Slowly I turned, step by step, inch by inch." Students of humor will associate this line with some of the founding clowns of American comedy, such as Lou Costello and the Three Stooges.
These famous words were spoken in a skit about a cheated husband who was moved to fury by the mention of Niagara Falls. Yes, it's funny what sets some people off.
But today, slowly I turn, step by step, inch by inch, to embrace a topic that I have studiously avoided for the past two months. Sadly, I cannot avoid it any longer. The subject of my column is life and part of life is ... that thing which drives everybody crazy.
No, not cell phones.
I speak timidly here of politics. It appears my name associated with politics has a Niagara Falls effect on some clowns. This is hardly fair to me, as I am less gushing than Niagara Falls.
Unfortunately, there's no avoiding politics any longer now that Chief Justice John Roberts, who once promised to be the umpire calling the balls and strikes, has made a makeup call in favor of the White House home team. Previously, his crew had made calls that stunk the joint out.
Of course, it wouldn't do to have a crew of ideological despots appointed for life thought of as biased by those of us in the cheap seats, so in my opinion he did what he had to do, making the fans who expected to be glad sad, and those who expected to be sad glad, thus confusing everybody.
(His was a strange opinion. Apparently if a penalty in the health care law walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a tax duck -- and never mind that Farmer Obama denied having such a duck.)
As the chief justice made abundantly clear, it is now left to everybody else in America to have the last word on how this works out.
And that is good. We can now actually have a debate in this country about something real and substantive -- health care, and what a tyranny it would be to have no more pre-existing conditions for insurance purposes, nor have premiums currently swelled by $1,000 on average per family (a figure cited in the Supreme Court opinion) so that all the moochers who don't pay insurance can be covered by the rest of us.
Or else we can debate some topic concerning gay people like we usually do.
Before I re-enter the political fever swap just in time for the character assassination season to come to full algae bloom, I want to make clear what clowns I take issue with: bad clowns -- not my conservative friends, some of whom may be readers who have never met me.
One of my principles is that it is wrong to judge individuals solely by their politics (jerks excepted).
Research suggests that we are liberals or conservatives not because we have thought our way to our positions -- as we think we did -- but because certain genes lead us to certain attitudes.
Consider my conservative pal, Jeff, as a living illustration of the theory. His genes make him one of the nicest people one could ever meet. He is one of nature's gentlemen. It cheers me up just to see him -- until such time as he gets onto the subject of President Barack Obama. On politics, his opinions are woefully bad, but he repays the compliment when he talks about my liberal views, which he views as crazy. Not surprisingly, we get on famously.
Then there's Craig, another highly intelligent and good-hearted conservative friend. He is a little fact-resistant, to be sure, but this does not spoil my high opinion of him. As for Bill, who presides over the men's (mostly conservative) drinking club I attend, he is such a paragon of wit and wisdom that he deserves a paragraph of his own, if only I had space.
Life would be complete if only these friends and others too numerous to name agreed with me, but they don't, and life is still good for knowing them.
So my Independence Day thought is this: The Constitution does not mention liberals and conservatives, only the American people. So when I take up my liberal broadsword in coming months to fight opposing ideas, understand that I have nothing against anyone with a sense of humor and a good heart, no matter how absurd their positions (as always, jerks excepted).
Slowly I turned. Now let us fling cream pies at each other, a la The Three Stooges. It is the American way, after all.
Reg Henry: email@example.com or 412-263-1668.