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August 2, 2011

“Dog Days” and Washington

Roy Meachum

Mad dogs were the terror of the summers during my Southern childhood, before universal vaccine and the prosperity wrought by World War II. Loved pets forced to be abandoned by the Great Depression hooked up with already wild packs.


Long after I attained adult status, I still believed hydrophobia was the reason for “dog days” attached to these months, softening after Labor Day. Having studied Latin at Holy Cross where I was a boarder, I never heard about the Roman calendar designation of “dies caniculares.” The Greek phrase for the season also translates “dog days.”


Maybe that explains the weekend madness in Washington; the debt ceiling fracas already cost millions before the serious haggling began. We were all told “principles” were involved. That’s like shady ladies in bordellos trying to defend their profession by citing moral grounds. One does not get elected to office through independence and manifest integrity. Some candidates like to spout Christian religions. Jewish political campaigns are more discreet, relying chiefly on support for Israel, which is, after all, a major foreign power.


It’s not at all peculiar the politicians claim to hold a cure for what is ailing the body politic. But it seems over my long years that hypocrisy entrenched itself further into the governmental structure. When the opposition comes up with a better proposal, it is attacked – not for the idea – but because of party. I mean both Democrats and Republicans and within their ranks liberals vs. conservatives.


Meanwhile, the average taxpayer, who has proven non-partisan in voting contests again and again, sits perplexed and angry. They form a gigantic beehive that politicians stir up at their danger. Our form of democracy relies very strongly on apathy. If men and women, especially minorities, besieged polling places on the appointed days, we would have a mostly different crew in charge – in local, state and federal governments.


As it is, election outcomes on the several levels reflect the anger of an aggrieved electorate. It is my considered opinion that few people cast ballots for anybody; we vote chiefly against. Little has changed since the Greeks who invented America’s system. The fate of Socrates at his trial is a testament to petty anger; he was accused of heresy for teaching youths what he held they most needed making their way through a generally hostile world.


Someone observed recently that Republicans concentrate on winning the next presidential election while Democrats are stuck with governing. As the debt ceiling fight lingered on in the “dog days,” more and more people bought the thesis.


Sunday evening The New York Times moved a News Alert revealing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., NV) “approves debt agreement, pending approval of Democratic Caucus.” Meanwhile, Tea Party members in the House of Representatives held fast. The voters’ turn comes in next year’s election.


Like Daniel Webster, I am very concerned about our Republic. These are the darkest days since the New England statesman spoke stirringly for the preservation of the Union.


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