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Published: Tuesday, 11/18/2003

Rush is back to divide us once again

Not so long ago, we hired a guy to do some much-needed plaster work at our house.

Maybe you know how it is when someone s working in your house for any length of time. By mid-week, you know exactly how they take their coffee, and you know the names and ages of their kids.

I liked the plaster guy. Friendly, but not overly friendly. Talkative, but not overly talkative.

Except for this one day, when we got into a discussion about child-rearing and family life.

We agreed kids are a labor-intensive endeavor. We agreed parents should make their kids media savvy. We agreed that kids didn t need so many unsupervised hours in front of the TV and the computer. We agreed more kids need to hear the word “no from their parents. We agreed that many social forces out there are acting against the best interests of healthy family life.

And then, as this agreeable conversation wound down, the plaster guy shocked me: “You don t mind if I turn on the radio and listen to Rush, do you?

How, I wondered privately, could this seemingly intelligent man be a dittohead, AKA a Rush fanatic?

“That s OK, I said, “I like to keep up with what ultra-conservatives think.

So then it was the plaster guy s turn to be dumbfounded.

“You don t like Rush? Gee, after that conversation, I just assumed we were on the same wavelength.

America s No. 1 polarizing force took to the airwaves again yesterday. All hail Rush!

Fresh from five weeks in drug rehab, the man with talent on loan from God single-handedly caused a sharp dip in domestic production yesterday afternoon, as gazillions of us tuned in to see if we d get The Old Rush, or some New, Improved version.

“I ve thought back and forth about how much of this to talk about, and I m just gonna feel my way on this, he said early into the broadcast.

Sure, he said, he went into rehab, but “it s about so much more than that.

With all the fresh zeal of any new Twelve Step grad, Rush informed us he “can no longer anticipate what people want and try to give that to them. I can no longer live my life trying make other people happy. ... You can boil it down to one real simple essence: I can t be responsible for anybody else s happiness but my own.

Uh-oh. Sounding dangerously soft n squishy, I wondered if Rush fans were a bit squeamish in the face of such introspection. Rush, after all, made a career lashing out, not in. He s a brand unto himself, and his brand name is “bombast.

Alas, in his first rant, he managed to combine both bombast and rehab-speak when he went after Ted Kennedy, advising his listeners not to bother trying to change those lousy Democrats.

“You can t change anybody else s behavior, only your own, he cautioned. And as for dealing with the Dems, “it s not possible, my friends, because they don t like themselves.

Maybe sometimes, left to their own devices, a dittohead and a non-dittohead can find common ground, as happened to me and the plaster guy.

But thank God Rush is back now, sharpening all the points that divide us, saving us from even the most fleeting moments of consensus and civility.

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