”Politics is such a torment that I would advise everyone I love not to mix with it.”

— Thomas Jefferson

Politics. Bleeeccchhh. And you can quote me on that.

In case you haven’t guessed it, I’m not a big fan of politics or politicians. And the older I get, the more I find myself cringing at the whole political process. Frankly, I compare politics to sucking on a salty lime after giving yourself a deep paper cut on your tongue. Sure, the salt and citrus hurt like hell, but at least, you figure, if you put up with it long enough it might keep you from getting scurvy. So far, I’m scurvy-free.

Bear with me on this one.

This business of journalism is fraught with more than its share of perils. More than once, in my beat reporter days, I have had fists shaken and curses hurled in my general direction after something I had written or a question I had asked. Several times subjects of stories have phoned me, holding the prospect of expensive litigation over my head like the Sword of Damocles. One time, I even received a rather nasty and anonymous Candygram that questioned my intelligence, my integrity and my personal hygiene — all in one fell swoop. Both, insulting and fattening in one box.

No wonder editors hang out at bars.

But if the job of a journalist is rather perilous during the regular year, it gets even worse in those days, weeks and months leading to an election. Candidates, political parties and the voices supporting one position or another really, really, want a newspaper’s support, especially in the waning days of a campaign, where they think that the paper may be of some help in swaying a few undecided voters. But as much as they want a paper’s support, they also tend to accuse the paper of being lopsided in its coverage and favoring “the other guy.”

Indeed, there have been times around elections past when I have been accused of being both staunchly conservative and wildly liberal, all within in a matter of days — sometimes hours — of each otehr. Apparently, in the eyes of some faithful readers who love to call and complain, my political bias is ubiquitous. Such is my fate in life.

I want it to be made clear right now: I have no political affiliation whatsoever. I am not now nor have I ever been a member of any political party and don’t plan on joining a party any time soon. Hell, I don’t even like Tupperware parties.

I have no political affiliation because, frankly, I don’t trust any of them any farther than I could throw them. And I’m a creaky card-carrying AARP member with a bad back and a weak arm, so I’m not going to throw them very far.

There’s an old saying, “Politics makes strange bedfellows.” When Charlie, an old grad-school friend of mine once considered running for political office, he told me that it was that adage that made him consider becoming a politician. It seems that Charlie hadn’t had enough strange bedfellows in his life, and if tossing his hat into the political arena would correct that defect, then he was all for it. Fortunately, his meds kicked in and he dropped the whole idea.

The old saying suggests that in the game of politics, people often will align themselves with others with whom they have little in common in order to advance their political agenda. Often times, it means sacrificing their own scruples for the sake of political gain.

The saying is actually a paraphrase of a line from William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” in a scene in which a shipwrecked man finds himself seeking shelter beside a sleeping monster. “Misery,” he says, “acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” Somehow over the years, “misery” was replaced by “politics.”

Seems fitting.

Though the political wrangling has been going on since, well, since the last election, the chaos that is an election cycle is really about to get going in earnest. Get ready, folks. As if television wasn’t banal enough, as we inch ever closer to the Election 2020 it’s going to get worse, with enough mind-numbing political ads to cause a coma. I don’t know about you, but I figure if I can get through the next year without opening a vein and bleeding to death, I will be truly thankful, somewhat amazed and most likely downright giddy.

But I’ve found a way to ease the pain and get me through the dark night of the soul, which is what we in journalism call the Election Cycle. What I do is scan the news wires for obscure little stories that make me smile, laugh and other forget about the vicissitudes of politics as usual. Sometimes that works, but other times — this week included — I just come across incredibly depressing stories. So I did the next best thing: I looked through some old files of mine in hopes of finding something that would make me smile.

I found such a story.

The story dated back to 2006, but I choose to believe that it still holds true. It was a story touting the health benefits of red wine for fat people.

In what some researchers called “landmark” research, it was discovered that obese mice that eat a high-fat diet can live long and healthy lives if they were given massive doses of red wine. Well, actually it’s red wine extract, but that won’t stop me from tapping a barrel or two of a nice cabernet sauvignon and drinking straight from the spigot. Hey, if it worked for fat rats, why not for me?

Mind you, I have recently dropped quite a bit of weight — 70 pounds to be exact — still I’m looking for something that can keep me on the straight and narrow. Emphasis here on “narrow” as opposed to wide. And according to the research of these scientists, fat-related deaths among the mice dropped 31 percent. And these were among rodents that were fed what one scientist called a “McDonald’s diet” of high-calorie food. That means that an occasional medium-rare cheeseburger I gulp down would not be so likely to clog my veins if I swill a little chianti with it.

Life is good.

But that’s not the only news coming out of the scientific community that week, circa 2006, that I found in that folder — stories that I undoubtedly was keeping because of how they made me smile. There was also the report published in the “Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences” in which anthropologists claimed that our Homo sapien ancestors interbred with Neanderthals in Romania about 30,000 years ago — a conclusion that is hardly startling to anyone who has been to one of my family reunions and taken a good look at some of my cousins.

And yes, I just got back from a family reunion down in Missouri and ran into some of my cousins — members of the great unwashed who appeared to be the result of someone peeing in the shallow end of the gene pool.

But I digress.

According to scientists, the brutish Neanderthals first showed up in Europe about 230,000 years ago, where they were pretty much the big men on campus until the Homo sapiens showed up 40,000 years ago. For years, anthropologists have speculated that Homo sapiens and Neanderthals didn’t get along very well and may have even battled until the more highly evolved humans won out.

But according to that research scientists are telling us that apparently the two groups did more than fight. Fossilized bones from a skeleton dating back 30,000 years show characteristics of both Homo sapiens and Neanderthals. Conclusion: Somebody was fooling around in a secluded cave somewhere while the rest of the clan was out doing battle.

And if the theory about Homo sapiens and Neanderthals proves true, then we will have also solved that other great mystery: Where do politicians come from?

Strange bedfellows, indeed.

Reach Managing Editor Jeffrey Jackson at 444-2371 or follow him on Twitter @OPPJeffrey.

Jeffrey Jackson is the managing editor of the Owatonna People's Press. He can be reached at 507-444-2371 or via email at jjackson@owatonna.com

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