By Marla Boone
Through every fault of my own, I live in the Ohio Eighth Congressional District. After having my columns published in this newspaper since January of 1997 (!), it should come as no surprise to anyone about where my political tendencies lie.
Although I am almost always the most fiscally conservative person in the room, I agree with a little more liberal social agenda. I’m against school vouchers. I’m for medicine being private between a person and their doctor with no governmental interference. I’m against debt. I’m for Head Start. I’m against demagogues. I’m for a lot of things but mostly what I’m for is the protection of democracy. It was a hard-fought, narrowly-won thing and it’s worth saving. The average life span of a democracy is 250 years. We’re looking at 246 this coming summer, if we make it that long. We’re nearly on borrowed time. In this geographic area, people who think as I do are in the vast minority. That’s the way it goes. I used to take comfort in a basic tenet of democracy: “Majority rules, minority rights.” The key phrase in that sentence is “used to be.” Then I got a big ole’ dose of reality in 2022.
We have apparently reached an age of malignant intolerance. We seem to have lost the ability to have a decent, calm, thoughtful conversation with each other. Instead, there is a disturbing trend of sinking to the ugliest behavior, the basest lies, the most delusional beliefs, an eerie capacity to fabricate what we would like to hold as facts, and an utter lack of regard for anyone who thinks differently.
As is the norm, politicians send mail periodically to keep the voters abreast of what the man or woman in Washington is accomplishing. The tax payers (that’s you and me) foot the bill for this self-congratulatory behavior, but it’s an office-holder’s right, and every office-holder takes advantage of this particular freebie. Many people don’t, but I actually read these missives just to make sure I understand what my representatives (small and capital r) in Congress are thinking and doing. This seems helpful to me at election time … knowing if I want this person to continue standing in for me at the seat of government. I’m almost always aghast at what I read because I have the uncomfortable feeling that most politicians are not, shall we say, at-bat for us so much as they are swinging away for themselves. There is also the issue of what Stephen Colbert calls “truthiness.”
In any event, I read the mailing and was suitably appalled. This time, I was more appalled than usual because I was moved to call the office of the Congressman in question. At no time did I expect to speak to the Congressman himself. I’ve called Congressional offices before, expressed my opinion, and have been assured by the person answering the call that my views would be passed along to my designated law maker. This phone call was answered promptly and pleasantly by a young man who was obviously enjoying flexing his newly-minted degree in poli-sci. I introduced myself as a constituent and referenced the mailing. The young man’s tone changed immediately. “Yes … what about that?” he wanted to know, still prompt but no longer nearly as pleasant. I explained to him that I strongly disagreed with the current actions of his boss. That’s the word I used … strongly. I outlined my reasoning, my thoughts, and my suggestions and waited for his reply. Continuing to be prompt, but now not remotely pleasant, he informed me that, and I quote, “We don’t care what you think.” I was rendered speechless. Hard to believe but true. Me, speechless. When I found my voice I managed the argument that I was still this Congressman’s constituent and a real-life, legal, registered, in-person, photo-ID equipped voter. Thinking perhaps he had missed this class in Democracy 101, I expounded further that I had a right, nay a duty, to let my representative know how I wished to be, you know, represented. Very, very promptly and very, very nastily, he repeated that, “We don’t care what you think.”
Putting divisive politics aside for just a minute, I invite every reader to examine objectively and deeply what that one sentence means. It means at least one member of Congress is unwilling to listen to calm discourse. It means at least one member of Congress is so firm and unyielding in his beliefs that he will not entertain the thought of hearing an opposing opinion. It means at least one member of Congress is going to hire rude, arrogant staff members to deal with us, the pesky public. It means nothing good and everything dire. It means the forces that be are calling in the debt on our borrowed time.