We have a general membership meeting at the House of Dominoes from time to time. It used to be an annual meeting, with refreshments and everything, but domino-playing fell off considerable after these last two downturns, and our general meeting last week was the first one in four or five years. Maybe longer than that.
Weren't but 14 members there, and two of them were drunk, two are senile, and one brought his wife because, he explained, otherwise she wouldn't of let him come. One brought a grandson that he and his wife had to take to raise because the parents are no-account layabouts who just didn't want the responsibility. There are a lot of bums like that now where there used to be hardly any.
We don't do anything at these meetings except pass resolutions. We learned that from Congress and the state legislature. That's all they do too. It's all they do that's substantive anyway. Pass resolutions, go on junkets, and outrun deppities down the highway at 110 mph. That about covers it.
We don't always pass the resolutions. Sometimes we vote them down. Sometimes we debate them, either briefly or extensively, and then decide the hell with it and go on to something else. Only one time did a fistfight erupt.
These resolutions seldom have anything to do with domino-playing, or with associated topics such as whether the House of Dominoes needs to restock its vending machines with a healthier selection of pop and snacks. Instead, we deliberate the larger questions, like Don't Ask Don't Tell, and at what point in its development a human fetus acquires its endowment of constitutional rights. You can debate those questions and play dominoes at the same time, and we do that ordinarily, but at the general meetings we put aside the dominoes and focus on the big picture.
It's not that we want to influence events — we understand our limited impact — but we'd like to make our collective opinion known to the world, maybe just for the record, and it helps us clarify these important matters in our own minds when we discuss them openly and frankly.
One resolution we considered last week would've had us declare our support for the democratic uprising in Egypt, "irrespective of whether they want our support or not." Three members were for it, four against, two were of a mind to abstain, the drunks didn't care, the seniles didn't know where they were, and the henpecked guy wondered why it was any of our beeswax.
"What if them Egyptians got together over there with the idea of dictating to us over here whether we ought to be playing cutthroat dominoes or moon?" the henpecked guy said.
One of the resolution's three supporters — one of the Parmalee boys --explained to the henpecked guy that it was because of something called American exceptionalism that we can tell people in other countries what to do but they can't tell us. 'It gives us the right to mind everybody else's business because God said we could," Parmalee said.
The henpecked guy turned to his wife and said, "Is that right? Did God say that?"
"I think so," she said, but she didn't seem sure.
"When did He say it? And who to?" the henpecked guy said.
"It wouldn't of been in Bible times," she said, "because there wusn't an America then to be exceptional over the other nations."
"There you go," the henpecked guy said.
"The way I heard it," Parmalee said, "God told George Washington about it there at Valley Forge. It was to give him a little comfort because his feet was about to freeze off."
"You're just making that up," abstainer Sal Hepatica said.
"No," Parmalee said, "I'm pretty sure it was them two — our Heavenly Father and the Father of Our Country."
Another of the Parmalee boys wondered if it might've been another of the Founding Fathers that God made the exceptionalism deal with. Perhaps Ben Franklin.
"No," the first Parmalee said. "Couldn't of been him. He wadn't even a president. He was just in charge of hundred-dollar bills."
"God would've told Ben Franklin to just go fly a kite," the Wag said.
"It couldn't have been Thomas Paine," I contributed. "He didn't even believe in God."
"Aw, everbody believes in God," the first Parmalee said. "When it comes down to being in a foxhole, you do."
"Paine was never in a foxhole, that's true," I thought I remembered.
"Well, I was," the first Parmalee said.
"You weren't no such of a thing," his brother said. "They don't have foxholes in the Navy."
"Well, at least I went," the first Parmalee said.
"Yeah, just to get away from Daddy whupping you with that harness strap."
"Well, what bearing does that have?" the first Parmalee said.
"In the bulrushes," Senile No. 1 said.
"Aw, Fred, for crying out loud," Senile No. 2 replied to him.
Etc. We dealt further with exceptionalism — not much further, and, alas, not more coherently — before deciding the hell with it and going on to something else.
Bob Lancaster, one of the Arkansas Times longest and most valued contributors, retired from writing his column last week. We’ll miss his his contributions mightily. Look out, in the weeks to come, for a look back at some of his greatest hits. In the meantime, here's a good place to start.
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