Letting things lean

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Just about every year a new crisis report comes out concerning the Leaning Tower of Pisa. That is, the report is new. It is the same old crisis of leaning over too far.

Generally speaking, the tower manages to lean about .05 of an inch farther each year. Each year certain concerned officials announce that, if something isn't done pretty soon, the whole contraption is going to topple over.

This seems like a reasonable conclusion.

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Unfortunately, no one seems really convinced, except those few tourists who stand a safe distance away while taking a snapshot.

This leads us to suggest the Leaning Tower of Pisa is very much like everything else going on in the world.

The tower was built in 1173 and started leaning almost immediately. So, as incredible as it sounds, the 180-foot building has been falling over for at least 800 years and no one has yet figured out what to do about it. If anything.

The fact that this whimsical catastrophe is happening in Italy may give rise to a few Italian jokes, but it is our position the problem is universal.

Not only is there no great stampede to save the structure, no one seems absolutely sure what is going on. According to an AP report, the tower is leaning 16 feet off the perpendicular. According to Webster's New World Dictionary, it is leaning more than 17 feet. According to Architecture of Europe (published in 1976), it leans only a mere 13 feet. These are but a few of the authoritative opinions.

Either there is some expert incompetence here, or the tower moves back and forth when no one is looking.

In order that this magnificent structure should not be a total waste, how about putting a sign on it which says: ''This tower represents all the problems of Planet Earth.'' People have become used to simplified symbols, like a graph showing unemployment rise over a decade, or one of those giant thermometers in the town square representing donations to the Firemen's Fund.

The problems it represents might suggest everything from the pollution of Earth's air, soil, and water to the threat of nuclear or non-nuclear war. Like the tower they all seem to lean a little toward collapse each year for want of vigorous solutions.

Of course, there is one vital flaw in using the Leaning Tower as our picture parable. If the tower falls over, there will still be a lot of people standing around. They will be able to shake their heads and say, ''What a pity someone didn't do something to save it.''

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