Not Just Laughing Matters

“I want my country back,” screams the tea party member holding up a like sign. Next, one yells: “Don’t touch my Medicare.” Only Gilbert and Sullivan could find humor in this era’s American paradox.

The tea party folks are boiling mad, which as it turns out is the right way to make proper tea but is one lousy recipe for governing. I suspect their rant translates into “Where did all these people of color come from?”

To answer that question you could do worse than read a book titled “The Help.” It’s set in 1961 and has just been made into a movie. I saw the real thing in 1951 when I joined other Valley innocents on a troop train into the Deep South. I soon learned that America is a big country with varying cultures, including a few that in your ignorance could get you killed. Any laughs found in “The Help” come at a high price.

As more of an observer than a participant these days I wonder at the gun killings which too often comprise our local and national news in headlines that last a day, unless, of course it’s a member of Congress like Gabby Gifford.

Like it or not we and our country have changed since President Ike was America’s kindly White House father figure. I hew to the maxim that President Kennedy preached 50 years ago. A historian and writer by inclination, JFK’s favorite saying was “what’s past is prologue.” His staff members heard it from him so often they joked about it, even as events made it true – day after day, year after year.

The year 1961 was a time of nuclear worries. Otherwise sensible people said “Better red than dead” as we faced the Soviet Union in its bellicosity. “We will bury you,” promised Nikita Khrushchev in a speech to the West. We sponsored an invasion of Cuba among other mistakes, but carried on toward a future so uncertain that backyard bomb shelters were considered a good investment. Civil Defense advice to “duck and cover” in case of atomic attack were edited by my schoolmates to a more realistic action, like, “bending over and kissing your bum goodbye.” We didn’t say bum.

As a senior citizen, I should resist expounding about “the good old days.” Some were, many were not. Memory often delivers the past on a silver cloud. We elders will revel in the good times while conveniently forgetting incurable childhood diseases that garnered bright red notices on a neighbor’s house – QUARANTINE. DO NOT ENTER – courtesy of the Board of Health.

Life expectancy has grown to the point where a baby born today can expect to live 100 years, which is great news for the medical community, if less so for the number-crunchers at Medicare. The missing ingredient in today’s American stew is confidence. Most people surveyed agree to the proposition that their kid and grandkids will have it worse than they did. If you watch Morning Joe on MSNBC you’ll hear the former Boston Globe columnist Mike Barnicle say it every time he’s given the chance.

I disagree!

Mike is often led down his dubious path by show host Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida. Joe espouses his conservative views even as he gives lip service to “fair and balanced.” The Obama administration, as he sees it, “owns” this economy and whatever has gone wrong since “hope and change” arrived on the scene in 2008 is due to the fecklessness of the president, his staff, and a nation of disappointed voters.

But as the Porgy and Bess song humorously reminds us about absolutes – It ain’t necessarily so.

Sen. Mitch McConnell and other GOP leaders have been universal in their willingness to put up roadblocks to progressive legislation that might lead to Obama’s re-election. Iowa’s flavor of the week, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, repeats, ad nauseam, that Barack Obama will be a “One. Term. President.” This is a congresswoman who voted last month to destroy the full faith and credit of the United States of America.

Judge for yourself. In Iowa the whole Republican Field of Nightmares raised their hands to refuse a 10 to 1 ratio of expense cuts to tax increases. Country First my eye!

Our country may be at a crossroads because too many of our elected officials are dumb enough to drive us off a cliff, given their scorched-earth method of governing. Yet if we look to history and our Constitution, we’ll find there a road map out of the current cul-de-sac to “a better tomorrow, tomorrow,” as Stephen Colbert’s Super Pac promises.

I, for one, am with the real comedians. Let’s stop electing all the other idiots.


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