I heard it on the radio

Let me say something right up front: I never listen to the radio.

I've had leftish friends blathering to me about National Public Radio for years.

Listened; bored. Read it all in The New York Times the day before anyway.

"Car Talk"? Those dudes were funny for about two shows. I don't own a car anymore, so why bother?

I've recently had liberal friends tell me Al Franken's a genius.

Hey, I'm never going to see 50 again. I watched "Saturday Night Live" when it was actually funny. I saw Al Franken's bits a couple of times and made up my mind.

I used the time between Belushi - the funny dead one, John - and the early Eddie Murphy (the only funny Eddie Murphy) to go out for drinks.

Al Franken was lame. Even if I agree with some of his politics, he's still lame.

I've had two editors in the last two years, after I mentioned Rush Limbaugh disparagingly in a column, tell me I was wrong.

One editor who pulled me up short told me Limbaugh represented the silent America.

Only trouble with those folks is they aren't any more silent than the noisy America. Both sides of today's political debate seem to be fighting for the stridency title.

The editor who defended Limbaugh closer to home stressed Talk Radio Boy's intelligence. Since I respect this guy's judgment more than the guy in the boonies, I listened a few times.

I'd heard Limbaugh's shtick before, years ago, and funnier. That's because I grew up in Irish and German bars in Cincinnati, sipping a cola while my dad drank beer, so I immediately recognized Limbaugh's attitudes and approach.

The only thing I couldn't figure out was why he sounded so much like the friends of my dad who drank the most. The meanest ones, not the dumbest ones.

Then came Oxycontin.

Frat-boy hazing, indeed.

A pox on both sides of the hateful discourse that passes for opinion-sharing on talk radio.

That said, I can't help but notice in our celebrity-crazed culture that some local talk-radio guy is being pumped as a democratic candidate for Congress.

I have never listened to Dave Ross.

And I guess I don't understand why the fact (according to a radio poll conducted by some local AM station and quoted in the May 13 Seattle Times) that this KIRO 710 AM host's name recognition is higher than everybody but King County Sheriff Dave Reichert, a Republican contender for Congress, means anything.

I know Jean Godden's name. How could I avoid it? I read The Seattle Times and the P-I every day. I saw her somewhere in one of those papers.

But I don't think an ability to notice cute license plates is a prelude to a public-service career, so I didn't vote for her.

I didn't vote for Jim Compton either, and nothing he's done during his tenure proves to me that his ability to read the news on television has prepared him for governance duties.

What the hell is wrong with us?

We argue at the top of our voices about national and local politics, but seldom get even close to rational discourse.

And we elect celebrities to everything they run for.

Gov. Arnold.

President Ron.

Sen. Hillary.

Is the only qualification needed nowadays to help screw up our troubled political system a high name-recognition factor?

I've always believed there should be stricter and more frequent tests for people seeking a driver's license.

I've written many columns in rural newspapers whose readers I also regularly cosset, about my love of target shooting. I qualified "expert" on the M-16 and the .45 sidearm lo those many years ago when I served Uncle Sam with little or no distinction after my award-winning basic training.

I quit shooting living things 30 years ago, but I reserve the right to start up again anytime.

I am not pro-gun control. I ain't a National Rifle Association member either, though, because they take fanatical positions.

But I believe in the right to bear arms.

I just want some really strict tests administered before you can buy a weapon.

And there should be annual testing to make sure you still can be armed.

And I want stringent penalties for those who do violence with a firearm, registered or not.

All this is a prelude to what I believe is needed before the average, celebrity-mad, American steps into the voting booth again.

Let's have a history test at least as hard as the one administered to immigrants seeking American citizenship.

I don't give two hoots what Rush Limbaugh thinks, or who Dave Ross is.

I know who he is. He's a radio personality - whatever the hell that means.

I want to know what you know about the history of this country before I let you vote on the future of America.

I'll take the damn test, and you all should, too!

E-mail freelance columnist Dennis Wilken at needitor@nwlink.com.

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