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PANTS ON THE GROUND

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I’m an early riser.  Step two after my clock chimes each day includes fumbling through the darkness where my overeager champion Labrador, Stitch the 17th, awaits.  Poor beast.  He wags his tail indicating that he continues to believe I like him in spite of my disdain for his perpetual shedding.  Regardless, I smile and pet him while thinking, “Next dog:  poodle.”  I then head toward the most important cabinet in my kitchen.  Shelf two:  iron, meds, multi-vitamins, Omega-3s.  Shelf one:  coffee, favorite mug.

“God bless Senator Jane,” I pray, as I fuel up with my first swig of black java in the mug bearing her faded logo, a memento from a visit to Senator Jane Nelson’s Austin office.

A cross between a real Texas cowgirl and a steel magnolia, this former baton-twirling dynamo promises to pull out her tennis shoes and place them on her desk in the long standing filibuster tradition of the Texas Legislature with regard to any attempt of adding a state income tax.  Because she is a woman of conviction who knows how to make things happen, her office staff knows exactly where she stores the infamous pink tennis shoes in case of such an “emergency”.

Senator Jane knows that the art of politics includes the intuition of both “knowing how”, and “knowing when”.  It’s similar to the age-old sports tactic of using an intentional personal foul in order to impose a short timeout, quiet the opposing crowd’s aggression, and allow the team to regroup.  There’s the “stop the clock” intentional foul and then there’s the “no way I’m letting you score” foul.  For instance, Duke’s Lance Thomas recently committed a controversial  foul on Butler’s Gordon Hayward in the Men’s Final Four that rivaled the Super Bowl 44 Snicker’s commercial starring Betty White:  flagrant or no?  He will never tell.

In recent days, we’ve witnessed more than a smattering of flagrant fouls in the American political and financial climates.  “Raising taxes and tightening credit in a time of recession is the same maneuver used by Herbert Hoover.  It leads to depression,” said Dr. Mark G. Dotzour, Chief Economist of the Real Estate Center at Texas A & M University.  Calling the current financial climate in America a cocktail for disaster, he applauded the honesty of the woman he called his next pick for President, Elizabeth Warren.  The Congressional TARP Oversight Panel chairman, she is self-described as both fair and furious with the lack of financial transparency, stating in a February 11 interview that the Federal Reserve cannot operate behind closed doors in these unordinary times while asking the American people to fork over 700 billion dollars of their hard-earned money. 

Perhaps it is time to engage the lukewarm spectator who currently believes that his only civic responsibilities are a daily update to his Facebook status in addition to dialing 1-866-IDOLS-XX every Tuesday night until May 26th.   Only in Augusta do fourth place finishes result in roaring ovations, but for the entire American nation neither the lone eagle approach nor dropping everything and throwing your two hands up in the air is the quick pathway back to the top.  Taking pride in getting back to the basics, some Americans believe there’s still a lot of green to go before mastering fiscal responsibility.

Now, don’t be fooled by this five-letter word of double meaning, but there’s a vast expanse between puffed-up pride and the pride of a victory that’s been a long-time coming after years of discipline.  Just ask Vice-President Joe Biden.  Puffed-up pride says, “We can build literacy in America one word at a time.  What d’ ya say, Barack, shall we start with the letter F?”  I thought that a more dignified response at the victory (superficial) signing of our nation’s most monstrous healthcare legislation in history would have been a little more Elizabethan in nature; though I do agree it is a big deal, there was and is nothing about it that could be remotely related to “the Lord’s doing”. Rules of thumb in Hollywood and televised politics:  1. Tattoos will always attract tattoos.  2.  There are never any ovations for the flagrant foul-mouth.  Note:  Number 2 is the exception, not the rule, in Hollywood, but the exception generally does not apply to people like Arnold Schwarzenegger or the late Ronald Reagan for obvious reasons.

So it’s the sixth letter of the English alphabet, the fourth tone of a C-major scale, a grade rating a student’s work as failing—we can’t have words like fortitude without this favorite letter of our nation’s Vice-President.  This I pondered as I listened to Sting’s Fields of Gold performed by Celtic Woman just before some blonde-haired chick with a violin came out and started to riverdance WHILE fiddling ferociously.  I thought, “If she starts singing too….I’m outta here!”  Sometimes it’s just best not to use all your resources at once.

Middle-class America cannot afford to be lackadaisical, waitin’ like a fool with our pants on the ground, thinking all the while we are some cool cat, yet supporting the poor decision to mimic economic growth by subsidizing monies here and there.  The ripple effects of tucking financial incentives into pretend relief legislation will impact our children and our children’s children.  Additionally, we also need to get back to the basics of saving more and spending less in the tradition of our grandparents.  They understood the definition of fortitude:  strength of mind that enables a person to encounter danger or bear pain or adversity with courage.  I wish I had an “in conclusion” that would sum up a nice set of answers in the form of Top Ten Ways to Make It Right for the political hullabaloo and financial pressures that are mere precursors of many plagues to come if we don’t start getting some things right around here.  There is one remaining fact that continues to give me hope for the time being and reminds me that there is still a lingering notion by the majority of Americans that our God is more benevolent than our government.  When I look at our currency I can still read in places, “In God We Trust.”  I pray we still do.


Originally published in the May 2010 edition of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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