In A Barnum And Maytag World

Today, let us celebrate dirty laundry. But before we do… At least there is one thing most Americans are united on these days: Americans are divided. The State of the Union circus was proof of that. As was the impeachment. As was the Mueller Report.

Politics? Economics? Major social issues? This is the Age of Disagreement. A lot of it poisonous. I know, I know. You probably disagree with me on that. Viciously.

Seriously, have you lost a few friends over political and social issues the last few years? Do some pals avoid you because you love or hate this president? Or because of the party whose flag you wave? Have you become “One of them”?

I rest my case.

I don’t know whether these vitriolic days inspire you to celebrate. Or to gnash your teeth. But may I humbly suggest we all toast our American circus-cum-Maytag. Yes, you too, even if your side got crushed.

Circus? Well, what else would you call it? In the three rings we’ve got attacks and hearings. Subpoenas and documents withheld. Whistleblowers and skullduggery.

In the side-shows we’ve got leaks and emails exposed. Impeachment and SOTU theatrics. Media bias and bureaucrats covering their bums. FBI honchos sacked. Top intel guys lying. Palace intrigue. And intrigue uncovered. Swamp creatures who cling to and bury documents in the face of court orders.

We have the endless political campaigns and their nasty debates. And scathing best-sellers that expose our corruptions. And marches and movements that fill the air and quicken pulses with charges of racism, sexism, misogyny, LGBQTXYZism and ismism. And don’t forget treason, collusion, sedition and Russia, Russia, Russia!

Why the Maytag connection? Well, this circus churns out more dirty laundry than most countries have clothes. I reckon dirty laundry is a major ingredient of our GDP. (Along with mixed metaphors.)

I could go on and on. As no doubt they will. “They” being the circus performers and the Maytag. But do consider this: It is all a blessing. We are fortunate to have and experience it.

When I was young, living and writing in New Zealand, I fell afoul of its swamp. Government owned all broadcasting. But was forbidden to interfere with its independence. Right.

The NZBC hired me to write a satire on politics. I did. They hired actors and produced the show. But when a few politicians got a sneak preview they shut the project down. They ordered the network to lock the program in a vault. They refused to let anyone — even me, its writer — see the show. They declared it radio-active.

Thirty years later I petitioned government to let me at least view the show. Let us let bygones, and all that. I offered to sign a non-disclosure. In a curt letter, some bureaucrat told me to roast in hell for all eternity. Thirty years on!

My point is that few people in this world enjoy the circus you do. For instance: New Zealand is one of the most free and civilized nations. Yet politicians could banish something they disliked from the public airwaves. Newspapers complained. Fans did too. (Readers of my then column.) The politicians said we could all stick it where the sun don’t shine. They could do what they bloody-well wished with something that satirized them.

NZ has nothing like our Freedom of Information Act. No court can force bureaucrats to release a rather innocent TV show that petty pols canned decades ago.

Few if any countries allow the public to sue for documents. Few allow the open and vicious debates we enjoy, or suffer. In many lands if you point the finger toward treason and corruption, you lose your finger. Or more. Disagree with the powers that be and you be gone, brother.

Publish or broadcast stuff that upsets the rulers and the rulers shut you up. Or maybe shut you down.

Oh, other countries have their scandals. They have their exposures and truth commissions. Some have impeachments and re-calls. But rare is a country that offers the huge assortment of weapons and tools America does. Weapons our citizens wield to deal with treachery. Tools they use to pry free something close to the truth.

I have in mind the subpoenas and rulings. And freedom of the press. And freedom of speech, even when that speech insults or offends or embarrasses. In this country we allow the semen-stained dresses no matter the source. We set up grand juries to evaluate evidence our leaders want smothered. We allow hound-dog prosecutors to follow their noses into sordid corners.

It’s all sloppy as pig swill. And imperfect, for sure. Churchill called democracy the worst form of government in this world of sin and woe. Except for all the other forms. If he was around today he might say the same about this structure our founders bequeathed to us. A structure that allows and encourages so many freedoms. Which lead to disputes filled with rancor.

It is a system that trusts the people to do the right thing. To out the truth. Through the press, the courts, the campaigns and elections, impeachments and special prosecutors. Even through satire that stings.

Yes, the laws, safeguards and freedoms of our system encourage us to out the truth. Hear, hear!

Whether your side has been bloodied or vindicated, let us raise a glass. We are lucky to live in this nation of circuses and dirty laundry.

From Tom…as in Morgan.