Monday, November 13, 2006

Historical Reflections of Absolutely Nothing

You may well know that compromise is one of the cornerstones of our nation. We pride ourselves as being a people who can reach a solution through give and take, sealing it with a gentleman's handshake if throwing an opponent down a well is not a viable option.

Perhaps most notable is the agreement to split representation between House and Senate. The Great Compromise, it was called. As it was set, over quaffs of ale and allegations of leprosy in a Philadelphia publick house, the House of Representatives would be staffed based on a state's population size while the senate was agreed to be a safe harbor for the alcoholic first sons of wealthy colonial slaveholders.

Now it should be noted that a publick house in the 1770's was another name for a gathering place in a town or small city. There events of the day were discussed, political treatises were scribbled on rough table tops and enough alcohol was served that the idea of giving the right of self determination to a bunch of pig farmers who knew little else over the business end of a sow seemed to have merit. At the time of course. When you sobered up, things like the Whisky Rebellion ensued. That was the name of the attempted reversion of rights to the ruling class when the corn mash of the previous night wore off. It was of course, unsuccessful, the best thing they could get back being the college of electors.

The Missouri Compromise was another hallmark that held off our civil war for at least three years. You will recall that 3/5's of the people agreed to pronounce it Missour-EEE and the remainder Missour-AAH and they all promised to beat up a couple of damned abolitionists in KANSAS.

Our modern history is filled with compromises. The Cuban missile crisis was defused when JFK secretly pledged to allow Gromyko to drive in Helsinki instead of his own brother Ted. And can we forget President Richard Nixon in 1971 graciously allowing his vice president Spiro Agnew to be the horse's head while he took the other half at Tricia's birthday party?

We've compromised internationally. We made our peace with Canada and drew a line at the forty ninth parallel except for a section that was to become northern Maine we demanded in 1854 when the prospect of mosquito farming still had economic promise. The United States has attempted to return this plot of land several times only to be rebuked by Ottawa with the claim that "Quebec is already a big enough pain in the ass, thanks."

Somehow lately, we've forgotten how to compromise. We either live in red or blue states, drink Coke or Pepsi, are cat or dog people and only turn left or right. This leaves a nation spinning in circles. No kidding. A ride to the grocery store now goes through Iowa and that's starting in New Jersey. After pantsing the Democrats, the Republicans have received their own drubbing. This is their own fault. Just look at the old campaign slogans "Republicans '04. Set it and forget it." I worry about the future too. "Democrats '06: Now its OUR turn to fall all over ourselves"

Can we ever return to our former glory? If we were drafting the Constitution today, could we inject it with the brilliance of proportional representation or would it fall victim to a ten year environmental impact study wherein the snail darter's habitat would be affected by the promotion of general welfare?

Try this. Charity begins at home. When your son asks for a half hour of television before doing his homework; compromise. Let him, so long as there's a fresh cord of firewood cut by sunup. If a man asks you for your coat, give him your cloak as well. Just be sure to get his pants in return. Otherwise he'll surely abscond with both. In little ways, here and there, we can all do little things that add up to absolutely nothing.

On the other hand, it could be worse. We could be Europe.

Bunny on, alors.

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