When I drove by the Bell County Courthouse Sept. 16 with my two boys, they asked why people were holding machine guns. “I don’t know,” I replied. “I don’t know why anyone feels like they need to show a weapon like that in public.”

I thought I would avoid having anything to say about Hillary Clinton’s latest book. I thought the book, “What Happened,” was meant to be some sort of cathartic Hillary Clinton 3.0 end of the story. I thought it would be accompanied by a graceful farewell tour. I forgot: The Clintons don’t do graceful and they certainly don’t do farewells. Instead, Clinton is thrashing around in front of the faithful, having pity parties and making news that has caught the attention of Republicans everywhere.

The last thing the people in the Caribbean, Florida and Southeast Texas needed this week was news of Maria, a hurricane headed up the same path as Irma, future path uncertain. The survivors are just beginning the rebuilding efforts that are going to take years, even with the amazing and inspiring ways in which thousands, if not millions, have joined them in acts of helping one another.

Last week the nation learned cybercriminals stole more than 143 million credit records including Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers and addresses from Equifax, one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies. It might not seem like a cyber hack of this magnitude could get any worse. After all, very private and personal information has been exposed and could cause a financial nightmare for so many people.

Baylor University’s survey profiling the religious wave that catapulted real-estate magnate and reality TV star Donald Trump into the presidency in 2016 isn’t so much a revelation as a stunning confirmation of what must be clear to anyone who digests news daily. Findings: Religious folks behind Trump tend to belong to white evangelical Protestant churches; view the United States as a Christian nation (separation of church and state be damned); believe in an authoritative god actively involved in world happenings (such as hurricanes); deem Muslims from the Middle East a threat; and oppose gay and transgender rights.

It’s not 1981 anymore. That’s the message of an editorial in the conservative Weekly Standard, which warns Republicans not to design a tax reform patterned on the one that Ronald Reagan signed in his first year as president. Mimicking the Reagan tax cuts is a temptation both because of Republicans’ enduring admiration for the 40th president and because his program has been the source of the economic ideas they have championed ever since .

The Gulf Coast has been badly battered by hurricanes in recent weeks. Harvey submerged much of Houston, causing destruction that will take years and billions of dollars to undo; Irma roared north through Florida and, with the power still out across much of the state, the damage is yet being tallied. The storms elicited a nation of nervous weather-watchers and exposed several myths.

As Congress continues to struggle with health-insurance reform, members should be ruminating on the scenes of “recovery” beaming in from Texas and Florida, where the majority of households — many now severely damaged or destroyed — had not purchased flood insurance. As after Hurricanes Katrina in 2005 and Sandy in 2012, many of those now waiting to see if federal aid and charity will help rebuild homes, of course, wish they had.

Perhaps no individual journalist was more affected by the 2016 presidential election than NBC News’ Katy Tur. Now she has published a memoir, “Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History.” The book is a must-read for many audiences, but most especially young, would-be campaign reporters. Tur’s book is a warning that journalists now and henceforward are — willing or not — going to be participants in all future campaigns.

Last September my monthly column in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette concerned record flooding in Louisiana, my native state. A news photo of a flatboat filled with smiling evacuees, equally black and white, became the icon of resilience and regional demography. It was my inspiration for writing.

What a mess, and I don’t mean Hurricane Irma’s destructive impact. Equifax, one of America’s three major credit bureaus, revealed last week that its website had been breached and that the names, Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses and driver’s license numbers of 143 million Americans may have been compromised.

Despite the noble efforts of White House Chief of Staff and retired Marine general John F. Kelly, there is an emerging “morale problem” among those supporting and working for our current commander in chief. Some fear the gut-wrenching stench drenching our capital city does not originate solely with the three super-sized corpse flowers at the U.S. Botanic Garden.

Several times a week my motorcycle and I roll through the intersection at I-35 and New Road and I often see some faded, worn-out people there holding faded, worn-out cardboard signs that have been folded and unfolded, packed and unpacked, dozens of times. Whether the sign says, “Homeless. Need help” or “Veteran needs food” or some other desperate dispatch from misery’s epicenter, they don’t seem terribly effective.

Hurricane Harvey has affected lives across the state and nation. The catastrophic storm not only caused significant damage when it made landfall near Corpus Christi but has also gone down in history as the wettest ever in the continental United States with devastating flooding in and around Houston. Destruction of homes and businesses is causing further distress. The human suffering is of paramount importance. Emotional losses are enormous.

Now that the shock of the past presidential election has worn off and some surviving Democrats in Congress are even pursuing deals with President Trump, I can think of a number of reasons why the Democrats lost the election in November. For one, a major party should look carefully at their candidate, particularly when that candidate is disliked by far more Americans than like her or him.

Americans recoiled from the repugnant spectacle of white supremacists marching in Charlottesville to promote their un-American “blood and soil” ideology. There is nothing in their hate-driven racism that can match the strength of a nation conceived in liberty and comprising 323 million souls of different origins and opinions who are equal under the law.

More people are persecuted for their faith now than at any other time in history. According to the Pew Research Center, three-quarters of the world’s population lives in nations where religion is severely restricted. The worst restrictions occur in regions outside the West, particularly in the Middle East, Africa, Russia as well as South and East Asia. Many religious leaders and observers are seriously discussing the grim prospect that persecution will drive Christianity out of its birthplace, the Middle East.

Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Rockport late on Aug. 25 as a Category 4 hurricane, strongest storm to hit the United States since 2004. Although the weather system was soon downgraded to a tropical storm, the record-level torrential rains caused devastating flooding and damage in Houston and the surrounding areas. Federal officials have estimated 30,000 people will need to seek refuge in shelters and 450,000 will require some sort of disaster assistance, but those numbers have to be regarded as preliminary.

Americans eventually tire of the presidents they elect. The political skills that fuel the rise of Roosevelts, Reagans and Obamas always seem to lose their allure over time as the promise of “Morning in America” and “Hope and Change” devolves into the cynicism of “Been There, Done That.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin let on Thursday that the administration’s tax plan, which President Donald Trump was out selling, will arrive in the “next few weeks.” Hmm. The budget expires in a little more than four weeks. Do we really think an actual tax “reform” bill will be introduced, debated and voted upon (as part of budget reconciliation) when there will be nothing in hand for weeks?

Seventy-eight years ago today, World War II began when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Three days later, it declared war on England and France. Then, two years later, on Dec. 7, Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor. When the war finally ended both Japan and Germany were called to account for their war crimes. Each took and continues to take a very different path in responding to those brutal events.

My heart goes out to the people who have borne the brunt of Hurricane Harvey and still face continued flooding and a long recovery. As a nation, we need to be better prepared for such catastrophic floods so as to mitigate their widespread damage and loss of life. Harvey’s 50 inches of rain in a few days might be unusual, but extensive flooding with its subsequent property damage and loss of life is not.

A week ago I expressed the hope that President Donald Trump’s lamentable performance after the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, would hurt his standing in the polls. This didn’t happen. If there was a blip, it was in the other direction. I’d be pleased if Trump’s regrettable decision to pardon former sheriff Joe Arpaio dented his popularity, too, but I’m not holding my breath.

Sunday’s Trib report on enrollment at local school districts and charter schools might at first glance seem to offer little new. Yes, enrollment at school districts such as Midway and China Spring continues to grow. Yes, charter schools are drawing more and more students. Yes, student numbers are relatively flat in Waco Independent School District. In the old days, we labeled this scenario “white flight.” Some of it likely still is.

Flashback

What were we talking about one year ago? Take a look back.