A Potpourri for Our Times

| March 14 2012
Burt Prelutsky

When people insist they are turned off by negative campaigning, they lie.  They can’t help it.  It sounds like something they’re expected to say, just like they’re supposed to be turned off by sex and violence in movies and TV.  But without screen violence, John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Jimmy Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Richard Widmark, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Matt Damon and Russell Crowe, would have wound up pumping gas or selling insurance for a living.

As for sex, if people disapproved of it the way they always claim, pornography wouldn’t be one of the five largest industries in America, the bathing suit issue of Sports Illustrated wouldn’t sell out every year and Hugh Hefner would be a retired shoe salesman living quietly in a Chicago suburb.

The fact is, negative campaigning works.  Mainly it works because it’s fact-based, unlike the pipe dreams the politicians try to sell us when they promise to cut the size and power of government.  As any sane person realizes, it goes entirely against human nature for a person to seek the presidency or a Senate seat and actually want to have a smaller staff, a tinier office and less influence, than his predecessor.  It doesn’t matter whether that someone is a Republican or a Democrat, either.

The fact remains that one of the very few American politicians who ever left Washington, D.C., under his own steam and not because he was forced to by term limits or the certainty of losing his next election was George Washington.

Regarding the current state of the nation, nothing I’ve come across lately sums it up so well as a message I came across from an anonymous source: “The problems we face today exist because the people who work for a living are out-numbered by the people who vote for a living.”

The state of hypocrisy that exists in our nation’s capital can be summed up by the fact that when, in his State of the Union address, Obama said it was time that members of Congress curtailed their involvement in insider trading, they gave him a standing ovation.  They then patted themselves on the back a month later when they voted to make it illegal to engage in a practice that has long been a felony for civilians, such as Martha Stewart.

After spending two million dollars and several thousand man-hours investigating Rep. Charles Rangel’s various crimes and misdemeanors, if these shmoes really wanted to impress us with their integrity, they would have thrown his sorry butt in prison.  When you’re found guilty of 11 counts of misbehavior, it calls for more than a resounding tsk-tsk from your House colleagues.  In certain precincts, after all, being censured by Congress is regarded as a badge of honor.

Speaking of prison, isn’t it time we stopped saying that some felon has paid his debt to society just because he’s gone to jail for four or five years?  Although certain crimes diminish society at large, crimes are committed against actual people, not in a vacuum.  If you’ve raped a woman, molested a child or murdered another human being, there’s no way that you’ve cleared your debt to them by spending a few years in jail, working out in the gym and watching cable TV.  What’s more, there’s no way that you ever can.

Just because the law, so often an ass, as Charles Dickens observed, says you are now free to walk among civilized people, by all rights you should be marked like Cain so that forever after, people would know the evil you had done.

Although most of us are aware that Dickens was a fount of wisdom and common sense, another historical figure who has rarely been given his due was our own Calvin Coolidge.  It was he who once said, “Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.  Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press on’ has solved and will always solve the problems of the human race.”

Coolidge was also the fellow who when asked what the clergyman who preached on sin had said about it, quipped, “He said he was against it.”

When asked if repayment for World War I debts by England and others should be pursued, Coolidge said, “They hired the money, didn’t they?”

Although he was nicknamed “Silent Cal,” he wasn’t a mute, he simply didn’t think that just because he was the President, he had to constantly be delivering pompous, self-serving, speeches.

And, for good measure, he’s one of the very few presidents who followed George Washington’s sterling example; he left the White House of his own volition and didn’t make a big deal of it.  When asked if he planned to run for re-election in 1928, he simply said, in typical Coolidge fashion, “I do not choose to run.”

 

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