Russell Madden
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It Mattered
Russell Madden
Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.
Softcover, $24.95
Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.
Hardcover, $34.95
(Preview. Also available in a digital edition, $5.63.)




Russell Madden



Maybe I should just hang my head in shame.

Sometimes I think I must be the most ignorant person in the world. Now, I realize that some of my readers would agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment. I can envision them nodding their heads vigorously given that I have, at last, come to my scrambled senses and admitted my sad, intellectual shortcomings before all and sundry.

All I can do is spread my hands and offer them my sincere mea culpas. My ignorance is, indeed, monumental. It must be. Otherwise what I see happening in Washington, D. C.,. and across the airwaves would surely make sense. Wouldn't it?

Perhaps I should explain my predicament and look to the good offices of my audience for enlightenment on how to alleviate my vexing lack of understanding.

As I am certain everyone is aware, for the past five months, we, the good people of the United States of America, have been at war. How do I know that? Because the president and other politicians have repeatedly told us so. Some of you may object and remind me that there has been no formal declaration of war. You may point out that the Constitution requires that the chief executive must go to Congress and request authority to send our troops against the soldiers of another nation while spending billions of dollars blasting a medieval country farther back into time.

The politicians and media commentators, however, assure me that such niceties really don't matter in this day and age. Even many libertarian-oriented writers tell me to quit worrying my pretty little head and go with the flow. After all, the evil doers who backed the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon -- whoever they are, exactly -- need to be beaten into oblivion. Accept the necessity, I'm told, and support the troops while they kick some Afghan heinie.

Okay. These people are paid the big bucks, after all. They wouldn't be so rich if they didn't know what they were talking about. Would they?

I must admit, though, that here's one place where my abysmal ignorance rears its ugly snoot. I always thought the Constitution was supposed to be the set of rules our government was to follow in running the political institutions of this nation. I thought rules were supposed to be obeyed. You know, like when you play poker or Monopoly. That way everybody knows what they can or cannot do, what's proper and what's improper. Keeps the players happy that way.

But they tell me, no, I'm wrong. Do what you want to do, what you believe you have to do. I have to scratch my head a tad at this wondrous revelation and wonder if that traffic cop will accept such insightful advice if I travel eighty mph in a thirty mph zone. Might be worth a shot. What do you think?

But, I'm not here to write about the war.

The politicians and the media are telling me now that the war or conflict or whatever it is in Afghanistan is no longer all that important. I can rest easy and cease my fretting. How do I know this? Just watch television. About the only story I see lately deals with the bankruptcy of that energy company that produced no energy, Enron. The troops getting their knickers bunched in all those helicopter and plane crashes in Afghanistan (and never from enemy fire, either, they tell me. What a relief. I feel much better knowing it's just bad luck or whatever downing those craft and injuring or killing our soldiers and not some bearded guy with one of our own Stinger missiles) are of less significance than the whirlwind surrounding Enron and its greedy, corrupt managers.

Dan and Tom and Peter inform me that Enron was the seventh largest company in this country. They say that all the thousands of suffering employees who had nearly all their retirement funds invested in now worthless stock are the victims of company bigwigs who refused to let them sell their stock. They tell me that the fault for all this brouhaha is that we don't have enough government regulations protecting the little guy; that what happened at Enron proves that we shouldn't move to privatize Social Security, not even a tiny bit; that the ultimate culprit in this travesty of justice is capitalism in and of itself.

Whew! I was getting worried. Some people who obviously had their wires crossed tried to tell me that Enron cooked its figures and really wasn't as big as everyone said; that the subsidies and favors it received from politicians were the biggest contributors to their problems; that the employees had a personal responsibility to manage their retirement accounts and to diversify; that they could have sold their stocks except for a two or three week period; that what happened with Enron has nothing to do with citizens owning and managing their own retirement funds; and that this mess reinforces the message that we need more free enterprise, not less.

Silly people.

But, I'm not here to write about Enron.

I just want the president and the Senate majority leader and the Speaker of the House and all their chums to remove the veil of ignorance from my eyes. Once they clear up a few trifling concerns, I can ease back with a good book and dismiss the gnawing thought that something is amiss here.

For instance, the moral superiority of the politicians and media types as they investigate and report on the dastardly doings of Enron is awe-inspiring.

Now, if those worthies would just tell my why the $600-plus million that NASA misplaced the other day isn't getting the same exposure. Or the billions the Pentagon cannot account for (nearly $50 billion by one report). Or the guns and computers lost by the FBI. Or the millions of dollars the IRS has failed to trace.

I mean, those politicians are my friends. Aren't they? They must be. They keep talking about the money "we" need to keep the country running; about "our" resources that are being squandered in tax cuts; about how "we" need to watch out and care for one another.

Golly. I didn't even realize these people had even the foggiest idea who I was, let alone that they knew me personally. But they care. They really must. They tell me often enough that they do. I do wonder, though, when they're going to send me some more of our money to help me buy a bigger house or purchase a newer car. Guess they just haven't gotten around to that yet. I'm sure the check's in the mail.

They also have to care a lot because they want to protect me so much. They tell me that's their main concern. To protect me: from terrorists and from poverty and from sickness and from flying unsafe planes and, oh, my, so many ways they want to protect me. Why, my own U.S. Representative, good ol' Ioway boy, Jim Leach, so wants to protect me that he's trying to outlaw such dire threats to my safety as Internet gambling.

Someone ought to pin a medal on that modest hero's chest.

But here's my ignorant self butting in again, darn it. Where have my friends been over the past hundred years while they and their buds helped fritter away $10 trillion of so of our money through inflation and taxes and such? Where have they been while all their thoughtful protections kept me safe from top-loading clothes washers and three-gallon-per-flush toilets? Where were they when so many millions of us were drafted and killed or maimed or psychologically damaged for life? Where were they when I could have looked forward to retiring a millionaire but now will have real problems making a go of it?

Guess they must have been busy protecting somebody else. You know. Like all those druggies who don't know what's good for 'em. Like the prez's niece who got arrested for passing a fake prescription for Xanax. I wonder if they'll protect her like they have so many others of us by putting her in jail and throwing away the key?

Just wondering.

I have confidence, though, that the president does care for me. He constantly reminds me how compassionate he is, after all. For instance, he assures me that we won't have anything like a national ID card. I bet there are just evil aides keeping him in ignorance about the plans to turn driver's licenses into a national ID card. When will his advisers warn him about that new "Trusted Traveler" card we'll soon have with our biometric data encoded on it? I just know he would put a quick stop to such shenanigans if he knew about them.

But...dang. I have to keep reminding myself how ignorant I am. I bet such cards are supposed to be good for us. They'll protect us. Yeah. That must be it.

I do appreciate their kind thoughts and deeds, of course, but I just hope I can stand all that protection they're offering me. I probably don't deserve such solicitude, but we all know how generous those blokes are.

Of course, when the president tells us he wants to spend billions more on a state-run educational system that is falling apart at the seams; when he tells me I should donate 4000 lifetime hours to helping my neighbors and the nation while I have to run just to stay in place; when he tells us we need to intensify the Drug War while our prisons bulge with nonviolent drug users; when he says he wants to increase the federal budget even more while we sink deeper into debt and recession, I have to admit my shortcomings. My ignorant mind just cannot wrap itself around those pleasant plans and figure how all this will work out for the better.

Still, when the president says he believes in the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women, private property, equal justice, and religious tolerance, surely I have to believe him. Just because I cannot cipher how ignoring the Constitution, passing more laws and regulations, opposing reproductive choice, encouraging asset forfeiture, pushing drug laws, and touting tax-funded "faith-based charities" jive with all those noble declarations...well...I've admitted my failings here often enough. Don't make me humiliate myself more than I already have.

My only recourse is to accede to my betters and be done with it. I just have to convince myself that the president and the Senators and the Congressmen I see on TV can explain all of these illusions of paradoxes and contradictions.

But, you know, then again, maybe they can't...


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