Forty-one things that make Americans crazy with fury: a sort of quiz

white-houseLike many of my brothers and sisters on Facebook I have been following the clusterf**k in Washington with sick fascination for the last month. Everybody is mad, everybody’s appalled, everybody wishes that one way or another it would all go away.

Not all of what people are upset about appears to me to be important. Maybe we’re not agreed about what is important. So here’s a quiz for you. Rate each of these maddening items from zero to five in order of cosmic importance, rather than how mad it makes you, look at them real hard, and go over them again after thinking about it. I would have set this up as a quiz with check boxes and everything but this is beyond my technical expertise at this time.

  1. President Trump’s physical appearance
  2. Mobilizing the National Guard to round up residents of the United States and deport them
  3. False news stories
  4. True news stories
  5. President Trump’s sexual practices
  6. People’s skin color
  7. Women’s issues: birth control, abortion, healthcare in pregnancy, pay inequality
  8. Men’s issues: rape culture, keeping the women in their place
  9. Raising the minimum wage (or not)
  10. Bruising (or stroking) President Trump’s ego
  11. Inability to buy a particular brand of Chinese-made clothing at Nordstrom
  12. Climate change
  13. President Trump’s handshake
  14. The removal of data from government websites: scientific data, advice for parents of special-needs children, and other items that scientists and citizens have found useful
  15. Pursuing (or avoiding) nuclear war with China
  16. Russian agents in the White House
  17. Embracing Russia as an ally and/or superior on the world stage
  18. Welcoming (or spurning) refugees from the wars in the Middle East
  19. Staying (or getting) out of war generally
  20. Upholding the Constitution of the United States of America and the principle of separation of powers
  21. Maintaining the separation of church and state
  22. Making a place for Christ in all the public schools
  23. Making a place for science in all the public schools
  24. Making a place for public schools
  25. Building adequate pipelines for gas and oil
  26. Protecting the purity of our water
  27. Protecting the purity of our air
  28. Respecting our Indigenous brothers and sisters
  29. Maintaining a healthy revenue stream to the fossil fuel industry
  30. Repairing crumbling roads, dams, and other infrastructure throughout the country
  31. Adequately funding federal government services
  32. Reining in the federal deficit
  33. Insuring adequate, affordable healthcare for all Americans
  34. Ensuring that the NSA is under the control of men with correct political attitudes
  35. Keeping (or selling off) our public lands and parks
  36. Protecting endangered animals
  37. Exterminating dangerous animals, such as wolf pups on public lands
  38. Mass extinction
  39. Protecting free speech
  40. Maintaining public order
  41. Ensuring the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity

Going Back to Washington, Fifty Years Later


I used to live there, or near there, in the years before the Metro was built. In my mind it was my town, although I had no feel for politics, or indeed any sense at all, being young. But one could get on a bus in those days and roam all over the city, taking in the passing scenery, observing the people on the street. The view was exciting. You can’t see anything worth looking at out of the window of a subway train.

keybridge1The family home at that time was in Arlington, a house my parents rented from some army colonel who had been posted to Panama for a year. (Every year we rented a different colonel’s house.) I would get on the bus and ride to work in the city, passing the most amazing and seductive things. A used car lot full of strange European cars: a pale gray Opel, a huge black Mercedes sedan whose thick passenger-side windows were pocked with bullet holes, a tiny blue-green Morris Minor that I coveted. If I ever got hold of some money and learned to drive, that Morris would be mine. Or the Mercedes. You had to admit it had cachet.

Just over the Key Bridge was a grain factory belonging to the Washington Milling Company. They had posted a sign just outside the factory: “The objectionable odors you may notice in this area do not originate in our plant.” Where, then, did the smell come from? I never knew. In fact I don’t remember it smelling all that bad, but I can’t forget the sign.

One morning I saw, standing on a corner, a tall man in a floor-length black cape, a broad-brimmed black hat, and a long red scarf. I was thrilled and intrigued. You must remember that this was the early sixties. People didn’t dress funny. Come to find out he was only the doorman at a night club, not the actual Shadow. What the nightclub was doing open at eight-thirty in the morning is another of the secret mysteries of D.C.

My job in those days was as a library clerk at the Washington Post. Politics were talked in the library by people much more knowledgeable than me. A friend made me read the Post’s  copy of the Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens, in the hope that it would raise my consciousness. It sort of did. After a year at the Post I was fired for conspicuous lethargy.

Time went on and I married a newspaper man, my college sweetheart, to our subsequent chagrin and distress. When we left Washington we were still in love, I think. John Kennedy was president. The highest ambition of a number of people I knew was to be invited to dinner at the White House. I still didn’t understand politics.

The nature of politics is slowly becoming clear to me. The only reason I seem to have anymore for going back to Washington is to scream at the government, which one is better off doing in a large group of like-minded people. If you do it by yourself you attract unwelcome attention.

It’s not the same city. It’s full of cops and bollards now because of terrorism. Everyone rides the Metro. If you want to dine at Trump’s White House, I don’t want to know you.

We will go to D. C. next Saturday and scream at the government, if only to vent our frustration. I will breathe the air of a place where I was once young and silly. Maybe I’ll cry a little.

Meanwhile I’m going back and reading the Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens again.