Let’s say you were an alien (the outer space kind, not an illegal border-crosser), and you secretly landed on planet Earth in the middle of the good ol’ USA this past week. (Not even the folks in Roswell, New Mexico, saw you arrive.) In order to get the feel for what’s up in this strange new land, you might well have picked up a newspaper and tuned into a television news station.

A couple of things would probably have occurred to you. Number one: “My, they get a lot of rain in a place called Texas.” And, number two: “This Robert E. Lee guy must be really special. Look at all the statues of him.” Quickly researching hurricanes might tell you all you need to know about the wet conditions in Corpus Christi and Houston. But it may come as quite a shock to you to find out that when you say to a citizen, “Take me to your leader,” they tell you Lee’s been dead for 150 years and point you in the direction of Donald Trump.

Upon further research, you could even make a reasonable assumption that, “Wow! This society must be very advanced and have solved all other problems if it’s having serious debate over cement, marble, and bronze images. That Trump guy must be a genius at dealing with issues and bringing people together if that’s the biggest evil in this world.”

Granted, that feeling might not last too long, but it’s possible it could be an initial reaction. Not that there isn’t a point to be made, mind you, about glorifying a part of national history that wasn’t exactly our finest hour. Maybe I missed something, but aren’t there a few other pressing items in today’s society that need attention first?

Crime, poverty, healthcare, and the lack of jobs come to mind without too much of a struggle. How do those other things, such as monuments and mayhem over free speech, important as they may be in the overall scheme of civilization, get to be so prominent so quickly? Do you ever wonder if there’s somebody or some group of somebodies sitting in a windowless bunker somewhere working on the next big “it” story? The culprit could be the media as a whole, I suppose. But good, responsive journalists only report the news. They never make it up, right? (“Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts,” as Detective Jack Webb said in virtually every Dragnet episode.) So surely it can’t be the Fourth Estate responsible.

No, I’m pretty certain there’s a cadre of collusionists and conspirators, perhaps even with good intentions, creating scurrilous scenarios designed to keep us talking to each other, especially in this age of my phone, my space, my world, keep out. Unfortunately, the situations they keep coming up with not only make us talk, but shout, accuse, and throw things at one another.

With that in mind, I’d like to propose that whoever it is fomenting the rebellions ease up a bit. I’ve developed a short list of topics to begin with that may allow for civil discourse while still permitting diverse conversation.

For example, who makes the best ice cream in the country? I’ll just state right now that my vote goes to the fine folks in Cincinnati, Ohio, that churn out Graeter’s Mocha Chip with bittersweet sauce. You may have a difference of opinion. And I’m more than happy to try your choice . . . if only in the interest of science.

Here’s another topic: If concussion protocol has become so much a part of football today, how is it justifiable to reward two people hundreds of millions of dollars for stepping into a boxing ring with the express purpose of inflicting a traumatic brain injury on one another?

How about this: Are margaritas the real reason Mexican restaurants are so popular, or do we all just really love tacos and enchiladas? (Side debate: Which establishment has the best chips and salsa?)

And finally: Were the Cubs just a fluke last year? Can they win another World Series in this century?

Now I realize these topics may not be as exhilarating or produce as many front-page photos as, say, pulling down a statue, but chances are, nobody’s going to get hurt debating them. (Wouldn’t it be funny if the White Supremacists and the Antifas actually both enjoyed cones of Baskin-Robins Rocky Road together?) I guarantee you the bigger issues aren’t going away. We’ll have time for them shortly. Heck, we may even forget about them if the Cubs win again.

©MMXVII. William J. Lewis, III