IS IT JUST ME? - Take politics seriously? ...I'll put it on my list

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Recently, while attempting to figure out how to do the dishes without actually having to do any real work, I heard a very serious discussion of politics on Oregon Public Broadcasting's radio show "On the Media."

The subject was a video released by President Barack Obama's campaign staff on YouTube saying Mitt Romney may not have made the tough call to send a team of Navy SEALs to "take out" Osama bin Laden in Pakistan a year ago .

The video was released in a transparent, yet strangely effective effort to distract media professionals from the recent, disappointing news that job growth slowed in the last quarter, according to host Bob Garfield. To really establish the point, Garfield interviewed The New Yorker magazine staff writer John Cassidy.

"This is all a very cynical game," Cassidy said. "... We all know that both sides are going to exploit whatever they can for their advantage."

It's a good thing I had the radio on in time to catch this groundbreaking bit of news, because up to this point I had taken everything politicians said as gospel truth.

OK, that's not actually true. But the Cassidy interview did highlight a troubling trend: Americans are taking politics seriously.

I noticed this early during the Republican primary. Iowans, the first to hold caucuses in the primary race, repeatedly told reporters they were "taking the election very seriously." At the time I figured it was a temporary fad, and I forgot all about it.

There are, after all, too many reasons not to take politics, and especially politicians, seriously. For example, the proclamation issued by the Walla Walla City Council during a regular meeting April 25 that May is "Bicycle Safety Awareness Month."

Personally, I've been too busy trying to remember the nearly five dozen other awareness campaigns this month. May is Salad Month, Barbecue Month, Tennis Month, Vinegar Month, Personal History Month and Creative Beginnings Month, according to Chase's Calender of Events.

This is a small sampling of the 55-or-so things we should be aware of this month, not including the various important days, like Mother's Day, the National Day of Prayer, Lumpy Rug Day and National Two Different Colored Shoes Day (no kidding).

I had planned to tactfully ignore the addition of Bicycle Safety Awareness to the list.

Then I received a press release from the Walla Walla Police Department that states: "Patrol Officers will be stepping up contacts with bicyclists observed violating the ‘rules of the road.' Bicycle riders are required by law to obey all the same traffic laws that apply to the motoring public."

Of course, under normal circumstances, police officers tend to allow bicyclists a fair amount of free rein as they scoot about the city. Bicycling is a pretty rebellious activity, after all.

By all accounts the first bicycles were invented in Scotland and France, countries known for their cuisine (good and bad) and bloody revolts.

What could be more French than riding around in tight clothing on a machine with a tiny seat in disregard of not only the traffic laws but the laws of common decency and physics?

Scottish inventor Kirkpatrick MacMillan is not only supposed to have invented an early prototype of the bicycle, but he also committed the first recorded bike-related traffic violation by kicking over a small child.

I don't care much for bikes myself. People throw things at me, like apples and half-full to-go cups of hot coffee. Plus, when I ride a bike, I look like an orangutan riding a football. That, and I'd rather crawl through hot molasses on my belly than wear spandex.

Despite my personal misgivings about bicycling, I hold no ill will toward those who enjoy it, and I'm in favor of bicycle safety. I'm just not sure how proclaiming one particular month as Bicycle Safety Awareness Month is going to help. It could even lead bike enthusiasts to ignore bike safety during other months, figuring they put in their safety time in May.

Once a council has made a proclamation, however, police can't just go about ignoring it. They must act, no matter their personal opinions or feelings on the subject.

If the City Council had proclaimed that May was Don't Poke Yourself in the Eye with Sharp Objects Month, police officers would have been forced to drive around confiscating sticks and plastic forks from children.

Which brings up a good point: why didn't the Council proclaim May was Don't Poke Yourself in the Eye with Sharp Objects Month? Eye poking is a very real and serious danger, especially for small children.

I'm not picking on our stalwart local Council. Politicians, especially our local Council members, do wonderful and important things. It's just that if we start taking them seriously, they begin to think everything they do is wonderful and important. That can only lead to jack boots and funny mustaches.

There is no dictator who ever lived who has figured out how to rule a country that keeps giggling at him. That's why I'm worried that American's might be taking this election year seriously, and why I'm worried that John Cassidy feels the need to point out the politicians are "playing politics."

On the other hand, it's an excuse to write a column, which is all I really care about anyway. That, and inventing self-cleaning dishes. Which is why I'm declaring May as "Invent a Kitchen Labor Saving Device and Give Me a the Prototype" month.

Luke Hegdal can be reached at lukehegdal@wwub.com or 526-8326.

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