Congress needs chemo

I’m hearing echoes of Mr. Miller, my high school economics and U.S. history teacher. He's probably still taking young, impressionable teenage minds by storm with his progressive politics and impassioned Bruce Springsteen impressions. Old man Miller deserves a tribute (the man got away with injecting Michael Moore’s Roger & Me into public high school economics curriculum), but for now I’m confining him to the introduction.

While Mr. Miller excitedly lectured the socio-political climate of 1960s America to my appropriately stoned classmates (I attended Miller’s class once after a lunchtime hotbox in my friend's Volvo. He totally knew because he targeted me for discussion questions that day. Come to think of it, he was probably high himself.), he kept reverting back to his theme, “The personal is political,” asking us to “think about that” within the context of the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War protests, Women’s lib, etc. “Isn’t it obvious?” I always used to ask him, rolling my eyes. As usual, he rolled his eyes right back at me and asked me to explain myself. I think I basically fed him some bullshit about how there were issues people cared about in the 60s, and the people rose up did something them rather than just accepting their fate. They fought for what they thought was right, made a difference, changed history, make love not war, counterculture, turn in, tune in, and drop out, peace, love, understanding.

The problem with this answer has come back to haunt me because I fear it’s not that simple in this day and age. Fittingly, “the personal is political” has come back to haunt America, only the personal end has been manipulated by the ideological powers that control the very same core constituency apparently responsible for reelecting President Bush. In case they had any lingering doubts about Bush’s ability to represent their concerns in the midst of a mounting deficit, frequent haywire insurgent attacks in a foreign country we occupy, and overall domestic spending chaos, our conservative Christian coalition can rest easy knowing that Terri Schiavo will probably spend another fifteen years as a living, breathing brain damage.

Thanks to fast action by Rep. Tom Delay and the swift Air Force One flight interrupting Bush from his Crawford vacation fantasy (the one where Laura tries to emulate Martha Stewart, and Bush critiques her performance with witty remarks that demand fits of his own laughter), she can still lie on the hospital bed, unresponsive. Responsibility for Terri’s vegetative life will shift from her loving husband Michael (who is simply carrying out his wife’s wishes and is doing a damn good job of insult-battling Delay)/Florida state courts to her teary parents, who have become the champions of choose-lifers everywhere. This deeply personal issue (which, in my opinion, is between her wishes-as expressed by her husband-and the state courts) has become alarmingly political, to the point that I fear a neo-McCarthyism otherwise known as Delayism will take hold if we don’t watch out.

I’ve been listening for it, but dissent is difficult to find among the shock. Yet here’s the Schiavo drama, playing out in front of us like the TV movie, coming soon to a Sunday night on ABC. Ambulance chaser producers are clamoring for the rights as I write (actually, forget the TV movie. Mel Gibson is all over this one. The Passion of Tom Delay. Ideal casting: Chris Cooper, but will settle for Jon Voight). Even discussing entertainment prospects for this story sickens me with the illness this country’s policymaking machine has caught with its intrusion into the private life of a citizen.

Aren’t there more important laws and bill marinating in Congressional committees, like Ed Kennedy’s Healthy Families Act? Michael Schiavo had it right asking whether Congress had anything more important to do than reduce his painful, tragic situation into a vote count and media circus. If Healthy Families aren’t pressing enough for Congress (didn't think so), what about pushing through the “thanks for all your generous lobbying efforts, credit card companies!” bankruptcy bill? Mr. Schiavo might also question the obedient silence of the allegedly liberal biased media, as well as that of any lawmakers who have a problem with this obvious override of the Constitution but are too whipped to speak out.

Thankfully, today’s LA Times editorial dropped daring word bombs (my favorite was “…some social conservatives are happy to see the federal government acquire Stalinist proportions when imposing their morality on the rest of the country.”), foreshadowing the end of federalism and the ambigious merge of church and state, the rape of our basic rights in the name of God. In an incarnation drastically different from 1960s social unrest, the personal has now become fiercely political, and if it wasn’t loud enough after the moral values election justification, it is sure screaming now.

But what I want to know is, if the personal is so goddamn political, what happened to gun regulations following Columbine? Why can I board a plane with matches in my pocket after terrorists hijacked planes with itsy bitsy knives on 9/11? Why was there a story in the Oregonian yesterday about the escalating quality of cuisine in state penitentiary inmates while public school kids in North Portland still get served stale everything? I could get increasingly personal and still more political, but then I would be dangerously close to Tom Delay territory. But I doubt this is personal with Delay. In fact, it’s logical, kind of like math…a simple business transaction.

Tom Delay + illegal political contributions + disregard for basic ethics standards of Congressmen + fraud + Texas district attorney investigation + lobbyist-paid recreational golf trip to Europe + being an asshole in general = desperately needs to divert political attention to a private matter that is simply none of his, Congress’s, President Bush’s, the media’s, or the American people’s business.

Now that Delay is the poster boy for saving vegetables, will his legal troubles disappear? I wish I could say that I don’t give a shit about him, but I do. Tom Delay is public enemy number one. He is the cancer of Congress, which desperately needs some chemo. If we wait any longer, he’ll spread. Go ahead, call me and my farfetched metaphor morbid…but that won’t shut me up, or get Delay out of his seat.


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