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Choosing sides

08/02/2011 @ 1:13pm

My plan this week was to write about our new cats, because we’re back in the cat biz after a few years without any.   So, we have two kittens, one black and one grey, currently going by the names of Blackie and…Greyie (?).  I thought I’d reminisce about our psychopathic tomcat and the cats that got a comfortable life in exchange for being dressed in doll clothes and carried around by the belly.  You probably wouldn’t have laughed out loud when you read it, but I bet you would have smiled and thought of some cat stories of your own.

I was going to talk about the cats, because I wrote something depressing last week and I try not to do that two weeks in a row.  If you watch the news, you don’t really need my help to feel worse about the world.  

But in the end, I decided I needed to talk about Washington again.

I spent a couple of days in Washington not so long ago.  Some folks asked me if I’d be willing to go there to lobby for the renewal of the Clean Air Act.  I didn’t really think it was the sort of thing that would be controversial, but then I saw a clip of Joe Barton, a politician from Texas, saying, “I’m no doctor, but I haven’t seen any evidence that mercury is bad for you.”

Well, I’m not a doctor either, but when I was sixteen I read an article that told of birth defects in Japan,  downstream of a  plant that dumped mercury in a river.  I don’t remember the words, but in forty years I haven’t forgotten the photos, so I agreed to go.

I spent two days in Washington, wearing a suit and being nice to people.  I trudged from building to building, sweating through my suit coat and getting lost every five minutes.  I found the people in Washington to be very pleasant and nicely dressed.  Most of them spend their time working incredibly hard for not that much money, all the while doing stupid stuff.

While I was there, trying my best to listen to people explain why we don’t really need laws about clean air, at home inquiries were being made as to whether or not I was environmentally “pure” enough to represent the Clean Air folks.

I confess, I’ve never made any claims as to purity of any sort, but that made me tired.  And sad.  

Because here’s the deal.  We’re treating politics like it’s football.  We choose up sides and try to win the game, by any means possible.  We’ve done it for decades and it’s just stupid, because it’s not football – it’s more like building a house, a house we are all supposed to live in.  When you build a house, if you do it right, you get the plumber, electrician, carpenter and concrete guy all in the same room.  You try to figure out a design that looks good, works good, and can be built for the money available.  And what happens when you do it right is that nobody gets exactly what they want, everyone listens to what the other people have to say, and you ruin a lot of scratch paper working out the details before you start spending money.

What we have right now in Washington is a bunch of people hard at work with saws and cement trowels, but half of them want a big house, half want a small house, and a few think we should just live in a tent.  

What the American people have said is that we want to live in a big house – a nice one, with marble bathrooms, all the health care we can use, and a great big military to keep us safe, but we only want to pay for a two bedroom ranch in the suburbs.  And give us what we want or we won’t vote for you.

So, yeah, there’s plenty of stupid going on in Washington, but it doesn’t start there.

It starts when we choose up sides.


Copyright 2011 Brent Olson

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Too pure... 08/02/2011 @ 4:41pm Brent, if you have only those who are too pure on your side, it will be a very minority position...as a hog farmer, I choose to direct much volunteer effort in environmental causes. Who is to say who cares, and whose opinion is valid or not? As for the construction crew analogy, always remember that a good builder has the oversight and foresight tso coordinate the activities of all the "subs", and allows enough lead-time for all to get their part of the job done. We are lacking a forceful " clerk of the works" in DC right now.

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