In the midst of the Great Government Shutdown over the building of a new version of the Great Wall of China (which didn't work), Ruth and I approached the main terminal at Minneapolis' airport with some trepidation.
We were booked on a flight to Mexico and the media had warned us that some TSA workers in the USA were not showing up for work because they weren't being paid and might be moonlighting on some less important job. Now I must admit I'm sometimes critical of these workers, especially when they confiscate my cigarette lighter or act officiously or abruptly. I usually mutter something, to which Ruth says "Shush, idiot, they might find my cuticle scissors."
But on this day in mid January, all seemed well as I passed through the hoops and hurdles and had my inner thighs patted, but only with the backs of the groper's hands. What a relief. What struck me was that the TSAers were smiling, friendly and were very, very amiable.
Why? Because the people they were probing and patting almost universally were saying "Thanks for showing up at work. We hope this will all be over soon."
Isn't that a nice story?
So off we went to Mexico, where we were totally insulated from anything about the home front but Fox News at the hotel. Upon returning home after 10 days, we read in Harper's that a YouGov survey found that 2 out of 3 Americans believe another world war is likely. I have my doubts about such surveys, but after I read the Star Tribune the next morning, I wondered if maybe 2 out of 3 Americans might believe another American civil war is likely. How so?
Because maybe a lot of Americans were as alarmed as we were by the tone-deaf remark of our country's Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.
One of America's wealthiest men, he said he was appalled that shut-down government workers chose to avail themselves of food shelves for the poor.
He asked a reporter, "If they want to eat something, why don't they go out and get a loan? I'm certain the interest rates wouldn't be too bad."
It brought to mind Jean Jacques Rousseau's "Confessions" when he wrote "I recollected the thoughtless saying of a great princess, who on being informed that the country people had no bread, replied "Let them eat cake."
The "great Princess," of course, is supposedly Marie Antoinette, the know-nothing aristocrat who would become queen of all France.
There's more! Further research reveals that not even Marie Antoinette would be dense enough to say that, because Rousseau wrote that particular recollection years BEFORE Louis' bride-to-be arrived in France.
And so it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut wrote. Recently Pulitzer Prize-winning Star Tribune cartoonist posted a picture of the White House, with knotted bed sheets hanging out of each window, signifying the panic going on in the federal government. Such are the circumstances that have led in the past to civil war. May savvier wits prevail!
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