Mark Twain once wrote, "It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress." This proves, as if it needed proving, that contempt of Congress is not a new phenomenon. With its recent insistence, against the advice of all nutritional experts and everyone else worried about the childhood obesity epidemic in America, that tomato sauce on pizza was a vegetable, we find ourselves once more bowing in awe at what passes for intelligent legislation in D.C. and continue to wonder what the heck is in the water there.
So when I read in the paper about some miracle compromise Congress is going to somehow agree on concerning a payroll tax, I can be forgiven for rolling my eyes and thinking, "Yeah, right." Because, quite honestly, the idea that Congress can agree on anything, compromise on anything, or get anything done that doesn't ultimately benefit their overlords -- that non-human class of people recently created by the U.S. Supreme Court -- just makes me laugh.
I'm guessing Congress would like to be treated with a tad more respect. I'm guessing most senators and representatives prefer that the American people not snort and hold their noses every time the august body in which they serve is mentioned. And I'm guessing that in my heart of hearts I'm still waiting for that miracle ice cream that will turn into a weight loss drug in my body. None of those things are apt to happen in my lifetime ... though ice cream as a weight loss drug is much more likely to become a reality than Congress achieving respectability in the near future.
How did the U.S. Congress reach a point where the floor will actually have to open up and reveal a sub-basement before their reputation can fall any lower? Certainly we've had Congresses filled with much more openly scurrilous and rapacious creatures. Certainly we've had times when actual fights have broken out in those honorable chambers. Certainly we have seen juvenile behavior we would not tolerate in our 3-year-olds occurring there on a regular basis as representatives and senators stamp their feet, yell at their opponents and threaten people with the private parts of marine mammals.
Our forefathers must be rolling over in their graves as they wonder how, after 235 years of practice, the American people could still be so bad at picking people to send to Washington.
I no longer even pretend to believe that the Congress in Washington represents me or my country. They represent the people who paid for them to win and you and I simply don't have enough money to reach that category. Most people I speak to about this just make some derisive sound and allow as how members of Congress are "all a bunch of idiots." The expectations for what they produce could not be lower. They managed to agree on a national anthem, national flag design and national symbol; all other attempts to agree have floundered in the miasma of self and corporate interests that permeate those hallowed halls.
So what's a good American supposed to do about this sad and sorry state of affairs? Well, it would seem, not much. Poll after poll shows that most Americans revile Congress but not their particular congressional delegation. This is why incumbents get voted into office time and time again. It is always the other person's senator or representative who's the doofus, not the one from your state.
So it would seem that we can look forward to many more years of humor mixed with tears, laughter mixed with frustration, derision mixed with begrudged affection for the group of men and women who supposedly lead our country. They give us laws they've never read, legislation paid for by companies that fly foreign flags, and a million belly laughs a year with their antics. Whether they are screaming at a scientist that his science does not trump congressional intelligence or explaining that they were just worried about the welfare of young male pages when they sent those emails, the U.S. has more than just a native criminal class in Congress; we also have our laugh-a-day calendar that should keep us giggling right through the destruction of this once great nation.
Smile, you're watching C-Span.
Elise Patkotak is an Alaska writer and author of "Parallel Logic," a memoir of her 28 years in Barrow. Website, www.elisepatkotak.com.