The pot boils over

Published 4:02 pm Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A great song from the ’60s was “Something’s Happening Here” by Buffalo Springfield.

The second line is “What it is ain’t exactly clear.”

I begin today with that thought.

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There is a mood or happening in the country right now that is either exciting or disturbing, depending on whether you have a blue or red political persuasion.

I have been a watcher of politics for a long time, and I don’t recall a time when the populace was in such an uproar and as divided as they are. Many will say that George W. Bush began that “us” versus “them” kind of politics, but our current president has ignited a firestorm that is as great as or greater than the California brush fires.

Let me give the president his props or due. He hit the ground running and the only thing that has slowed him down has been summer vacation and a new phenomenon that is not exactly new, the town hall meeting. The president’s town hall meetings have been kind of civil and that is only right. We should respect the office of the presidency.

Civility, though, was not the hallmark of the other town hall meetings. I have not enjoyed seeing them on television, although I have to admit that I have sat through a commercial break after being teased by the news that an especially hot exchange was coming up in two minutes. Sort of like stretching my neck to see a car wreck. There’s not great joy in it, but somehow there is magnetism.

It has seemed that this past month this health care reform debate has caused America’s collective pot to boil over. There has been a spontaneous combustion in the American attic.

Those representatives who are being roasted by the firestorm have suggested that these outbursts are planned and orchestrated by enemies of the president and the Democrats. I don’t think so. There’s too much passion and emotion. In my opinion, a raw nerve has been hit and the reaction has been as natural as when my dentist says, “Oops,” and I start to twist all around getting out of the way of that drill.

Health care may be the catalyst, but the underlying reason for the passionate and negative responses is that those people who have gathered to confront their representative is that they feel like Uncle Sam is a big, ole bus and they are the long and winding road that gets run over every day.

I contend that it is not simply Uncle Sam either. People are frustrated. Most have worked hard all their lives, paid their taxes and dues, raised their children responsibly (or as responsibly as they could). They have built their houses, bought their cars, paid their insurance and no one has given them anything.

Sure, they have property and have lived a lot of the American dream. They have “things” and husband and wife have worked hard to buy them. These are the people who fought the wars and served faithfully. These are the folks that worked in the steel mills, farmed the fields, or made our refrigerators or shirts. They made the cars and then they bought them.

They might not have liked their bosses, but they clocked in every day. They might have saved some money, but most of the time they were spending their money on their houses, their cars, their children, or their “things.” These are the self reliant and independent Americans that ask for little and give a lot.

They wanted to think that they could trust those who they elected to govern this great country. It would have been good if those spending their tax money would have been as responsible as they had to be with their households. If they didn’t work or have the money, they either learned to do without or they worked extra time to get what they wanted.

Instead, their sons and daughters were sent into wars with their hands tied behind their backs. If the country couldn’t afford some program, the cost was put on the country credit card. Washington seemed to care about other countries more than they cared about their own. We made it easy for other countries to make our televisions, our cars and our shirts. They would send us their wares but wouldn’t let us send them ours.

Then one day, an alarm went off. The appetite for spending money was unchecked. The government said, “It’s not the time to worry about a deficit. We need to spend all we can to keep us going.” That didn’t sound right to these responsible people who had owned businesses and run families for decades.

In addition, these people were told that they owed 50 million more Americans the right to something (health care) that no one had given them. They had worked for their health care and it was a sacrifice. Yet, now, they were told that they would have to absorb a group that had not made any sacrifice. The politicians made it seem like it would cost nothing and all would be hunky-dory. They just smiled and said, “Trust me.”

These self reliant and independent, hard working Americans formed a singing group and started singing the old Tams’ song, “What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am!” And the pot boiled over.

We’ll see in the next few weeks just how much the Washington crowd learned over the last few weeks. I hope they learned that those town hall meetings had not been sabotaged. They had not been in the presence of hot-headed, irresponsible, Pied-piper led Americans.

Instead, I hope they learned that it’s time to listen to and respect the most important people in this country, the people who have been paying the bills. If they haven’t learned that, the next pot that boils might have them in it. Then we’ll see whose goose is cooked!