I read somewhere that "everything's a matter
for debate except politics, religion and toothache." Was it
instructions for behavior at a social event? Almost sounds as if
it's meant to be funny.
Anyhow, I've ignored the rule, and have spent
my life discussing all three, including engaging in arguments
about whether fluoridation prevents tooth decay or is a
However, I recalled the phrase on Monday when
a mild toothache removed me temporarily from contentious
political debate. There I was, reclining comfortably in a sunny
corner of Dr. Monaldo's office off Highland Avenue in Salem, and
he was asking me: "Do you want some laughing gas?"
Yes, I'll take laughing gas, Novocaine,
whatever ya got. And soon I was drifting happily in my own
little world while this compassionate dentist removed an
infected cyst or something from under a bottom tooth.
My collection of wonderful doctors, dental
professionals and a chiropractor is one reason I stay in
Massachusetts despite the recent follies of the electorate.
For one lovely hour I was completely removed
not only from toothache, but from television and talk radio,
where the tragic shooting of a congresswoman and other innocent
bystanders in Arizona had been transformed into an incredibly
absurd discussion about angry political discourse.
Liberal commentators and politicians were
gleefully jumping on what they saw as an excuse to attack their
opponents for free speech, free assembly, gun ownership, and
resistance to the national debt. "My side" was, understandably,
fighting back against what George Will later called "the
McCarthyism of the left — devoid of intellectual content,
unsupported by data ... a tactic for avoiding engagement with
For the rest of the day I mostly tuned in
just to the news, enough to learn more about those who were
murdered by a lunatic and get an update on the wounded. Also
read my local paper, where I found Congressman John Tierney
blaming "talk radio, shock radio and television talk shows that
spew 'venom' into the political debate."
Admittedly I then looked at the online
comments, knowing I'd find intelligent responses to the
congressman's venom, which was apparently left over from his
recent vicious campaign assaults on his Republican opponent.
Unfortunately the McCarthyites of the left
were commenting too, so I withdrew from the debate, taking my
Vicodin, antibiotics, ice pack, mashed potatoes, and a
novel and 104.9 FM background music with me into the void.
It was a wonderful, peaceful afternoon.
Then made the mistake of turning on NECN at 8
for Jim Braude's comments, which followed the ongoing pattern —
"devoid of intellectual content and unsupported by data." Turned
off TV until it was time for "Hawaii 5-0." Checked news at 11
for update on injured Arizona congresswoman's condition and
weather report. Wished someone would also update us on the other
When I awoke the next morning, I didn't
immediately turn on WRKO, as I have every weekday morning since
Todd Feinberg returned. Wondered what it would be like to stay
removed from political discussion, like so many people, until
the next election. I could tune in around the middle of October
2012, to see who's running for president, Congress, and state
representatives, not that it would matter; easier to vote just
one party or the other, without thinking about it. Have to vote
though, even if I haven't paid attention; it's my civic duty.
While I recover, I'm not leaving home,
therefore not running into people who want to talk politics.
Darn phone keeps ringing though: A reporter needs comment on
property taxes in central Massachusetts; someone wants me to
speak at a political forum in February. Can't! I don't know
anything! Not paying attention anymore!
Uh-oh, I think the Vicodin is wearing off.
Have to switch to Advil so I can stay awake. Awake. Oh, no, not
They're all there waiting for my conscious
attention: The fools that I can't suffer gladly, who scarf up
the venom spewed by the politicians and socialists who are
losing the intellectual-content debates; the hypocrites who
attack Sarah Palin's "target
the Democrats" election chart without mentioning previous
Democratic "target states" election charts, or the movie
about the assassination of then-President George W. Bush; the
voters who don't pay attention, don't think for themselves, just
regurgitate the talking points they are fed by professional
manipulators; the naïve enablers of
the power-hungry elite.
However, they're not free to do whatever
damage they want to my country without a response.
There's Fox News, showing both Palin and the
Democratic Leadership Council's target charts side by side; it
reports, you decide. There's talk radio: Todd, I'm sorry I
missed the Tuesday show! Tuning in tomorrow, to you, Laura,
Charley, and Howie on 'RKO, and listening to Michael Graham at
WTKK as well, while reading his new book about the tea party, "That's
No Angry Mob, That's My Mom."
To all the other Americans who pay attention,
who respond to news stories and columns with intelligent comment
and data, who worked for decent candidates: Despite my brief
flirtation with escape, I'd rather stay in the political arena
with patriotic people like you.