Thursday, May 30, 2013

A big fish, good karma and the news -- May 30, 2013 column


On a Saturday afternoon in May, a fisherman in Nags Head, N.C., reeled in a 34 ½ inch, 19 pound cobia. Travis Kemp attributed his catch to “good karma” because he had helped free an entangled brown pelican minutes earlier.

The Outer Banks Sentinel ran a photo of Kemp holding the big fish with the headline, “Cobia karma.” That’s news people like to read.
I saw the newspaper while on vacation and had an idea. If a simple good deed can bring such quick and positive results, let’s convene Congress on a fishing pier on the Outer Banks. The president can provide rods, lures and bait. Surely our elected leaders would accomplish more fishing there than they do posturing in Washington.

Getting away can bring a new perspective. While they’re visiting North Carolina’s beautiful beaches, members of Congress and the president could slow down and watch brown pelicans cruise the shoreline for fish. These impressive birds with 4-foot wing spans and long bills fly single file or in V-formation close to the ocean, occasionally diving straight into the water for their supper. They know what to do and they do it. (Hint, hint.)

The denizens of Washington could even learn from the lowly sand crab, called ghost crabs because of their translucent shells. These finger-sized creatures scurry about their work. They have rotating eyes with 360-degree vision – an enviable trait – and zip around at 10 mph. They dig tunnels 4 feet into the sand. The sensible sand crab stays in its burrow when it’s hot outside and emerges when it’s cool to dine on dead fish, plant matter and whatever else is handy.

To take the time to watch the brown pelican and the ghost crab is to see nature in harmony. The pelican is graceful and ruthlessly efficient; sand crabs are jerky and industrious. Dogs may bark at the pelicans and people of all ages chase sand crabs, but it’s good karma to let the beasties stay on task. They perform the admirable task of keeping the beach clean.

No one, it seems, is keeping Washington clean. The nation’s capital wears bad karma like cheap perfume. We face many problems, but our elected leaders seem content to jockey for political gain.  

Americans, understandably, are fed up with business as usual in Washington. The reputation of the IRS is in tatters after it targeted conservative groups seeking tax exempt status, but nothing has been done – except talk. Allowing Steven Miller, the acting head of the IRS, to retire early and paying Lois Lerner, the head of the division that handles tax exempt requests, to stay home are soft penalties, if they’re penalties at all.   

Lerner was put on paid administrative leave after she pled the Fifth Amendment and refused to testify before a House committee. She has a right to avoid self-incrimination. She also has refused to resign. It’s unclear whether she can even be fired under Civil Service employee rules.

Taxpayers who are paying her salary and politicians in both parties are outraged, but no one can act. It’s maddening.

Fortunately, it’s nearly summer, and Washington’s summer “scandals” are predictable. Next may be the Obamas’ vacation plans. First lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia are eyeing an extended vacation at Martha’s Vineyard, the Boston Globe reported. They also plan to accompany the president on a trip to Ireland for a summit June 17 and 18. The Obamas are unwilling to give up their frequent vacations, despite criticism from the right.

For the record, about 40 percent of American workers don’t get any paid vacation time, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Other surveys indicate that among those who do get paid vacation time, more than half fail to take all the days they’re entitled to.

Americans need a diversion from the troubles in the capital, and perhaps politicians could also benefit from a diversion. The president could make arcade games part of his summer routine.  Everybody loves teddy bears.

During Obama's joint appearance with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on the Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk, rebuilt with a $2.1 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Christie won the prize on his first football toss and gave it to Obama. Good karma.

With practice, Obama could improve his football aim before a rematch. That too would be good karma.

© 2013 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved. 

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