When a political activist friend who runs an extensive email distribution list sent out this photograph over the weekend, many on her list mistakenly understood that she’d said it was taken in the US Congress and rushed to correct her. In fact it was “only” Connecticut’s House of Representatives. The trouble being that it might be too representative:
Note that in addition to the two solitaire-playing legislators sitting side by side (the irony of that!), the guy sitting in the row in front of them is on Facebook, while the guy behind is checking out baseball scores.
The photograph is indeed real. And old. It was taken on August 31, 2009, in the final session on the Connecticut budget, as Minority leader Larry Cafero (R – Norwalk, standing at right) was holding forth at length. Jack Hennessy (D-Bridgeport, center foreground) at least issued a letter of apology to his constituents, and has doubtless since undergone solitaire detox.
But as my friend noted in a follow-up email, at a time when our screens are full of images of the tsunami in Japan, when nuclear reactors there are on the verge of meltdown, when Ghadafi is bombing his own citizens in Libya, when Saudi Arabia has sent troops into Bahrain, when the Supreme Court has given corporations the right to fund US elections, and, as they say, much much more, this photograph is what the politically concerned people on her list chose to get really worked up about.
She wondered angrily if this reaction was a sign of paralysis, of feeling helpless to do anything when it feels like the world is in free-fall. “So many of you put your good brainpower to work to let me know that this is not the U.S. legislature,” she said. “Did I imply that it was? Sorry. Regardless of whether it is state or federal, the state of the political sphere is beyond belief.”
She’s right to be angry. People in the Middle East and elsewhere are literally dying for a taste of democracy, while here in the US we take it so for granted that half the electorate doesn’t even bother to vote. And quite clearly, dumb voters elect dumb representatives. I mean, they could at least have been playing chess…