Pounding the bar, Slats Grobnik shouted: "Turn that thing off, I can't stand it no more."
It's just the evening news.
"I know. And I don't want no news."
But you've always been interested in the events of the day.
"Not anymore. They're letting too many goofs on the news shows."
Do you have anything specific in mind?
"Yeah, lots. Like there was just somebody on who was complaining that too many young black guys are shooting each other."
Yes, it is a serious social problem.
"I know that. Everybody knows that. When people shoot each other, it's always a serious social problem, especially for the guys who get shot."
So you are sitting here angry because these young men are being shot?
"No, I'm sitting here angry because this guy goes on TV and says it is a big social problem and that we got to do something about it."
Well, shouldn't we?
"Who, me? What am I gonna do about it, besides duck when the shooting starts?"
I meant society as a whole. More specifically, our representatives in government.
"See? You're as big a pain as the guy on TV. Maybe you ain't figured it out, but there ain't a lot that society or the government can do to prevent goofs from shooting each other if goofs decide to shoot each other."
Well, there is the movement for stricter gun laws.
"Joke. You know where most of these people get shot?"
In the chest, I believe.
"No, I mean in what part of the country. I'll tell you where. In the places where they already got the strictest gun laws. New York, Chicago, Washington, Detroit. And out where they got the softest gun laws -- in those cowboy states like Wyoming -- they mostly shoot snakes."
So you don't believe in gun laws?
"Sure I do. We got laws for cars, so why not for guns? But they ain't gonna stop the Insane Idiots from shooting it out with the Demented Demons over their turf. Or some drug dealers from shooting it out over a bag of money. In case you don't know it, these big-city gunslingers don't buy their guns from those stores that sell fancy fishing rods, too. They got their own supply lines, and they don't take credit cards or ask for a valid driver's license."
But something has to be done.
"Yeah. Like one thing they can do is have the big city cops kind of lean on the gangs. When they see them hanging out on the corners or in the alleys or around the schoolyards, they should roust 'em. Maybe give 'em a frisk to see if they're packing."
Ah, but you cannot just roust people, as you put it, without cause.
"See? You sound just like that Chicago alderman from a part of town that's almost a shooting gallery. She was in a big tizzy because they passed a city law that lets the cops give the street-corner gangs a little nudge."
Yes, the disorderly conduct law. That's been quite controversial for a long time. You see, the police used to make a practice of picking up gang members without any real legal justification. Just arresting them to get them off the streets for a few hours, and not even showing up in court. The civil libertarians were quite incensed by this. Now they've changed the law to give the police a little leeway, and the alderman is angry because she thinks the cops will abuse young people.
"See? I told you it's all nuts. Here you got a guy saying that we got a crisis because they're shooting each other like clay pigeons. So here's a law that will let the cops keep the gangs moving. That ain't much, but at least it's harder to get off a good shot when you're on the move, right? And what happens? Now you get somebody else yelling that they are gonna be depriving them of their constitutional right to stand on a dark corner at 3 o'clock in the morning waiting for somebody to blow away. So what do these characters want?"
I'm sure they believe that the solution is better education, well-paying jobs with a future, more suitable housing and greater community stability.
"Yeah, don't everybody?
"But I'm not talking about next week or next year. I'm talking about tonight, when the cops see half a dozen guys in a dark doorway. What do they do then? Stop the car and give them algebra books, the help-wanted section of the newspaper and ** some real estate brochures?"
L No, that doesn't sound practical. I'm not sure what they do.
"And that's why I don't want no more news. Oops, what have they got on now? See? It's a guy saying that we got to do something about AIDS. I'm all for that. But why don't he say, if you don't want to catch AIDS, you gotta stop doing some stuff. The first thing you gotta stop is . . ."
Uh, I don't think you should elaborate.
"I was just gonna say that you shouldn't let anybody . . ."
L I know what you are going to say, and I'd rather you didn't.
"Ain't this something? They can go on TV and tell me to quit smoking for my own good, and that's OK. But I can't say that somebody should quit . . ."
"Hey, it's all clear, the sports news is on."