02/12/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Who Cares About Playing Nice -- Play Real Instead

In this week's New York Times' Week in Review, Mark Liebovich reduces decades of presidential inaugural intentions to "Play Nice: Looking for Peace, Love and Manners in Washington." The sad thing is that Mr. Liebovich is right. Inaugurals have historically been about tone-setting in Washington.

Frankly, my dear, I just don't give a damn about the tone in Washington any more. Nor do I really care about its causes. Call it reflexive partisanship, call it cantankerous cronyism, call it Ishmael. Really, who cares? The tone is what it is, and it will be what it will be. If our federal elected community wants to play nice, they will. If they don't, they won't.

Don't get me wrong. Playing nice is nice, but I'd much rather have my electorate play real as this new administration gets underway. Really real. Totally real. Dealing-with-the-facts-of-the-nation real. Real, way over and above tone.

My reasons are myriad. Parents can't feed their children on what they earn. Healthcare is not affordable. Bridges are collapsing. New Orleans still isn't rebuilt. Banks are hoarding their precious, costly bailout coins. More and more people are unemployed. The foreclosures continue. I could go on, but why?

The biggest reason for playing real is because people are afraid. Mr. Liebovich quotes former Senator Warren Rudman, Republican, of New Hampshire, "We have one thing going for us that we haven't had in a while, and that's fear." When fear becomes an asset, something has to change -- change big and change now.

And what needs changing isn't the tone in Washington, it's the practice of spinning the truth. I'm aware, just as you are, that truth is thoroughly related to perception, but come on. Fussing about the way things are done in Washington doesn't even begin to address the what that is done in Washington. Let ʼem squabble, but get real. In fact, just to be devilish, I'm not sure the squabbling is such a bad thing; it often brings to bear larger and more inclusive viewpoints.

As the Obama administration is about to begin, may I suggest we each get the phone numbers of our federal representatives, place them in our cellphones, and call when some issue or other feels real and important to us?

We can, you know. And in so doing we can continue to participate in this phenomenal process called democracy, but only if we get real about this beautiful country of ours.

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