'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
POLITICAL KNOWLEDGE IS NOT POWER
Well, the presidential election race is really heating up. If you turn on the TV, radio, or newspaper that’s all you hear. (Although turning on the newspaper is a bit difficult as I can never locate the “on/off” button.)
I suppose the presidential race will be the dominant news story from now until the election this November. Wait a minute, what am I saying? The election is not this November. It’s NEXT year, more than 15 months away! Oh brother, this is going to be painful.
There once was a time when I was blissfully ignorant about politics. I couldn’t image a more boring topic and I was certain the dealings of political people had no impact on my life. So I avoided any TV or radio station that even mentioned the word “politics,” choosing instead to focus on informational and inspirational programming such as reruns of “Hogan’s Heroes” and radio stations that aired nothing but Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. My tastes in print media shied away from newspapers (with or without an “on/off” button) and tended more toward “MAD Magazine” and “Sports Illustrated.”
One of my best friends in college was a political science major who actually thought that politics was very important. He even knew who the current president was at the time. (I’m not sure but I think it was either Jimmy Carter or Andrew Jackson. Although it might have been Colonel Klink.) At that point in time you could not have paid me to care one whit about politics.
But then an odd thing happened: I got a job. After working for two weeks I eagerly awaited pay day, and when they handed me my first paycheck, I opened it up, paused in confusion, and said, “What the…? That’s not the amount they told me!”
I went to my boss seeking an explanation, and received a quick lesson about the concept of “withholdings” (which I believe is Latin for: “kiss your cash goodbye”). Then I learned the percentage of my money being withheld was determined in large measure by politicians. At that moment I became very, very interested in politics, to the point where I now know not only who the current president is (Major Hochstetter), I also know the identity of my senators and representative (Chris Lieberman, Joe Dodd, and General Burkhalter, respectively).
For many years now I’ve been paying very close attention to politics. I can define many obscure political terms, such as unfunded mandate (“You’re screwed”), fact-finding mission (“Free Hawaiian vacation!”), and public servant (“If you force your employees to donate to my re-election campaign, I’ll SERVE your company some PUBLIC contracts”).
I can even name 12 out of the approximately 72 people running for the presidency at this moment. After all this time, after all the studying, reading, analysis, discussions, fist-fights, etc., I discovered an undeniable fact about politics: it doesn’t matter one bit. The system is rigged. The politicians are going to do whatever they want to do, regardless of party affiliation, because they’ve set the ground rules in their favor. And the “withholding” figures on my paycheck stub are going to get bigger and bigger and bigger until the day I die—and probably for a few years after that.
I’m not sure if my attitude toward politics three decades ago was correct. Ignorance is probably not bliss. But I do know that knowledge is pretty darn frustrating. So maybe I should adopt a new political attitude (an attitude, by the way, the politicians WANT me to have). Maybe I’ll embrace the view offered by that famous political philosopher, Sergeant Shultz: “I know nothing. Nothinggggg!”
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