One way to look at your life right now is this: Even if there's somebody at work who gets on your nerves, there's still a strong chance that you get along better with your co-workers than do the people allegedly running this country.
It was a different time. The country was at war. And nothing less than the abolition of slavery was on the line. We would not expect congresspersons to speak to one another in that way today. And they don't. Instead they say, "Go f--- yourself."
That was what the leader of the House, John Boehner, said to the leader of the Senate last Wednesday. He said it twice, just in case Harry Reid had not heard it the first time. This was in the course of ironing out a medium-important fiscal problem, as opposed to, you know, ending slavery and the Civil War. It's a long fall from "you fatuous nincompoop" to "go f--- yourself."
It's not even original. In 2004, Vice President Dick Cheney told U.S. Sen. Pat Leahy, on the floor of the Senate, to go f--- himself. This started a chain. When Cheney was conducting a press briefing in Gulfport, Miss., in 2006, with cameras rolling and mikes live, a disgruntled citizen hurled the same anatomical impossibility at Cheney.
We need to nip this in the bud. Our own state legislature will reconvene this week. I radiate pride when I say that our fatuous ninc— I mean, legislators exhibit far higher standards of discourse than do certain speakers and vice presidents.
There are bound to be heated debates. According to CtNewsJunkie.com, the General Assembly will consider naming an official state polka and a Native American Month (November). There is also talk of a state waltz. (I'm not kidding.) Maybe all this dancing is a good idea. Playwright Eve Ensler is sponsoring a Feb. 14 worldwide event whose purpose is to have 1 billion people get up and dance in the name of reducing violence against women. Connecticut could be out on the leading edge if we get our dancing act together.
You probably missed it, but on Dec. 19, the General Assembly met in special session to address a $365 million deficit. Some unprecedented combination of grief over Newtown and anticipation of Christmas prevailed, and the two chambers passed a tough set of budget cuts by 140- 3 and 31- 3. They said rather nice things about one another. I know, right?
It wasn't that they did the right thing. The right thing, as is so often the case today, was not even on the table. They did the not-too-bad thing with dignity. Nowadays, that's almost a miracle.
In that same vein, doing the right thing was not even contemplated in Washington last week. That would have entailed bringing an end to this Second Gilded Age, in which a tiny class of tycoons in concert with bought-and-paid-for politicians slipped the surly bonds of civic responsibility and threw a decade-long party for themselves with the rest of us as catering staff, clowns and ponies.
Our despair is occasioned not by what they did but by how they did it: in the manner of a long-lost Edward Albee play in which mean games are played for the sake of meanness and in which late-night revels boil with uninhibited venom. "Who's Afraid of the Fiscal Cliff?"
There were ill-chosen words and shouting matches. One Ohio Republican, the prophetically named Steve LaTourette, dismissed the Senate agreement as the work of "sleep-deprived octogenarians." (And LaTourette is, in this environment, a bit of a moderate.)
By most accounts, the compromise was the product of the good will accumulated over decades between Mitch McConnell and Joe Biden. Think about that. Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell saved us from a descent into savagery.
Thus, I charge you Connecticut legislators to stay the course of comity. Continue to make us proud. And if you pick anything other than "I'm Gonna Get a Dummy" by Frank Yankovic as the state polka, you can all go stuff yourselves.