By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily
THEM AGAIN: There was a time when a phone call from the U.S. Senate would have been a big deal in my family.
That was back in the 1960s when I was growing up in Illinois. It’s hard to imagine today, but back then Illinois was represented in the Senate by two actual Republicans – former Bell and Howell mogul Charles Percy, and smooth-talking Everett Dirksen. Today, Democrats represent Illinois in the Senate.
What we all knew about Percy was the tragic story of the murder of his daughter Valerie at their exclusive north suburban Chicago mansion in 1966. The murder was never solved.
Our other senator, Dirksen, was a giant of the Senate, and was key in gathering Republican support for President Lyndon Johnson’s historic civil rights legislation.
My grandmother, in her 80s at the time, loved Dirksen’s famous voice. It was so smooth and memorable that four records were produced featuring Dirksen reading poems and famous speeches. He won a Grammy for one in 1966. We gave my grandmother one of those albums for Christmas.
I can imagine how excited my grandmother would have been to get a call from the U.S. Senate, and maybe her favorite senator – who we called her “boyfriend.” Little did she know that her youngest grandson would be publisher of the paper in Dirksen’s home town of Pekin, Ill., for 13 years. Dirksen at one time had a private office upstairs in the newspaper building.
That was then. This is now.
These days, with the miracle of caller ID, a call from the U.S. Senate is little more than a nuisance call. We never even bother to pick up.
“It’s those pests from the U.S. Senate again,” we say when they call at about 5:20 p.m., while we’re trying to get dinner on the table. If you make the mistake of picking up, it is some phony baloney “town hall” event to keep support ginned up in Wyoming for our Senate delegation, which is just as Republican as Percy and Dirksen were in Illinois. The calls are no doubt intended to goose donations to the Republican Party
They used to send us fund raising letters, with “survey” questions like this: Are you aware that Nancy Pelosi is the spawn of Beelzebub and is bent on enslaving your cute little grand daughter and ending life as we know it in the United States? Stop her by sending $100 to the Republican Party before dinnertime tonight!
I finally scrawled this on one letter and sent it back: “Stop sending this crap! Republicans need to become actual conservatives before they get a dime out of me. Have you guys ever heard of a balanced budget? You’re as bad as the Democrats! Take me off your mailing list.”
I don’t need a town hall meeting, or a fund-raising letter, to know my senators are Republicans, and conservative basics ought to be obvious without my input or cash. You know, obvious stuff like lower taxes, fewer regulations, strong military, no doing number two on city sidewalks, and that famous chant from Rick Santelli that spawned the Tea Party: STOP SPENDING!
A key problem, however, is that the U.S. Senate is so out of touch and rude that it calls us at dinnertime. If they want my attention, they shouldn’t call when I’m setting the table, chopping salad and popping the Shake n’ Bake pork chops in the oven.
I mean, really. How obvious is this?
OOPS: When the kids were growing up, we always ate dinner at 5:45, always ate together, and if they kids’ little friends called while we were eating, I’d do a not-so-slow burn. I was a real grouch about it.
Then one night, during dinner, the phone rang and I went into my rant. One of the kids picked up the phone.
“Who could be so RUDE as to call while we’re eating dinner?” I demanded.
“Your circulation department down at the newspaper,” my daughter replied. “They want to know if you want to subscribe!”
Hoist on my own petard. Coup-fourre (which Mille Bornes fans like me recall meant “counter thrust.’)
In true Saturday Night Live Emily Litella fashion, I sheepishly replied:
Dave Simpson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org