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Rusty Saber

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by Joe McAdoo

Webster's Dictionary defines contradiction as "Differences marked by contrasting opposite qualities." This could also define America today. We are a bundle of contradictions contrasting opposite qualities.

For instance, people play golf in order to get some exercise. They ride the course in a golf cart. A contradiction?

Some people have rigorous exercise programs where they run or walk several miles a week. The same people won't shop at a store if they have to walk more than a few feet from their cars to get to it.

Some work out daily on a Stairmaster, yet will wait for an elevator rather than walk up one flight of stairs.

Americans own fine homes, loaded with modern conveniences, including temperature-control systems to guarantee a year-round comfortable environment. We have kitchens equipped with enough modern appliances to make Julia Child drool with envy.

What do we do? We can't wait to leave our homes to camp out in the boondocks, sleep in a tent and cook over a campfire; or we go on picnics. If all else fails, we cook our food on a backyard charcoal grill.

Contradictions show up everywhere. We demand that our lawmakers cut taxes, something that doesn't come naturally to them. Lawmakers were born to raise taxes, not cut them. But in those rare moments when they go against their nature and attempt to cut taxes, we complain about programs and services that are cut in order to do it.

Sometimes we do more than complain; we foam at the mouth. We turn blue and swallow our tongues in anger. Lawmakers get the message and don't cut the programs and services. We complain about high taxes.

Americans demand cuts in national defense, including closing outdated military bases. When costs are cut, people complain that the country can't properly defend itself, and if a military base near their homes is to be closed, people rage about the economic hardships it will cause. Close useless bases, but not the useless ones in our back yards.

Lest I give the impression that lawmakers are at the mercy of a fickle public, they, too, contradict themselves. Case in point: The president and Congress have declared all-out war on smoking. The folks in Washington are all hopping around like horned toads in a hail storm trying to eradicate smoking.

What do they do? They raise taxes on cigarettes in order to fund new programs that will be successful only if a lot of people continue to smoke. Now, if that makes sense to you, you probably should go to Washington and explain it to the politicians, because I don't believe they have a clue.

Poll after poll indicates an overwhelming majority of Americans abhor negative political advertising. Voters hate it, that's for sure; but candidates using negative attack ads continue to be elected.

We demand the police crack down on drivers who speed and violate traffic signals. The police respond: They begin ticketing violators in record numbers. The public complains that the cops should be fighting crime rather than picking on "law-abiding" citizens.

But when the police begin fighting crime on a grand scale, arresting more crooks than ever before, they hear complaints that the courts and jails are already overcrowded; the police should cool it for awhile.

Drunken drivers are a curse, the police must do whatever is necessary to get them off the road. The police set up checkpoints to try to get drunks off the roads.

The strategy works, but the police are accused of violating the constitutional rights of drivers. It's hard to please a public that insists on contradicting itself.

Sports fans aren't immune to contradictions. Sports fans like me moan about increasing wages paid to professional athletes. We say the millions paid to pampered athletes is ruining sports; team owners who pay inflated salaries should be taken out and thrashed to within an inch of their lives.

But when it comes to our teams, we demand the owners sign superstar players that will enable them to win hang the expense. I, for instance, want the Kansas City Chiefs to win the Super Bowl; I don't care how much it costs.

A bundle of contradictions, indeed.

(Joe McAdoo is former chairman of the communication department at Drury College and a Springfield public relations consultant.)

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