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Post details: Born Free (ish)

Born Free (ish)

(Limping Duck Press Agency)

Who wouldn't remember the 1966 British classic "Born Free"? A touching story about the naturalist Joy Adamson and her attempts to rehabilitate the orphaned lioness Elsa. Having been raised in captivity, Elsa lost much of the instincts necessary for the survival in wilderness and became increasingly dependent on human support. Only due to extraordinary efforts and tender loving care of both Adamsons was she eventually able to make the thorny passage from nurture to nature and become a feisty beast again.

When you look at our Congress, you can see a certain parallel. Much of its denizens seem to live in an artificial bubble, sequestered from the perils of normal existence and consequently losing the ability to cope with the vagaries of life outside of the Beltway. If you are wondering what might happen to these poor souls should they ever be forced to leave their taxpayer funded glass house and fend for themselves, worry no more. There is now an organization dedicated to the successful return of our politicians into their natural habitat: the Association of Congressional Rehabilitators and Environmentalists (ACRE). But teaching the politicians the crafts and trades of the Main Street will not be a walk through the rose garden. The new institution just finished their first month of operation and - according to their own testimony - "they have their work cut out for them".

The world of perks is dangerously cushy. Few can resist the addictive allure of exclusive airport lounges, special health care packages, dedicated phone lines, "members only" privileges, automatic pay rises and all the goodies that come with a populous entourage of staffers. In other words, when your list of allowances is longer than a sleeping bag for a grown up anaconda, you may lose a bit of your hunting and gathering skills. The transition from the warm and fuzzy oasis where eager lobbyists cuddle you 24/7 (in some instances 25/8) to the perilous savanna of the private sector teeming with mean bosses and virtually unlimited peer competition is a daunting task, but the team of ACRE experts is fully equipped to prevail.

The rehabilitation process starts off with a field trip to a local orchard to dispel the popularly held bipartisan belief that money grows on trees. Padded forklifts are available to hoist the trainees into the trees and allow for personal inspection of the foliage to make sure that no dollar bills or Treasury bonds are indeed hiding up there. After this eye opening experience, a nutritional therapist takes over in an attempt to wean the lawmakers from consuming too much pork and special interest salami. This may sound a bit harsh but there is nothing an early and persistent vegetarian diet can't accomplish (although we do have to admit here that there have been some rumors that a rogue group of inmates barricaded themselves in the pantry, took the broccoli chef hostage and demanded a two week's supply of real food in small unmarked dumplings).

Much of the allure of the high society lifestyle is derived from a constant shower of unconditional attention. Sudden loss of public exposure can have traumatizing consequences for the registrants. ACRE photographers thus provide numerous photo ops to ease the pain associated with the creeping loss of status. Some posturing and grandstanding is allowed in the first weeks of training, especially during the staged interviews in the nearby community kitchen. To minimize the abstention symptoms further, the ACRE initiative offers liquor coupons, mirror discounts, free membership in Backbiters Anonymous, perk deficit specialists available on the premises and the ground floor sick bay well stacked with cynosure patches that can be worn on the arm in case of emergencies.

The bulk of the ACRE program focuses on acquiring skills necessary for proper functioning in the post-congress environment. All attendees will undergo formal training in parallel parking, opening expired food cans, dealing with automated response systems, speaking the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, operating pencil sharpeners, branding cattle, googling the nearest Dollar Store, writing complaints to their new senator, fixing the jammed copier, generating rational thoughts and so on. Special attention will be paid to that quaint old concept of actually producing something of a value - such as making things other people could use, serving customers and contributing to the general welfare. The crowning achievement of this phase will be the one trick they surely never learned in the Congress - and some perhaps even thought was physically impossible - and that is balancing their checking books. "Living within your means" is not something a person could learn naturally while residing within 100 miles of the Capitol. In fact, in the first few weeks, a couple of fiscally timorous personalities were reported to have fainted at the sight of a balanced budget.

But one day - at long last - that festive moment will finally come. A ramshackle bus will arrive at the doorsteps of the Institute and transport the newly reclawed lions and lionesses outside of the DC area. And God permitting, some will survive there.

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