Hard Candy: Nutbar Guide to Government: A Primer

By Cathy Salustri

 Last December I wrote a column called “Cherry Crusted Nutbars” about some of the folks who speak at Gulfport council meetings. At the very next city council meeting I was accused of (I’m paraphrasing) disappointing Edward R. Murrow, favoring the elimination of free speech, and generally being an idiot. I’m also pretty sure some folks suggested I might be a direct descendant of Mussolini, but I can’t be sure.

 Now, the masses of folks who took issue with the column didn’t really surprise me. As I’m fond of saying, I anger people on a regular basis and have for decades, so seeing a room full of people less than thrilled at my words was more of a “Well, at least they aren’t burning me in effigy” than a “What the-? Upset? At me? I simply fail to understand!”

 There were a few things about the whole incident – we’ll call it the Cherry Crusted Situation – that I want to set straight.  See, everyone thought I was calling them a Nutbar. People who I never even considered remotely Nutbar-y or even slightly cherry-crusted transformed into oodles of nutty goodness before my eyes. It was some sort of Nutbar event horizon.

 Then there’s the Gulfport Seven, a moniker stemming from another one of my columns. I honestly can’t tell anymore if people are upset by the designation or honored. A group of folks even made buttons, and so far, they’ve handed out way more than seven. It seems like everyone either thinks they’re one of the Seven or desperately wants to be part of this grassroots take on the cool table in the lunchroom.

 Odds are, though, you’re probably just a garden variety concerned citizen. Don’t take offense; we can’t all be Nutbars. Still not convinced? Well, indulge me, and take a few moments to familiarize yourself with the Official Nutbar Guide to Government. Today, we’ll start with a few definitions, intended to separate the Nutbars from the Seven and the rest of the world from them both. Consider this a primer for everyone, from Nutbar to concerned citizen.

Cherry-Crusted Nutbar: Honestly, the name kind of says it all. It’s someone who makes a regular practice of standing before council solely to make accusations grounded in faulty logic, lies, and deliberate misinterpretations. They have only the loosest connection with reality, eschew facts, and refuse to listen to the opposing side. They serve their comments up with a hearty side of either nastiness or passive aggression because, as we all know, that’s what works in crazyland. A Cherry-Crusted Nutbar has no real interest in making their community a better place; he or she doesn’t speak so much as they do act out, either for attention, self-gratification, or to further a hidden agenda. Are you a Cherry-Crusted Nutbar? Take this simple test: if you have the presence of mind to think you might be a Nutbar, well, then, you probably aren’t. However, if you immediately thought, “Oh, she couldn’t possibly mean me!” well, then, you might be a Nutbar. Get help, I beg you. Some cases are acute, not chronic, and I’m certain there’s a 12-step program out there for you somewhere.

Magnificent Seven: A group of seven folks who faithfully attend Gulfport city council meetings. Described in a March 2010 column as “seven magnificent men and women,” an (albeit somewhat snarky) homage to the 1960 film, in which a village hires seven gunfighters to fight oppression. I did, indeed, have seven specific men and women in mind when the phrase sprung forth from my pen, but if you think I’m giving up those names now, you’re crazier than a Cherry-Crusted Nutbar. The Magnificent Seven are a vocal group that employ several different means to get their point across, often means with which I loudly disagree. Nevertheless, they serve an important function: they are the self-appointed overseers of a participative government. Every city has such a group, although, in my experience, few cities have groups boasting the – let’s call it “flair” – of Gulfport’s Mag7. They may not respect the elected officials, but they, unlike Nutbars, respect the process.

Derivative of the term: Gulfport Seven, a less respectful term often bandied about in a disparaging manner.

Concerned Citizen: Anyone else who attends council for specific issues or entertainment, pays attention and is not running for office. Most of you will never be Nutbars, and you can’t be one of the original Mag7, so you fall in this category if you speak at a council meeting or write your council person.

How do these factions work together? Here it is, in a nutshell: concerned citizens should be the primary focus of the elected body. Groups like the Magnificent Seven help keep the elected body honest. Cherry-Crusted Nutbars?

Well, they keep the ratings up.

Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com, or tell her what you think at her Cathy Salustri’s Hard Candy page, accessible through theGabber.com.

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I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.