Eat Congress

     A wise old editor told me: “The American people are willing to do absolutely anything about immigration except read about it.”
     This explains why our 535 members of Congress appear to be living in a different country than I do.
     I’m snuggled close up tight to Congress now.
     OK, not snuggled, maybe. I’m on the edge of Silver Spring, Maryland, a straight shot up Georgia Avenue from the U.S. Capitol.
     This week I’ve met people from Ghana, Russia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Egypt, China, Peru, Pakistan, India, Argentina, Afghanistan, Bangladesh … and that was just shopping and eating.
     The only way the United States will get a reasonable immigration policy is by cutting congressmen’s salaries and expense accounts so severely – I suggest 50 percent for openers, to be followed by more sequestrations – that a congressmen’s night on the town will be limited, as it is for most of us, to ordering take-out food.
     If we also cut their chauffeur and vehicle expenses to zero, our congressmen could learn more in a day than they do from having interns read all the position papers that PR firms and Official Study Groups send them.
     I like hearing foreign languages. I liked it that everyone except me in a little tea store was speaking Russian or Ukrainian, that the guy at the Staples checkout counter was Dominican, and I liked discussing keyboards with a guy from Ghana.
     Eleven score and some years ago our Founding Fathers devised one of the greatest experiments in government since Athens invented the app, 125 score years ago.
     But it is possible to use the tools of government to throw sand in the gears: to fuck up things so badly that nothing gets done; to turn Americans against one another, against their neighbors, against their own grandparents; to cripple government, cripple the economy and millions of lives, for private and political advantage.
     There is no question about any of this. Nor is there any question about why Congress does it. It’s Nixon’s Southern strategy: Carve up the country into little groups and get them to hate one another, and promise to protect Your Guys from the people you encourage them to hate.
     Fear is a great motivator – the greatest motivator of all other than sex. And fear, as the Buddha said, comes from ignorance.
     I’m speaking now as a man who loves to eat. Eating is more important than politics.
     If politicians devoted themselves to seeing that people could eat when they’re hungry, then we would not be having this discussion, and our nation would not have all the problems we do.
     As Calvin Trillin pointed out long ago, eaters in the United States were liberated by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, when we decided not to admit Northern European Protestants first last and always, but to give the rest of the world a shot.
     No one with a brain or stomach could deny that we’re better off for this.
     I was 14 in 1965. Pizza was an exotic food then, and the only Chinese food you could get was execrable. Indian food? Thai? Vietnamese? Forget it.
     Food is most important of all. And one thing Washington, D.C. has got in abundance is great food. Thai food, Indian, Chinese, Salvadoran … vide supra.
     My brother took me out for dim sum on Sunday. You want world peace? Take the Israelis and Palestinians out for dim sum and tell them they can never have it again unless they get serious.
     As I stuffed myself on shrimp balls, I heard a waitress training a new guy, following him as he pushed the cart. “Be humble,” she whispered. “Be patient.”
     Foreigners, obviously.

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