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Perspectives

A Time of Idiocy

By Larry Miller

As I write this, football season is upon us, both college and professional.

And baseball is about to showcase itself in what many call the greatest sports event(s) in modem history: The World Series. All of which should be enough to occupy our wandering minds and keep us glued to our television sets.

But alas! Something else looms over us and gnashes us, and snarls at us, its hideous fangs seeking to suck the very blood out of our system, much like Dracula.

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And it’s not the IRS.

So, what is it that seeks us out, wanting to invade our very souls? What is it that so captivates us that we are inclined to scream out loudly our venomous thoughts to others who dare to show even the slightest hint of disagreement?

The answer? Politics! Politics! Politics!

Need I say anything more? Probably not, if I am correct in deducing that most of us are bored-or angered-to the nth degree- with all that is thrust at us daily. Indeed, hourly. Indeed, by the minute.

Here it is, October 2018, but I began this piece near the end of October 2015, so it is back to that earlier era that I now retreat. Yet it is all the same. It all looks as though only time has passed, and not the political scene. So, please retreat with me, while I reminisce.

While the second-hand moves inexorably to another era, I find myself bombarded daily by millions of bits of political garbage that should be left for the second half of the coming year. And it has been going on for the past two months.

Daily the television networks are controlled, yea, are held captive, by inane commentators and interviewers who fail to see that the majority of the viewers would be far more interested in watching the 150th consecutive showing of an Andy Griffith segment than they would be in hearing what the experts have to say about the inveterate leeches who crowd the screens of our television sets.

How is it that so many of us find ourselves mesmerized by political name-calling that borders on the edge of crudeness? Who of us can escape the prison of incivility that is magnified by constant exposure displayed on the Tube?

I have a very close relative who claims not to be interested in all that is going on; yet during conversation while we were eating breakfast at a local McDonald’s two weeks ago, he informed me that he found it incredible that I had not taken the time to watch the political debate that had been broadcast the previous evening. He had watched it, he said, because he felt it necessary to consider the various political theories that abound in our captive nation. More than anything else, it seemed, to me, it was apparent that he had actually found some entertainment in the show.

I suppose there must be some import to all the political garbage that has found its insidious way into our homes. For truly it is political garbage that has fouled America’s collective stomach, and has sent up a stench into our collective atmosphere. And I apologize to those of you who have such interest in all the diatribes that are taking place. I realize that all of what I have just said might be of significance to you and to others who are well-intentioned voters. However, my apology comes with some reluctance, as I find myself tossed about, along with millions of other frustrated television viewers, in a sea of vague issues and selfish egos and personal accusations.

Aren’t most of us just a little concerned with the constant news about senators and mayors and congressmen being sentenced to prison for malfeasance in office? Shouldn’t we be appalled at those politicians who have been found guilty of illicit sexual conduct? Those whom we have entrusted to public office? And what must we think of candidates who have nothing to say about the issues but who, instead, do not consider it beneath their dignity to utter profane and obnoxious comments about their foes?

The problem, as I see it, is that politicians have tainted the profession to such an extent that, in the annual polls that rate occupations and professions, politicians have been relegated to the lowest level in regards to trust and admiration. In one of the latest polls, they rate even lower than lawyers. Which isn’t to say much, since lawyers make up a high percentage of people in political office. Which is not to say that there are no ethical lawyers. I, personally, have one (Greg) whom I trust with great confidence. Thank heaven for him and those like him.

It is almost impossible for me to have a decent conversation about anything that is political. Surely there is truth in the old adage about the wisdom of never engaging in talk about things political or religious. And most of us have been there and done that, with much chagrin.

Consequently, I have strived, somewhat vainly I admit, to refrain from discussions of the political kind. It is a difficult endeavor since I have many friends only too eager to challenge me to state just which candidates I prefer. If I dare to say that I have taken a neutral stance, then I am perceived as one who has just flown in from a different planet.

I recall one particular presidential election when I absolutely could not find it in my heart to vote for either a Republican or a Democrat. So, I voted for an Independent candidate. But when it was discovered what I had done, the typical response was something like: “Do you realize what you have done? Why, you have merely thrown away your vote.”

“Well, that’s one way of looking at it,” I responded. “But the way I look at it, I am making what I consider to be an honest and sincere gesture of criticism toward two political parties that I can no longer trust.”

Interestingly, it was during that particular presidential election year that I happened to be in my doctor’s office for my regular exam. He is a very good man, a well-read man, and an observant man.

Oh, by the way, he just happens to be from Syria and is a Christian. Not that those things are vitally germane to our relationship or to what he divulged. He is also a U.S. citizen, which I think IS germane to what I am talking about.

Often during previous routine examinations, he and I talked about many things, about his parents, for example, who still lived in Syria. Or about his children, one of whom was my grandson’s partner on a double’s tennis team at a local high school.

This time, the conversation turned to politics. And it was truly an insightful statement of his that made me see how perceptive he was. He said: “It’s tragic that out of more than 300 million people here in America we cannot find a worthy candidate.”

I loved the fact that he had said “we cannot find a worthy candidate,” for he is as American as am I, and he has as much right to criticize a failing system as do you and me.

For many of the more than 300 million-plus Americans, there is a desperate feeling that the world of politics is disappointing and discouraging, to say the least.

Anyway, it was at that breakfast two weeks ago-the one with my close relative- that I voiced a question that I have asked of many others: Why would anyone in his/her sound mind want to be President of the United States? Why is it, I added, that a person would submit to a kind of virtual imprisonment for the rest of his/her life, what with Secret Service Agents surrounding them? Why would anyone want to be locked away in a house that has to be monitored and guarded as closely as modem technology can offer? And to have his/her spouse and children held in the same bondage seems, to me, a cruel demand of marriage. And I have yet to receive a sound and reasonable answer to either question.

Is it possible that the candidates are all filled with unbridled patriotism and such a sense of urgency that they feel that they, and only they, have the ability and the right program to make our country sound once again?

Possibly! But highly unlikely, since what my relative related to me had little to do with patriotism or programs. Instead, what I heard was that the debate-the one he had watched the night before-had merely produced a litany of unfavorable judgments that had been made by many of the worthy candidates against their opponents. And apparently, the ugly verbal assassinations had produced similar ugly reactions from the attending audience. Civility? Forget it! Very little courtesy had prevailed.

Perhaps, my relative admitted, it was money that spurred them toward success in becoming elected. After all, it seems that money is an understandable reason for industry or commerce to flourish, so why should it not be used for political purposes?

But no sooner was that suggested when it was quickly retracted by his own acknowledgment that modern baseball players, for example, earn millions more for being able to hit an occasional home run than the president earns for running the most important country in the world. And football players, and golfers, and entertainers, and… well, you get the picture, I am sure.

My breakfast companion and I could not agree upon an acceptable answer, although he did admit that there was something to consider when I offered an answer that is not unique in its presentation: Power. Raw power.

I thought there was considerable merit in looking at that distinct possibility, especially during the times in which we live. And I could not help but think about one particular President who epitomized humbleness, good intentions, and integrity, and who disdained the idea of enjoying raw power. That President is George Washington.

All Americans know something about the man who was elected as our very first President. We hear about him as early on as an elementary school, even holding on to the myths of the tossed coin and the chopped cherry tree.

But few of us truly know the full character of the man who, probably more than any other president, regarded power as being something that should only be used with selfless intentions.

Having taken the opportunity to read several worthwhile biographies of Washington’s life, I find it remarkable that America was so blessed to be led by a person who truly cared for all of its citizens. And of equal importance, I see a man who did not seek the office, but who took on the challenge of leading a very new nation during a very tumultuous and difficult time, only after the office sought him.

That, it seems to me, is what distinguishes George Washington from all these many supposedly worthy beings who are seeking to take the reins of this beloved country of ours.

I pay little attention to all the innuendos that are being tossed out. And I realize that in the coming months there is much more to come, much more of inane, banal tripe that the media wants us to digest. Sometimes it is impossible to ignore, but I am putting up a good fight, hoping passionately that there just might be another George Washington waiting in the wings.
For such a person, I would even turn away from watching Andy and Barney and Opie, at least for one evening.

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Larry Miller was born and raised in Port Huron. Author of two novels loosely set in Port Huron: “When Life Was Good, Sometimes,” and “Haunted Youth.” Larry and wife Carol have three children, seven grandchildren, and ten great grandchildren. Larry is a graduate of Central Michigan University. He taught English and American Literature at Port Huron Northern High School.

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