to pay attention to the trifecta trends.