ABOUT FACE

Posted in Rants on May 26th, 2015 by Ed

Some things are funny because they are predictable, but it's a tricky kind of humor. When Leslie Nielsen turns to the bartender and asks for a Black Russian, you know with such certainty what's about to happen that there is no room left for humor when the visual punchline arrives. Foreshadowed is funny, telegraphed is not. Predictability is a source of humor more often when there is no overt attempt to be funny. When Charlie Brown lines up for the hundredth time to kick the football he's not trying to crack you up. It's funny because he doesn't know what's going to happen but you do.

When we saw the first reports of severe flooding coming out of Texas, I suppressed a soft chuckle. Not because I think death and destruction inflicted upon my fellow man is funny – no, the impending humor was the certainty that we'd be seeing Greg Abbott requesting Federal disaster relief aid by the end of the week. It may not take long, though, since he has already met with He Whose Name Cannot Be Spoken in Texas.

Stop me if I've mentioned this before, but when I teach Intro American Government (a breadth course that forces you to cover a new topic every other class, with no time to address anything in real depth) I am a realist who accepts that the students are unlikely to remember more than a fraction of the details. So I try to make sure that there's one or two big points from each topic that they remember. With the obligatory chapter on federalism, the One Point is that states balk at Washington's involvement in their affairs only until they're begging for it. With the dire budgetary situation found in most states today, there is no Rainy Day money lying around for hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, measles outbreaks, or anything else that can't be forecast with certainty. All the tough-sounding talk about getting Washington off Our backs goes right out the window when things, as the kids say, get real. It is politically appealing for state-level politicians to bash the federal government; some of them may even believe it. They learn very quickly, however, that ideology goes out the window when the state is faced with billion dollars in repair and cleanup costs. No one's a states' rights advocate when a city is under water and the Coast Guard and FEMA are the only ones equipped to handle it.

The men who wrote the Constitution were more suspicious (earnestly so) of power in the hands of a national government than any of the corn-pone orators elevated into high offices today. Yet they understood the necessity of having such a government. Even if they don't realize it, people like Greg Abbott recognize it too. It takes very little reflection and imagination to come up with a dozen scenarios that would have even Sam Brownback reaching for the phone to beg for Washington's help faster than he could say "I've never met Josh Duggar."