A recent column I wrote apparently included a confession to a serious crime. At least, that’s what I was told by a frequent hate-emailer and self-proclaimed local legal expert. This individual objected to my claim that I once married a woman just so we could procure cheaper plane tickets from the airline for which I was working at the time.

We got married so we could go on cooler dates, causing this regular reader of the column to claim that these actions represented entering into the illegal act of a “sham marriage for the purposes of defrauding an employer.”

The problem with bringing forth this charge is that there was no actual fraud in the scenario I laid out. The license that my ex-wife and I obtained for $35 from a judge in Las Vegas made our marriage just as legally valid as anyone else’s. This is why I always have to stifle laughter whenever I hear some moralistic busybody drone on about the “sanctity of marriage.”

We did get married with a specific financially beneficial goal in mind. If everyone who did this was actually arrested for it, prisons and jails in this country would be even fuller than they are already.

The airline I worked for went out of business 14 years ago; I won’t hold my breath waiting for anyone to press charges in this case.

Whenever something I wrote attracts this kind of offbeat and illogical reaction, it reminds me of local horror shows that I have watched lately – and I am not talking about City and County Commission meetings. I am referring to a different type of drama – the production of “Frankenstein” at the local community college last month and the high school’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors” this weekend.

Both of these plays have a very similar plot – a well-meaning individual uses their creativity towards a seemingly-positive end, and this goes horribly awry and ends up dramatically killing several of the show’s characters.

While I never worry about my silly columns attacking any blind professors or eating any chopped-up local dentists, I do keep in mind the message about being responsible during the creative process.

When the publisher of this paper first asked me to write a column three years ago, I was afraid that my quirky and snarky sense of humor, my skepticism and cynicism, and the fact that I’m far more likely to be found in the aisles of a liquor store than in a church pew on Sunday might not be embraced in a community like Chanute. I reasoned that someone who was publicly presenting themselves in such a way would receive as welcoming a reaction as a killer plant or a resurrected creature stitched together from body parts.

These fears were largely misplaced, as these columns have been embraced by the community far more than I ever imagined they would be. With the possible exception of one column that seemed to make everyone in the region want to grab torches and pitchforks, most regular readers of this paper have treated me wonderfully. Even some of those who were initially scared of what I was saying in the paper seemed to discover that they agreed with my point of view far more than they would ever admit in a public setting. I took it as particular point of pride when anyone shared these feelings by phone, thoughtful emails, or in day-to-day interactions.

Some of the public officials and local celebrities who I mentioned or made fun of in columns have embraced what I’ve written and demonstrated an unexpected sense of humor about it. Yesterday, I even got to hear one of our esteemed county commissioners suggest one of my ideas be explored as possible county policy.

A small number of those I’ve featured haven’t taken it as well, but this kind of reaction made me feel I was justified in making my point. I hope I helped to teach them that being able to take a joke is an important leadership quality, and a pretty good way to get the public on your side.

Getting to know the regular readers of the Tribune who actually have a sense of humor has made putting up with the occasional stray piece of random hate mail totally worth it.

That’s one of the main things I will always appreciate about the time I’ve spent as part of the staff of the Chanute Tribune.

While laughing in the face of a resurrected creature or a killer plant is probably a poor strategy, in most real-life scenarios, an open-mind and sense of humor will usually win out over attempts to create division and fear.

Please send all questions, comments, hate mail, marriage proposals, or observations about alleged crimes to which I might have accidentally confessed committing to brian@chanute.com

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