Elsewhere in this issue you’ll find some gentle, constructive criticism aimed at some of the loonier citizens who walk among us. So it seems only fitting to also recognize a few of the sane people in our midst. So often in our culture the delusional and depraved get most of our attention while sanity is a ticket to obscurity. So let’s sing the praises of some of the many perfectly sane people of Louneyville.
First up: Senior U.S. District Court Judge John G. Heyburn II. In a show of exquisite sanity, Heyburn twice struck down Kentucky’s ban on gay marriage in 2014. In February, he ruled that the Commonwealth must recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere. Gov. Steve Beshear then appealed Heyburn’s decision based on one of the looniest goobernatorial arguments in recent memory.
Beshear argued, “procreation is vital to the continuation of the human race and only man-woman couples can naturally procreate.” After a moment of stunned silence, rational people all over the country broke out into raucous laughter that subsided only when Heyburn stayed his own ruling in August, writing, “these arguments are not those of serious people.” The case is ultimately headed for the U.S. Supreme Court but with same-sex marriage legal in 32 states, the days of cruelly excluding gay people from marriage are clearly numbered.
Keep in mind that Heyburn was nominated to the court by George H.W. Bush on the recommendation of Sen. Mitch McConnell. Heyburn is not a radical; he’s just rational.
Also deserving a nod for his sanity regarding gay marriage is Attorney General Jack Conway. After Heyburn’s initial ruling, all bigoted eyes turned to Conway to appeal on behalf of the state. Instead of kowtowing to the haters he bravely yelled “Not it!” Conway’s refusal to appeal left the ball in Beshear’s clumsy hands, which led to the bizarre procreation argument, which led many wondering about the governor’s sincerity and/or sanity. (To be fair, it’s possible the governor used up all his sanity when he cleverly tricked Kentuckians into thinking Kynect was not Obamacare.)
Another politician showing moments of sanity was Agriculture Commissioner James Comer. As a Republican candidate for governor, Comer will have plenty of opportunity to disprove his sanity next year but for now, he deserves our praise for making industrial hemp a priority.
Comer fought for federal permission to create a pilot project under UK supervision for Kentucky farmers to grow hemp, then fought again when the DEA comically held up a shipment of hemp seeds from Italy at a UPS warehouse in Louisville. The state eventually grew a sweet crop of completely buzz-free industrial hemp. This high-five for Comer is not about torching a spliff and throwing on some Bob Marley. This is Kentucky: you get a shout-out here for merely recognizing that one plant is biologically distinguishable from another one.
Of course, there are many more sane people deserving praise: The Sisters of Loretto and other activists deserve a round of applause for helping persuade developers to suspend plans to build the Bluegrass Pipeline. The social justice organizations who convinced Metro Council to “ban the box” on government job applications deserve another round of applause. And the agencies, churches and teachers who work quietly every day to make life easier for our growing immigrant and refugee population deserve some love. Sometimes common sense wins.
And let’s not forget the everyday, unsung saniacs who make the world a little bit less louny. I’m talking about you casual basketball fans who can enjoy the game while remembering it is just a game. And you urban farmers who grow vegetables in your front yards: Thanks for getting rid of your lawns and reminding us where food comes from. Hip hooray for the bagger who drops random wisdom bombs on me every time I go to the grocery. (You are in no way sane but three cheers for you anyway.)
But above all, high fives this year to those nameless, faceless cops who diffuse conflicts every day without resorting to violence. Our society is struggling with how to make sense of the acquittal of two white cops who killed two unarmed black men in Missouri and New York. Those are two of the great tragedies of this year. But I suspect that just about every single day some Louisville cop gets it right and resolves a dangerous encounter nonviolently. We never hear about those confrontations because they have happy endings. But we can celebrate their sanity nonetheless.