Washroom Musings From the Depths of the Beltway

Like all great men of science, I do my best thinking on the toilet. I’m more focused. I’m more alert. I’m usually not wearing pants. For me, a bowel movement is a time for deep reflection, an opportunity to ponder the unremitting mysteries of the universe — like why nations go to war, how societies develop or why my roommate always puts the damn toilet paper on the roll backwards. Seriously, Peter. Come on, man.

So when the Conservative Political Action Conference came to a close last week — a moment carried by the impassioned chalkboard stylings of self-proclaimed rodeo clown Glenn Beck — I immediately hit the John. I had just witnessed three days of extremist anger, the inklings of anti-establishment upheaval and a staggering array of pinstriped suiting. I had seen House Minority Leader John Boehner predict a fast-approaching political rebellion. I had watched soft-spoken Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty swing an imaginary golf club as he “smashed the windows” of big government. I had listened as Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) proclaimed that the American people were ready to go to battle against the Democratic Party.

Battle? Rebellion? Smash? Window? What was going on here? Why were elected officials alluding to violent political uprising? Since when did frothing at the mouth become an acceptable mode of political communication? And why were people buying big posters of Anne Coulter in a suggestive pose? Is Anne Coulter hot now? When the hell did Anne Coulter become hot?

I was going to be in the bathroom for a while.

It’s apparent that a lot of people in this country are exceptionally pissed off with our government at the moment, and with good reason. Apart from this week’s miraculous passage of the “jobs, jobs, jobs” bill, Congress has pretty much grinded to a stubborn partisan standstill. Combine that with our flailing economy, a sustained national fear of terrorism and an executive proposing nearly a trillion dollars in new spending over the next 10 years, and you’re bound to get a few folks riled up. Some of them might even dress up in three-cornered hats and shoes with buckles — a look I have always wished I could pull off.

But what these worried masses seem to forget is that our country is not a dictatorship or a military state and that our president is not a totalitarian communist neo-liberal monarch, as certain talk show hosts/political rabble rousers would have us believe. We’re living in a democracy, here, and a pretty good one at that. There’s no need to load up your guns. There’s no need to incite a rebellion. Voting and peaceful demonstrations work just as well. The violent rhetoric that so many conservative icons are tossing around at the moment is dangerous. It’s the kind of language that drives people to do crazy, desperate things in the name of some elusive condition called “freedom.”

We have freedom. What we don’t have is toilet paper. Damnit, Peter.

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