Lemmings are famous, or infamous, for playing “follow the leader” to such an extent that they end up leaping from high cliffs together. This is not entirely a myth: there are videos of their strange behavior on YouTube.
Did we just see something similar with the famous, or infamous, “fiscal cliff”? It seems America’s lemming-like politicians — euphemistically called “leaders” — are never content except when engaging in brinkmanship on the verge of doom. Now that might not be so bad, if they were only thinning out their own numbers, but unfortunately they seem to be intent on taking us down with them.
I am reminded of the wit and wisdom of two of my favorite writers. Here’s Mark Twain on the subject of American politics:
“There is probably no distinctly American criminal class, except Congress.”
“Reader, suppose you were an idiot. Now suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”
And here’s the inimitable Will Rogers:
“A fool and his money are soon elected.”
“Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for.”
“The U.S. Senate opens with a prayer and closes with an investigation.”
“Congress in session is like when the baby gets hold of a hammer.”
“It isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble, it's what we know that ain't so.”
I think the last jibe is both unfortunately true and especially appropriate here in Tennessee. We are increasing the victims of what the not-so-super-majority of befuddled Republican bumpkins insist they “know” that just “ain’t so.”
For instance, the bumpkins know that “guns don’t kill people” and therefore we should have guns in restaurants, bars, parks, trunks, business parking lots and schools. Never mind that the U.S. has 20 times as many gun-related deaths as the other 22 richest industrialized nations, according to a U.N. report. The bumpkins know that gun control “doesn’t work” even though it really does, elsewhere in the civilized world.
The bumpkins also know that global warming is a liberal “myth,” even though the fabled Northwest Passage is now a reality, and explorers are talking about being able to kayak to the magnetic North Pole because so much arctic ice has melted recently.
The bumpkins also know that chastity is the only God-ordained solution to unwanted pregnancies, so Planned Parenthood must be demonized and defunded. (But of course the bumpkins don’t want to pay the additional taxes needed to care for all the unwanted babies.)
The bumpkins also know that homosexuality is a “sin” because the “Bible says so.” Never mind that according to the Bible, Jesus Christ never said a word about homosexuality, suggesting that it didn’t rank high on his agenda. And never mind that the ethics of the writers of the Bible are suspect because the Bible repeatedly commands and/or condones racism, slavery, sex slavery, matricide, infanticide, ethnic cleansing and genocide.
The bumpkins also know that our nation’s problems in the Middle East are entirely the result of Muslims hating American freedoms and values, and have absolutely nothing to do with our government’s wild injustices in the region, such as the CIA engineering a coup of Iran’s democratically-elected government in 1953, or our government’s support for Israel despite what Nobel Peace Prize winners Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu have called a system of apartheid.
The bumpkins know all sorts of other things too: that business is good and government is bad; that raising taxes is the path to “totalitarian socialism” even though other civilized nations have higher taxes on their wealthiest citizens; that unions are evil and union busters are heroes; that rich people are morally superior to poor people; and so on.
The thing I find most interesting about the bumpkins is that they somehow manage to be wrong on every single issue. How is that possible? Did nature endow them with a death wish, to keep them from overpopulating? That is, after all, how some experts explain the strange behavior of lemmings.
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.