Many years ago, when I was growing up in Bend, Oregon, we had a community “character” as did many small towns. Probably in her 60’s and always in a long dress, she wore a large scarf around her neck – no matter the weather – with a flowered hat and veil atop her piled up hair. Always the same. In our ignorance, most everyone referred to her as Crazy Alice.

Aside from her daily sameness of dress, she was noticed by everyone because she always curtsied when passing Bend City Hall or the Deschutes County Courthouse. Did the same with fire hydrants along Bond and Wall Streets. And mailboxes. And the new fangled parking meters that were appearing. Always. Never saw her miss.

When I interviewed her for the high school paper, she said her reason for the curtsies and an occasional bow was because she “respected government as everyone should.” The buildings, the fire plugs and the parking meters were all government property; symbols that, to Alice, deserved to be recognized. And respected.

Though never having bowed or curtsied to taxpayer-owned real estate or implements like Alice, I’ve always felt things governmental should be respected. Later, as a veteran, that respect was coupled with patriotism in a more adult sense. I often thought of Alice as I matured and she didn’t seem so “crazy.”

There are many useful and important words missing from our political world today. Words like respect, compromise, getting along, comity, “meet you halfway,” cordiality, friendship, agreement, bipartisanship, together, etc. As you read and hear of our politics, those words aren’t used. Except, maybe in Oregon’s current legislative session where a 30-30 membership in the House appears to be trying hard to stay away from those angry adjectives. Fragile peace? Yep, though at the moment, it’s holding. But across the rest of the nation, respect just doesn’t fit in the dialogue.

This week, I was behind an older Dodge pickup, waiting for the light to turn green. On both sides of the back bumper were stickers that said “Sarah Palin, 2012, You Betcha’.” Between those two, was another, larger one. It said “Hey, liberal scumbag! Why don’t you try rooting for America for a change?”

Now, to me, those sentiments sort of foreclosed any opportunity the driver of that pickup and I would have a conversation. About anything. I certainly know his sentiments. But he certainly doesn’t know yours or mine. Because he doesn’t want to. Not important to him.

While not as blatant – or publically crass – that sort of in-your-face attitude permeates our political world these days. It’s probably best represented by some of the people in Congress who call themselves members of the ethereal Tea Party. Not all. But by far too many. In their ignorance of how our government works, they’ve staked out a position of “my-way-or-the-highway.” Compromise is not in them. Neither are comity, agreement, working together or any of the other adjectives listed above. One way. My way. Like the pickup driver.

Last week, House GOP Leader Eric Cantor came awfully close to emulating the guy in that pickup. Cantor is not new to Congress so his arrogance had to be deliberate.

He announced to the media the House would be voting on an as yet un-introduced bill to stop any shutdown of the federal government. By law. Further, with his majority, it would pass and it would become law at that time. Reminded by some in the media that the Senate has to agree and the President has to sign any legislation before it can become law, Cantor ignored those voices, saying “It will happen.”

Those voices were right and Cantor was dead wrong. Days later, the bill came up, and while a dozen Republicans were smarter than Cantor and voted “no,” it passed and Cantor reiterated his “now it is law” claim on national TV. He “doubled down” as they say. Wrong twice!
The bill will go nowhere.

There is so much of this verbal cancer in Congress that it has become – and will continue to be – inoperative. It is an impediment to effective governance as it ignores a national debt that’s eating us alive while the last election’s “job promisers” waste valuable time on abortion, union busting, publically embarrassing racist hearings and obstructionist tactics.

The current congress will end, nearly two years from now, as ineffective – or worse- than it is today. Like Cantor and that pickup driver, too many members have put their philosophy on display to such a degree that those who see things differently have no chance of connecting.

I’m glad Alice can’t read this. It’s not the government she respected so deeply. Mine, either.

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