A fine whine 

A few weeks ago in this column, I wrote what could be described as a piece of political satire about Florida seceding from the United States. Since our votes didn't count in the presidential election, I argued, we should hit the road. And I suggested that under our new republic's administration, those responsible for the installation of George W. should be rounded up and questioned (questions would be movie trivia) and then driven to Texas. What I wrote after that was "in Corvairs." These are the cars Ralph Nader won his consumer-protection fame with, proclaiming them as "unsafe at any speed," thereby saving members of the American public from car wrecks only to deliver them, 20-something years later, into the hands of Prince Dunderhead. Thanks, Ralph.

Anyway, what I wrote was that they should be driven to Texas in Corvairs. What appeared in the paper was that they should be driven to Texas and executed.

Pillow talk

The Corvair line, I thought, was funny. The editor's change, I thought, was less funny than harsh. It could even be perceived as threatening by beady-eyed Secret Service types, which is the last thing I need. Writers, as a rule, are mealy, soft-bodied people. The only threat they generally pose is that of boring you to tears with their nattering opinions after three pints of anything amber. I like GW about as much as Al Gore does, but I'm about as threatening as a goose-down pillow. OK, you can suffocate people with those, but you know what I mean.

The reason I bring this up is because I can't do much about it, what's done is done, and I should just move on for the good of the country. I've been told recently that if you keep crabbing about a done deal, e.g. Dumbya's stint as leader of the free world, that you come across as whining.

Good. I want to be perceived as whining. In fact, if you want to enhance the effect, you can, for all I care, go back to the beginning of this piece and let the voice in your head that reads things do so in a harsh and adenoidal Fran Drescher tone.

I want to be seen as a whiner because whining has gotten an undeservedly bad rap lately. Whining and belaboring the point was what Democrats in Florida were accused of doing when they just wanted the votes counted. If you bitch with resolve and energy about what you consider to be lavishly wrong, how come you're no longer principled, determined or passionate?

By these standards anyone who protests anything can be easily dismissed. Being treated shabbily and unfairly at work? Just take it. Suffragettes who won women the right to vote? Nags. Rosa Parks? What a crybaby.

Maybe whatever situation you're knotted up about doesn't require that amount of heroism, but just because someone tells you it's a lost cause doesn't mean that it is, something the recent Martin Luther King Day should inspire us all to realize. Even mountains erode, you know. All it takes is for the wind and rain to whine at them enough. It's hard for all of us to discern sometimes whether we're being good sports or being doormats.

It's true that continued carping about Bush being president is bad sportsmanship, but one person's bad sport is another person's groundbreaker. As I sit here drinking a Samuel Adams Boston Lager (you don't think anyone who works here is sober, do you?), it dawns that most of those guys who started this whole country were probably considered major crabs by the English, who thought they should just quit whining and accept an heir called George for the sake of unity.

Solemnly swear

Far be it from me to heckle The Serenity Prayer; there are some things you can't change, and on inauguration day the balsa-tongued devil probably will botch the oath of office and surely become our president. That's how it goes this time, and while we have to accept it as fact, it's important to keep crabbing about it, even if it's just to ourselves, so we're more motivated to keep an eye out for the kind of shenanigans that put us here, like a faulty voting process or not voting at all.

"Whining in this case is defending democracy," says Doug Head, chairman of the Democratic Party in Orange County. If you want to take your whining to a public level on inauguration day, call them at (407) 894-4655 to find out about boarding buses for Tallahassee to join in organized protests.

This isn't just about politics, though. It isn't even just about whining. It's about allowing other people's influence to distract you from stepping up to the plate and playing the game. Whatever game you're in, whether it's politics, office politics, or just trying to get through the damn day, there's always someone who wants to tell you the game is over. In reality, whatever your "it" is, it's probably only just started.

Like the next four years have. Maybe we should show some good sportsmanship after all. What say we all send the new president a bottle of hooch to welcome him to office?

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