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Another Fine Mess

Hardy: Isn’t this silly?
Laurel: What?
Hardy: Here we are two grown up men acting like a couple of children. Why, we oughta be ashamed of ourselves.
Laurel: Well you started it.
Hardy: No I didn’t.
Laurel: Yes you did.
Hardy: Well I didn’t.
Laurel: You certainly did.
Hardy: Well I didn’t. Can we stop this quarreling. Remember, united we stand, divided we fall…
(crack, boom, aaaarggh, smash, bang, awww, hooo, boo hoo…)
Laurel: Did you hurt yourself?
Hardy: I have nothing to say.
Laurel: It’s enough to make a man burst out crying.

There’s a reason the incredulous and sarcastic “Really?” is the ubiquitous popular expression of the day, the “so’s your old man” of the new millennium. The world deserves it. Really.

Don’t get me wrong. I have faith in my fellow humans. (I can hear you already: “Really?”) But seriously, everybody’s got some Buddha Nature in them. Still, there are times when this faith is sorely tested. This is one of those times.

Let’s start (and finish) with the Default Spectacular held over for several more performances in Washington. There we were on a lazy summer’s day, paddling around the pond wearing straw boater hats and singing “Sweet Adeline” to one another when some Snidely Whiplashes tied our pure “Lady Columbia” to the railroad tracks.

These dastardly villains are known collectively as teabaggers. They snuck into Congress in 2010 because some voters were mad that health care might be improved, so they tossed out some of the improvers and elected some disimprovers.

The kidnappers’ ransom note said, “We will put the nation in default and destroy its economy unless you give us what we want.” What they say they want is an end to government spending on everything except guns and earmarks (they lie about opposing earmarks).

In any case, things, as they say, have gone downhill from there. By now you know that the response of our Dudley Do-Rights wasn’t, “We arrest you in the name of the law for kidnapping and terroristic threats.” No, our Dudleys said, “Listen, we were thinking about massive budget cuts, too. We’re on the same side, so why don’t you untie little Columbia from the tracks and we’ll have a hoedown.”

In other words, they offered to pay the ransom, which the Snidely Whiplashes promptly refused to accept. So the Dudleys offered more than they were asked for. No, snarled the Snidely Whiplashes, twirling their mustaches.

Of course, what they really want has only a little to do with budget cuts. They really want to tie the Dudley Do-Rights to the tracks, with a train a-comin’. If there’s no time to untie little Columbia, that’s okay too. Hey, to them the End Times are the Good Times.

As the Kinks sang, “It’s a mixed up, muddled up shook up world,” and that makes it all too easy to poke fun at it. I know I’m taking refuge in a few petty jokes at the expense of the nincompoops, but I can’t help myself. I need refuge. And you are probably getting enough serious news on the Default Crisis. But I also have to make a few points.

First, damn it, it’s not a Debt Crises. It’s a Default Crisis. The Right Wing has once again succeeded in getting the media to adopt its frame. Debt didn’t cause this crisis. Teabaggers bent on destruction caused it.

Second, Democrats have to stop playing “Me Too” with fools. It’s way past time they stood up for and articulated the progressive values they told us they would champion. This is a long-term problem. George Lakoff and I wrote about these values last week, and when you have time you should check that piece out.

It’s likely far fewer Snidely Whiplashes would have been elected in 2010 (or any other time) if voters knew who the heroes and villains really were. They don’t, though, because our candidates seldom tell them. Instead, their consultants tell them the voters are in the mood for Snidely Whiplashes so they rush out and buy fake mustaches to twirl.

Third, we need to keep in mind that the media invented the Tea Party, just as they invented Sarah Palin, Public Figure. Yes, some big conservative money people funded it, but the media, always looking for a new circus, helped create this mess by willfully ignoring the money behind the party and treating it like an authentic, voluntary uprising that it was not.

While it’s easy to point out the villains, the bottom line is that our political system has failed. We can only hope that after August 2 there is still a political system to reform. Because when we’re asked, “Did you hurt yourself?” we’ll be forced to answer, “Yes.”

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Glenn W. Smith

Glenn W. Smith