Good news: At least they’re more popular than Fidel

Greg Bean

Our nation’s 112th Congress broke for its five-week summer recess last Wednesday, July 31, having achieved the shameful record of being the least productive Congress in history, while at the same time becoming the most hated Congress in history, according to a plethora of respected polls.

As a matter of fact, only about 10 percent of respondents in most polls said they think Congress is doing a good job, and 90 percent said they’re a bunch of stinkers. The highest rating I saw was a poll that said a whopping 17 percent of respondents thought Congress was doing a good job, and only 83 percent said we’d be better off electing a slew of those robotic vacuum cleaners you turn on before you go to bed at night so they can clean your carpet while you sleep. At least those vacuum cleaners have limited brain power and generally fulfill their prime directive.

To put this in a bit of perspective, consider a recent Gallup poll that found only 9 percent of those queried approved of the job done by the 112th. In that same poll, 40 percent approved of the job done by the IRS; 24 percent thought Nixon did a good job during Watergate; 16 percent thought BP acted commendably during the Gulf oil spill; 15 percent thought Paris Hilton always does a good job; and 11 percent thought it would be a good job if the U.S. went communist. Hugo Chavez, the deceased Venezuelan dictator, shared a 9 percent ranking with Congress. Only Fidel Castro came in lower than Chavez andCongress,witha5percentapproval rating.

If you listened to any of the interviews with our notorious, do-nothing representatives and senators as they were leaving for vacation, you know that they all blamed The Other Guy, like a gaggle of perps caught taking salaries for no-show government patronage jobs (which is not too far from the truth). But I don’t buy it, and I’m pretty sure 90 percent of you don’t buy it either. I think they’ve acted like a bunch of babies for the last couple of years, and we’d better send some adults to replace them before they start sticking knives and forks into the light sockets. Maybe it’s a good thing they’re going on an extended vacation. At least they won’t be around to do us wrong until September, when they’ll likely come back to shut down the government.

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You know who else acts like a bunch of babies? Actual 1-year-olds act like babies, as do most of the adults who gravitate into their sphere of influence. Like the doting grandparents we are, we trooped to upstate New York last weekend for our granddaughter’s first birthday party, bearing many gifts and party favors. It was a wonderful experience and provided no end of amusement. Have you ever noticed that most adults start talking baby talk, even when conversing with one another, as soon as one or more babies come in the room? It’s the strangest thing, and even stranger when it starts coming out of your own mouth. “I want it, ice cweam,” you tell your wife before it dawns on you that an alien life form may have taken over your brain. And let’s not even talk about the silly faces we start making almost immediately in an effort to earn the greatest reward possible in this life, a smile or a giggle from a small child.

“Are you going to have any advice for her when she grows up?” my son asked me at some point. “Words of wisdom?”

“Well, yes,” I said. “I’ll encourage her to learn fly fishing.” It’s been my experience that fly fishing is the best therapeutic gift you can give yourself, and a stretch of productive stream is the one place where the worries and troubles that bombard me on a daily basis disappear like smoke on the breeze. “If she’s fishing a stream, I’d tell her to always face the opposite bank, lay a nice gentle cast at 10 o’clock, and let it drift to at least 2 or 2:30 before pulling her line from the water and trying another cast.”

My son gave me one of those looks. “You think about it some more,” he said. “You’ve got time.”

And to tell you the truth, I have been, and what I’ve decided is that most of the things I’ve believed were wise and true at some point in my life have proven false. As a matter of fact, the only thing I am absolutely certain about is that nothing is truly important in life except your family, and your friends, and whatever selfless deeds you’ve done that improved someone else’s life. As James Lee Burke said so eloquently in a book of his that I just finished: “When you get to the end of the road, money, success, fame, power, all of the things we kill each other for, fade into insignificance. The joke is, it’s usually too late to make use of that knowledge.” Later, he expanded that thought: “What is the sum total of a man’s (or woman’s) life? I knew the answer, and it wasn’t complicated. At the bottom of the ninth, you count up the people you love, both friends and family, and you add their names to the fine places you’ve been and the good things you’ve done, and you have it.”

When she’s old enough, I think I’ll tell her that. At this point, it’s the best I’ve got.

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I’d like to say thanks to all the wonderful folks who took the time to write me after they read my last regular column for these newspapers last month. Those messages were touching, and humbling, and many of them encouraged me to keep writing on an occasional basis. So that’s what I’m going to do. What can I say? I think I’m addicted to print. You can reach Gregory Bean at [email protected].