“Gripe” by James Jay Schifrin

image024Last week, I got another irate phone call from Commissioner Swindle in Patronage County.

“Why do you always gripe about the way politicians steal taxpayers’ money,” he asked. “Gripe, gripe, gripe—all you ever do is gripe!”

I guess it’s like my old daddy always said, “If at first you don’t succeed, gripe, gripe, again.”

Maybe I do gripe a lot. But griping is a fundamental freedom guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. Throughout our nation’s history, griping has been as fundamental as baseball, apple pie, hot dogs, and Toyotas.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he affirmed that people are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of griping.

In the midst of naval battle, John Paul Jones swore, “I have not yet begun to gripe.”

Nathan Hale regretted that he had but one gripe to give for his country.

Patrick Henry agreed when he shouted, “Give me liberty, or I’ll gripe.”

Abraham Lincoln griped all the way to Gettysburg. Reading from the back of an envelope, the old railsplitter predicted, “Griping of the people, by the people, and for the people will not perish from this earth.”

Teddy Roosevelt said, “Walk softly, but carry a big gripe.”

Calvin Coolidge said, “I choose not to gripe.”

General MacArthur said,” Old soldiers never die, they just gripe.”

At his inauguration, John Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but how much you can gripe about what your country can do for you.”

Neil Armstrong, setting foot on the moon, said, “One small step for man, one giant gripe for mankind.”

Avis became number two by griping harder.

And don’t you just love it when every bank teller and sales clerk tells you to “have a nice gripe?”

To gripe or not to gripe—that is the question. These are the times that gripe men’s souls. What this country needs is a good five-cent gripe! United we gripe, divided we fall.

So the next time you see something wrong, like politicians stealing your money, just don’t sit there—gripe.

image022This op-ed column first appeared in the feisty Mt. Washington Press on February 25, 1981.