America has ‘tea-kettled’!

By Barry Farber

Once I read an article about a tribe in Africa that had an interesting custom. At tribal meetings a person could talk for as long as – and only for as long as – he could stand on one foot. How strange! How foreign! How primitive! Right? Sen. Ted Cruz and Jimmy Stewart (in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”) would agree, at least partially.

Have you ever wondered whether America is on “Candid Camera” and the rest of the world is laughing its head off? Pretend you’re an exchange professor at the University of Moscow or Oxford or Tokyo and the dean asks you to stand up and explain what Sen. Ted Cruz meant when he said, “I will fight to defund Obamacare for as long as I’m able to stand!” Is there such a thing as too-much-democracy or, better put, democracy in a form as screwed up as it can get? Other democracies have what we might think of as extremist notions, but those notions make those democracies seem more noble.

During World War II, there was an Italian living in England. He wasn’t a British subject of Italian extraction; he was a real Italian. England was at war with Italy. This man was an enemy alien. And he thought the British government had unfairly deprived him of property. He “took the Crown to court” and, while Nazi bombs were falling on London, the court ruled in his favor!

Norway, Sweden and Denmark have a law that effectively exposes the hypocrisy of the American media. If the O. J. Simpson murder trial had taken place in any of those Scandinavian countries and had the same outcome, you’d never know the name of the defendant. He was acquitted, wasn’t he? Media in those countries are not allowed to reveal the name of a defendant unless and until convicted. Why all the squealing from American newspaper and broadcast newsrooms? Don’t we agree that the accused, even if acquitted, suffers a terrible loss of reputation? Isn’t it, therefore, fair not to reveal the name of the defendant unless and until convicted?

Don’t be surprised if the newspaper, radio or television station sends its business manager to represent it in debate.

Don’t you think a little bit more of England and Scandinavia once those facts are spotlighted? On the other hand, so much about our American democracy makes us look ridiculous. I don’t need you to explain the filibuster procedure to me. But I’d sure like to hear you defend it! (The filibuster is not provided for or even mentioned in the Constitution.) Remind me why the physical stamina of a senator should have anything to do with the outcome of his attempt to block legislation. The NFL, I can understand. Not the U. S. Senate.

The role of money in American politics has only one virtue I can perceive. It has never been defended. Everybody laments it and stands ashamed of it. That excuses nothing. Likewise, the duration of our campaigns has passed the excessive and is now nibbling at the perpetual. Commentators are already arguing whether New York mayoral front-runner Bill de Blasio’s pro-Communist enthusiasm – in effect joining the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and honeymooning in Castro’s Cuba – will have any negative effect on Hillary Clinton’s presidential run. That’s election after next, fellas! Have mercy. In England the campaigns go on for three weeks. The rest of the time they govern. And the power of money to buy high office frightens and dismays many who otherwise have mostly good things to say about American democracy, or this democratic republic, or this constitutional democracy or, at any rate, this free country.

Look at our debt, our international reputation, our venomous politics, our morals and morale.

America has “tea-kettled.” That’s a term popular in our family about somebody who, for example, if we’re talking about baseball, knocks home run after home run until it really counts, at which time he pitifully pops out to the infield. “To tea-kettle” stems from the story about the inmate of a mental asylum who was up for release. He took his seat in a conference room full of psychiatrists. He looked sharp and had a firm handclasp. The interview to determine whether he was ready for the “outside” began with the lead psychiatrist asking, “What will you do if we release you?”

“Well,” he began. “I’m only a few credits shy of an MA in urban planning, and I may go finish up and take a job in one of America’s more troubled cities. Also, my brother is opening a new insurance branch in Evansville, and he’s invited me to help out and possibly head up the operation.”

The psychiatrists were obviously impressed, smiling as they scribbled notes on their legal-size yellow pads. “On the other hand,” he continued thoughtfully, “I’ve always been interested in marine biology. I completed an Internet course from the Key Biscayne Seaquarium while I’ve been here, and I may very well opt for less pay and take an internship there.”

You could tell every one of those psychiatrists was on the verge of walking him out to the main entrance and releasing him on the spot, at least at that point.

“And if none of that works out,” the inmate concluded, “I can always be a tea-kettle!”

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