Vail Daily column: Historical rhetoric
I had the opportunity to get a few minds in the same room the other day. I needed to borrow a time machine to make it happen, but everyone agreed and ultimately, Mark Twain was the only one that was a bit on the cranky side at the end of the evening (but I’ll put that blame on the scotch).
We all gathered for a discussion about democratic governments and how to avoid the potential problems government is always so adept at creating. There were lots of smiles and chatter as all dignitaries reacquainted or got to know each other for the first time.
Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), started things off with a light hearted comment, “Do you know what the scariest 10 words in the English language are? There was quiet in the room and then answered his question, “Hi, I’m with the government and I’m here to help.” No one laughed. He then tired to grab their attention with “Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession but I have come to realize it bears very close resemblance to the first.”
Winston Churchill (1874-1965) chuckled and came forward. He had definitely consumed a few adult beverages and he began to speak. “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing after they have tried everything else.” But seriously folks, and he continued, “I contend that for a nation to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.”
Nancy Astor (1879-1964), who did not always agree with Winston, yelled from the back of the room, “Winston, if I were your wife I would put poison in your coffee.”
He put a drag upon his ever present cigar and said “Nancy, if I were your husband …I would drink it.” And, oh by the way, “I may be drunk Miss, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly.” He yielded the floor to the more serious.
Aesop (620BC-564BC), a bearded man in a white robe was standing with Pericles (495BC-429BC) another bearded man in white robe and this could be heard; “We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.”
Pericles raised a finger as if to caution Aesop. “Just because you do not take an interest in politics, does not mean politics will not take an interest in you.” (Was he referencing the IRS or the EPA of the future?)
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) could not hold back and said “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.”
John Adams (1735-1826) not a fan of attorney’s, quipped back, “In my many years, I have come to conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm and three or more is a government.”
Mark Twain (1835-1910) was sitting with Will Rogers (1875-1935) and these two knew how to have a good time. They were having a simplistic discussion amongst themselves but everyone else was listening.
Twain looked over the former politicians, theologians and philosophers in the room, leaned to Rogers and said “Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of government. But then I repeat myself.”
Rogers burst into tears laughing, attempting to control his bladder; he said “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts” and he knee slapped.
Seriously though, Will, “No man’s life, liberty or property is safe while legislature is in session.” And oh by the way, “Talk is cheap … except when government does it.”
PJ O’Rourke (1947- ) couldn’t resist a little rant. “If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it cost’s when it’s free.”
Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013) spoke in her manly fashion with a finger in the air. “The trouble with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”
“Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else” is what Frederick Bastiat (1801-1850) exclaimed.
Edward Langley (1870-1949) stood up and had to be held steady as he screamed “What this country needs is more unemployed politicians!” Now things were getting a little rabid.
Ronnie jumped back in and on a lighter note, “The government is like a baby’s alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.” Cheers and good night.
The gang from the past milled around for awhile and eventually left the room a little confounded and wondered why history had not proven itself?
An odd man was sweeping up the mess left behind and directed a rebuttal toward their confusion. “What luck for the rulers that men do not think” (Hitler).
Greg Ziccardi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.