The good, the bad, and the jumbly


According to a top-secret study that up until recently had been suppressed, for one week in January there were an identical number of bad people 18 and older living in America as good people.

How the statistic was determined would take forever to explain. What qualified as bad? What qualified as good?

Some general assumptions could be made about violent gang members (bad) and first responders (good).

Not all priests and politicians are bad, so someone really had to do their homework.

Is shoplifting bad? Yes. But was a single incident sufficient to be grouped with the bad population?

The parts of the study that were not redacted provided a few clues, but left me with a lot of unanswered questions.

I have done some bad things in my life; at least by my definition. But maybe they weren’t bad enough.

I’d like to think I am a good person, but some of my former students may not think so.

At the time when the bad and good were evenly divided, there were 162,359,017 bad people and 162,359,017 good people that had been tracked.

Hoping to break the tie before publication, the investigators located a young man who was about to turn 18 to a small town in Missouri and tempted him.

That’s right.

He was followed around on his birthday and into the only bookstore in town where by pre-arrangement he was given too much change for the purchase of the book he purchased, which happened to be “Crime and Punishment,” by the way.

Would he keep the excessive amount or return it to the salesperson?

Lana Del Rey sings, “I heard you like the bad girls, honey, is that true?”

The Shangri-Las sing, “He’s bad, but he’s not evil.”

Jimmy Dean sings, “Big John, big bad John.”

Dialogue in a 2003 film: “He’s wrong.”

“Yeah, wrong can be fun.”

Am I wrong? I might have been at one time. Now, like just about everyone who ages except Keith Richards, I have slowed.

I drove the width of Kansas with my left turn signal on.

Never was a rebel without a cause. Never had a pack of cigarettes in my T-shirt sleeve. Never walked around with toothpick dangling from my sensuous lips.

All of these behaviors are signs of being bad.

Then, of all things, in the early 1970s the word “bad” came to mean “good.”

“He’s bad” meant “wonderful, deeply satisfying.”

The bad-good committee members must have had their hands full distinguishing between bad when it’s bad and bad when it’s good.

Anyone who puts a hat on a dog is bad, as far as I’m concerned.

Anyone who follows my car too closely is bad, as far as I’m concerned.

Anyone who says “Me and her” is bad as far as I am concerned.

But did transgressions like that impress the committee?

Back to Missouri. The young man walked to the counter with his book and paid with a twenty. He was given change for a fifty but didn’t realize it until he was out the door and up the block.

He stopped, reached in his pocket, and looked at the change he’d been given. Meanwhile, across the street he was being watched.

The teeter-totter of good and bad in America was waiting on what he did next.

And for once, there was some good news.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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