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The world through my jaundiced eyes

Posted By Burt Prelutsky On 03/09/2011 @ 12:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

As I watched all those Wisconsin teachers proudly carrying on like louts and buffoons in Madison, I found myself wondering how they could ever again chastise their students for misbehaving in class. I also found it amazing that they could insist with a straight face that demonstrating for fat salaries and even fatter pensions translated into fighting for the kids.

On the other hand, inasmuch as only about a third of Wisconsin’s eighth-graders have eight-grade reading proficiency, as revealed by standardized test scores, it probably doesn’t make much difference if these teachers ever make it back to the classroom.

Indiana’s Democratic legislators, taking a page out of the Wisconsin playbook, have run off to Illinois. It was their way of delaying a vote to make Indiana a right-to-work state. I find it ironic that their strategy consisted of assuming they had the right not to work.

It’s been a boon for Illinois, which hadn’t seen such an increase in population in several decades. And the bonus, Illinois being Illinois, is that all these Wisconsin and Indiana Democrats will have their votes counted in future elections long after they’ve gone back to their own states. For that matter, they’ll have their votes counted long after they’re dead!

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Come to think of it, the last time so many legislators have goofed off at the same time was the last time the U.S. Senate was in session.

Speaking of goofing off, a recent study found that during his entire lifetime, an Englishman will spend 11 years watching the telly; 10,585 hours in a pub; and only learn to cook four different dinners. The study also discovered that, on average, he is 5’10″, weighs 175 pounds and will spend one month searching for his socks. For that, there’s simply no excuse. If the bloke kept his eyes on his socks, that’s another 720 hours he could be spending at the pub.

Years ago, I attended a fascinating film series at UCLA. The purpose of the program was to pay tribute to five major movie directors who had worked in both the silent and the sound eras. On Sunday night, they would screen one of his silent films, and on the following Thursday, one of his sound productions. After which, the director, along with some of the people who had worked with him, would take part in a Q&A session.

The reason I bring it up is because every time I hear people deny the validity of polls because they can’t comprehend how a pollster can ask, say, 2,000 people whom they plan to vote for and thereby ascertain how 140 million of us will cast our ballots on Election Day, I am reminded of something Jean Renoir said that evening. When asked how he, a Frenchman, could come to America and immediately make a movie, “The Southerner,” about a group of sharecroppers, he held his hands about a foot apart and made a series of up and down gestures, slicing the air, as he replied, “Most people think in terms of America, France, Germany, China … not so!” He then flattened his hands in order to make horizontal cutting motions, while saying, “Farmers, factory workers, shop keepers, bankers, artists. I knew farmers in France. Farmers are the same everywhere.”

So, while it might strike at our belief that we are unique individuals, the chances are pretty good that an Irish-American fireman in Boston is probably going to vote the same way as an Irish-American fireman in Houston, Chicago and Duluth. And do you really think there’s going to be a lot of difference between the voting habits of Jewish social workers in New York and those in St. Louis, or that black nurses in New Orleans vote differently from black nurses in Seattle?

Mr. Renoir, being a realist, knew better than that, and so do Mr. Rasmussen, Mr. Zogby and Mr. Gallup.

And, finally, I wonder if Bill O’Reilly ever regrets that the distinction he came up with, “pinheads and patriots,” is clumsy and inappropriate nearly every time he uses it for purposes of comparison. Sometimes, the actual difference he’s referring to is between smart and dumb, normal and abnormal, civilized and boorish, or even good and evil. But, obviously, the opposite of a pinhead is a conservative, and the opposite of a patriot is Barack Obama.


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