From the "you must be kidding" department. ====================================== http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/mld/ledgerenquirer/news/columnists/tim_chitwood/11026540.htm Tim Chitwood Where bananas never end The shriek of microphone feedback, the screech of fingernails on slate, the rippling reaction to an Atlanta-area woman's complaint about Columbus police officers' eating bananas at a Jan. 15 civil rights march. Each is going to grate on people's nerves, over time, so there's a "make it stop" plea I'll obviously be ignoring by writing this. But I don't really control the microphone, or the slate, or the way talk radio and the Internet can amplify a whine into a squall. And I certainly have no control over a congressman. U.S. Congressman Tom Price has sent Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren a letter about the banana incident. Price, a Georgia Republican for the 6th District once represented by Newt Gingrich, writes that the woman so offended by officers' eating bananas has contacted his office. He would like Boren to address her complaint and send him copies of any correspondence. Boren forwarded Price's Feb. 21 letter to Mayor Bob Poydasheff. Poydasheff wrote a response Tuesday. Copies of the mayor's letter to Price will be sent to U.S. Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, and to Congressmen Sanford Bishop, Phil Gingrey and Lynn Westmoreland. And for all we know, one of them may write back and ask, "What the heck's going on here?" That's a good question. One reason it's a good question is that the woman who complained, Gwen Stewart, won't say why she's offended. She saw two police officers eating bananas as she passed them on a bus going to the Columbus Civic Center, where people gathered for the Jan. 15 march. The police department that day had sent around a snack van to feed officers working security for the event. Stewart says she and others found the bananas deeply offensive. She complained to the police and to the mayor, and the mayor sent her a Jan. 22 letter of apology, which she never got because the address was wrong. When I wrote a column about this Jan. 28, I relied on city officials' assessment that Stewart was offended because racists have compared black people to apes, at times, and in the context of a civil rights march, the bananas might be taken as a symbolic slur. But I've since talked to Stewart twice by phone, and she would not tell me why she was insulted, and apparently she never told the mayor, either. In his letter to Price, Poydasheff writes: "Incidentally, through all of my communication with Mrs. Stewart concerning this matter, she has never told me why she was offended by the officers' conduct." Stewart tells me she shouldn't have to explain that. People should know why that's offensive, and if they don't, then they need to find out. But they're not going to find out from her -- even though she's the one complaining about it. So these public officials are writing letters about a complaint from someone who won't explain why she complained. And they aren't the only ones writing about it, and neither am I. Atlanta radio host Neal Boortz picked up on it, and posted it on his Web site Feb. 14. From there it spread across the Internet as bloggers got it from Boortz and posted it on their sites. I didn't get any credit for breaking the story, of course, and now I don't know whether to feel relieved or to say I'm deeply offended and demand an apology. It illustrates how one knee-jerk reaction provokes a dozen more, and those provoke two dozen, and pretty soon your whole political discourse is nothing but a spreading wave of knee-jerk reactions, none of which inspire any insight or self-examination, nor lead to any resolution. So, where does it all end? Does the banana stop here? The mayor tells the congressman he got a correct address and has sent Stewart another copy of his apology, and he apologized by phone, and that's it -- "as far as I am concerned, the matter is closed," he writes. As far as Stewart is concerned, it is not. She demands the city tell her the officers' names. The mayor says he won't do that. As for Price, his aide says the congressman simply was responding to a complaint, but now considers this a private matter for Stewart and Poydasheff to work out. Meanwhile, bananas remain a convenient source of potassium, which helps prevent muscle cramps during long periods of exertion. So it's unfortunate that in certain circumstances, someone may find the fruit offensive. I don't have to explain why. Apparently.