Thursday, June 23, 2016

PROFILES IN COURAGE and COWARDICE ON CAPITOL HILL (Diogenes would forever wander alone through today's Republican Party...)

Diogenes the Cynic        

            Okay, I know it's a publicity stunt. And I know it's not likely to change anything concerning the gun control issue. And I'm absolutely certain hearts and minds aren't being swayed by the fact that members of one political party have sat down on the tacky carpet of the House of Representatives, refusing to move until legislation addressing gun violence in America is put to a vote.

            But as meaningless stunts go, this one is symbolic of what's wrong with political discourse in this country today.

            House Democrats, led by Civil Rights icon Rep. John Lewis, have brought their grievances to the well of the House, and are currently staging a sit-in, demanding Republican leadership allow them to at least cast a ceremonial vote on background checks for gun purchases, and a vote to stop people on the no-fly terror watch lists from being allowed to buy assault weapons.

             Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has just announced that the House will go into early adjournment for the Independence Day break, preferring to take his balls and go home rather than endure the humiliation of having Democratic members of the House continue to shout "Shame! Shame!" every time he shows his face in the chamber.

              The Senate has already defeated similar legislation along Party lines, and Ryan's Republican colleagues hold a solid majority in the House of Reprehensibles. He could easily acquiesce to Democrat demands, hold a vote, shut down the conversation, THEN adjourn. But he's decided to metaphorically starve the Democrats of an audience for their sit-in protest. He's called for an early adjournment, and knows that the American public will quickly tire of Periscope views from the darkened well of the House floor. We're a 24 hour news cycle society, and anything that lasts longer than that goes stale quickly.

              Folks that are understandably upset about gun violence and mass shootings in America will soon be cooking hot dogs on the grill while family members swat at flies and bitch about the summer heat. Holiday travelers will be on the interstate heading for beaches and mountain resorts, not watching the drama of a protest on Capitol Hill. The current feeding frenzy of media coverage will very quickly dissipate, and in a few days the country will give a collective "Meh..." to the entire enterprise.

               But for just a few minutes, I'd like to consider what's at stake.

               Republicans in the U.S. Congress, and most Republicans in state legislatures across the country, are beholden to the campaign largess of the National Rifle Association and the gun manufacturers. Anyone of that political persuasion who votes against those special interests, no matter how well intentioned the legislation, is a marked man, politically doomed. And yet, a vast majority of Americans, including Republicans AND members of the NRA, support reasonable gun control legislation in the wake of these never ending gun massacres. It's hard to think of any potential legislation that enjoys approval ratings above 80-90% across the political spectrum.

                  But we can't close the loophole that allows gun show and internet purchases of assault weapons to proceed without background checks. We can't pass legislation that would keep a person with suspected ties to terrorists from purchasing a weapon of mass destruction. We can't even allow our Homeland Security officials to flag gun purchases for people they suspect are threats to our homeland security.

                  If John F. Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage" was being written today, it wouldn't include a single member of today's Republican Party.

                   If Diogenes the Cynic was carrying his lantern through the halls of Congress, he wouldn't find an honest Republican.

                   So yeah, holding a sit-in on the floor of the House led by a guy who was almost beaten to death crossing the bridge in Selma is indeed a "publicity stunt", as Paul Ryan put it. And he's got a point when it comes to people being denied their constitutionally guaranteed right of due process when falsely accused and placed on no-fly lists.

                   But at least the Democrats are trying to address the issue of mass shootings in America. All Republicans seem to want is for everyone to just go back to business as usual. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. Grill your hot dogs. Take the fam to the beach. See you later in July, and all of this nonsense will just go away.

                   But this issue won't go away. The next mass shooting is probably already happening somewhere in America. There will be another one after that, and another a week later.  And sooner or later an incident will involve someone who shouldn't have been allowed to purchase the weapons used in the slaughter.

                    Cowards adjourn and run home for the holidays while men and women of true character face the problem.

                     It might be a publicity stunt, but at least it's something.



Wednesday, June 22, 2016

ISN'T THAT THE WAY THE STORY GOES? (a very short story...)

               A friend posted this very short story by Peter White on his FB page.

               If you can spare a minute or two, it will be worth your time. Promise.

                                   (click to embiggen... stop squinting!)       

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

SOME TOOTH FAIRIES JUST SUCK AT THEIR JOBS (but are great at cleaning up cat poop...)

             A few evenings ago our resident ten year-old niece Sarah marched into the living room to announce (with appropriate fanfare and a bloody fang as proof) that she had lost a tooth. We made the requisite big deal out of it, and after she left the room to put it into a sandwich bag for the Tooth Fairy, we quietly discussed the going rate for tooth payments these days. When I was a kid, a tooth under the pillow was usually worth a quarter. My lovely (and dangerous) wife said she was always given a dollar for hers when she was little.  

             So we thought the easiest way to find out what was expected of OUR home's Tooth Fairy would be to ask the kid what she was accustomed to receiving for such an event.  She told us the Tooth Fairy at her Nannie's house (where she lived the first nine years of her life) had always left her five or ten dollars per tooth. We informed her that the Tooth Fairy in our part of town was still recovering from the housing bubble crash of '08, and not to get her hopes up for that sort of dental reimbursement. She looked a little confused, but took the tooth back to her room for safe keeping. 

              My wife and I went back to binge watching "House of Cards" on Netflix, and after a while decided it was time to crash for the night. We put the cats out on the deck, locked the doors, turned off the lights, and went to bed.

              The next morning, our little Snagglepuss came into the kitchen with a sad expression on her face. I try to ignore asking obvious questions that might interrupt my morning ritual of coffee and newspaper, but she looked like someone had backed over her puppy during the night. So I asked, "What's up, Buttercup?"

               She let me know the Tooth Fairy hadn't given her anything for her tooth during the night, and held up the plastic baggie (and tooth) as proof. I resisted a facepalm, and said, "Huh! Wonder what happened?" and waited for backup. When my wife came into the room we discussed our Tooth Fairy's shitty job performance, and decided the kid would probably be just as happy with a cash donation on the spot. We were wrong. Sarah looked less than enthusiastic about a few dollars from a wallet. Apparently, the Tooth Fairy thing is important when you're ten.

               At some point in the days since that morning, my wife and Sarah had a talk about the Tooth Fairy, and it was explained that the Tooth Fairy was just a cute invention parents made up to make it less traumatic for kids who lose a tooth, and that money from us was exactly the same money she would have gotten from a more attentive Tooth Fairy who was good at her job. She seemed to take this news in stride... After all, the kid is exceptionally bright, and surely the concept of fairies floating around the house in the dark retrieving teeth and leaving cash has to sound more than a little bit creepy, if given serious thought. But no one told ME about this conversation... As far as I knew, she was still a Tooth Fairy customer.

               The reason I bring all of this up is because last night we were once again binge watching the last episodes of season three of "House of Cards" when the kid, again, came into the living room with yet another bloody tooth. Two teeth in the span of about five days.  I began to wonder if the kid was using a pair of pliers to earn money.

                "Another one? Geez, kid... " and she showed us that this new missing tooth was exactly symmetrical to the last one that had fallen out, one from one side of her lower jaw, one from exactly the same spot on the other side. Nothing that would prevent her from eating corn on the cob, her all time favorite vegetable.

                 I thought I would assuage her fears about delinquent Tooth Fairies, so I said, "Maybe this time the Tooth Fairy will do her job a little better." to which the kid replied, "Cindy and I already talked about that." as she walked back to her room with another tooth in a bag.

                 We went back to watching "House of Cards", one of the best TV series I've ever seen, and I forgot all about Sarah and the Tooth Fairy.

                 At about two in the morning last night I woke up from a restless sleep, and remembered the Tooth Fairy was supposed to make an appearance. Rather than get up, get appropriately dressed, gather cash from my wallet, and deposit it under Sarah's pillow, I did something I thought far wiser... I woke my wife and asked her if she had remembered to do the Tooth Fairy thing.

                 My wife mumbled "No..." and rolled over to go back to sleep. I waited for her to get up, then realized she wasn't getting up. I nudged her again and asked, "Are you getting up? Or should I get dressed and handle it?" She groaned something I didn't hear at the other wall of the bedroom, and not sure if I was on duty or not, I nudged her again and asked her to repeat her last comment.

                  "We talked about the Tooth Fairy." or words to that effect. I still didn't know what that meant, but took her tone as a sign that another poke in the back might result in bodily harm.  I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. 

                 This morning Sarah came out onto the back deck of the house to clean out the cat's litter box (one of her morning duties) while I was reading my paper over coffee.  I let her know the litter box had already been cleaned, she could relax.

                  "Your Tooth Fairy sucks at the money thing, so I cleaned the litter box for you instead. That work?"

                  A jack-o-lantern smile told me everything was cool.  She was getting money AND someone had taken care of the worst chore of her day.

                  Life's good again.