Straddling the Fence

The Sun City-Youngtown Independent Newspaper

Published: September 28, 2011

I’m sitting on the political fence in Washington, D.C. – the one that divides the Republicans from the Democrats, the right from the left. I watch eyes shooting hate darts at their neighbor across the aisle. When I stretch my neck, I can see congressional representatives straining to dig their heels deeper into the mud on the chamber floor. No one seems willing to budge or to ask a non-partisan tow-truck driver to free them from the muck. The mudslinging clouds my view, and I resemble a Dalmatian hound. In my mind I can hear the late Paul Harvey saying, “And now for the rest of the story – things will never change in our society until everyone quits thinking it’s their way or the highway!”

I eavesdropped prior to the session being called to order and heard conversations by legislators. Some talked about their best-selling political books, but they didn’t appear to have reviewed the Constitution of the United States since high school civics class. Across the room, I hear a booming voice coming from an old-timer who is preaching to a deaf choir.

I wince when a debate gets heated, and I hear “Obama this, Obama that.” I wonder what happened to the concept of respecting the office by using Mr. or President, regardless of how much you like the officer? I glance around and observe a freshman in the house pulling his hair out while trying to figure out what the heck is going on, and at the same time, a bald senior counterpart is nodding off in his chair. I see a bill die and become litter in the combat zone surrounding my fence.

I hear a call for the roll of members to vote on a bill, and see children playing hide-in’-seek; others are revising the old telephone game – you know, the one we played as kids, someone whispers a sentence to the next person, and when it gets back to the author, it has a new meaning.

Outside the chamber doors, a three-ring circus entertains lobbyists on the prowl to find a legislator to recite their plea on the floor. In another ring, men and women in Congress are holding committee meetings, defending themselves at a hearing or sneaking off for an intimate social visit. A few public servants are hanging out in the hallway, nearly breaking their necks as they shake their heads in denial for forwarding e-mails before checking www.snopes.com.

I see President Obama fielding the same foul balls of the political games that have played for decades in D.C. On my iPod, I watch politicians acting in campaign commercials that will play for over a year before Election Day. I’m tempted to call them on my Blackberry and ask if they can please stop making more promises until they fulfill the ones they made during the election that sent them to D.C.

When I climb down from the fence and go home, I see hope for better days dying on the branches of the trees that our fore fathers planted; fear withering in the souls of Americans out of work. Frustration shows on the face of a young man who works at a minimum-wage job with no benefits. He needs surgery, but Access told him he isn’t sick enough to get on the program. I pick up the newspaper and read about U.S. citizens who are afraid to leave their home for fear of being harassed by law enforcement agents, because they look like illegals coming over the border. I watch segments on Fox News of soldiers hugging their mothers, wives, husbands, children as they are being deployed to Afghanistan for the second, third, fourth time.

In my own neighborhood, I hear whispers, “Will the government take away my Social Security check? What about Medicare?” I’m thinking it’s about time I call my representatives and senators and invite them to join me and the other 300 million citizens who continue to straddle the political fence in America.

Linda Gillis — Sun City

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