Ignorant of life on the ground


This is how last week's deficit-reduction package came about: Republicans wanted a plan that would reward the rich, ignore the poor, and soak the middle and working classes. Democrats wanted a plan that would care for the poor, protect the rich and soak the middle and working classes.

And so, lo and behold, leaders from the two parties found they could compromise: Let's soak the middle and working class!

It is obvious that our leaders in Washington have no idea of what life is like down here on the ground.

Imagine Congress and the president thinking we would stomach a cut in Medicare just one year after they raised their own salaries. Imagine piling on new gasoline taxes while prices at the pump continue to leap.

But, the best evidence of Washington's estrangement from the rest of us occurred last weekend after voters rose up in anger and forced Congress to defeat the plan.

Angry at the collapse of their grand compromise, our nation's leaders spent the past few days accusing each other of cowardice and of selling out: Cowardice, mind you, because vTC elected representatives listened to their constituents. Treason, understand, because they did what the voters wanted them to do.

I wonder, who do these yo-yos think they serve if not their constituents?

And another thing: President Bush, as you know, shut down the government last weekend, closing federal monuments and sending "non-essential" personnel home. Then he took off on a short holiday.

The president is a tough guy. If we can't pay the bills, he said sternly, sacrifices have to be made.

So, I wonder, who cooked the meals, dusted the furniture and did the laundry at the presidential retreat last weekend? Essential personnel, no doubt.

Moving on: The chief justice of the United States belonged to a whites-only country club and owned a home protected by a restrictive covenant forbidding its sale to blacks or Jews.

The vice president of the United States had ties to the John Birch Society and was a steadfast opponent of civil rights provisions in Congress. His boss, our kind and gentle president, ran a racially divisive campaign and won.

So, who are we to sneer at the people of Louisiana who very nearly elected David Duke, a white supremacist and former member of the Ku Klux Klan, to the U.S. Senate? And don't even try to say you're shocked.

Meanwhile: Women often tell me things would be so much easier if men could only learn to be honest about their feelings.

The case of Boston Herald sports reporter Lisa Olson, who was sexually harassed while interviewing football players in the New England Patriots' locker room, is a good example of what women mean.

Why can't these jocks just admit that they feel uncomfortable getting dressed around women who are neither their wives, girlfriends or mothers?

Female athletes are more open about their feelings and, as a result, there is little controversy surrounding women's locker rooms because all reporters are banned.

But men have to play silly and ignorant and machismo games. They harass women reporters when what they really want to say is "Gee, I don't feel right, having you here." Playing the stud role, they accuse women of just wanting to stare. (Honest till it hurts, women reporters reply that hanging around locker rooms is no big deal.)

Our society trains us all, men and women, to treat nudity as a private thing. We are all victims of our upbringing. There's nothing shameful about being shy.

I say, ban all reporters from all locker rooms.

And another thing, just how important are locker room quotes, anyway?

When was the last time a professional athlete had anything insightful, or even truthful, to say about his sport? Read the sports pages today and you'll see what I mean -- could we really be in an uproar in defense of such pablum?

Maybe sports fans would be better served if reporters went outside the game for insight and honesty, the way we cover other subjects.

Maybe we could build a whole network of authoritative sources -- experts from sports think tanks, university professors, and fan representatives -- who will kibitz the play in postgame interviews.

After each game, we could hear from the conservative strategy camp balanced by comments from the liberal strategy camp. We could call the governor for his views.

In no time at all, I bet, you would see athletes begging to tell their side of the story.

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