Friday, January 10, 2014

Who enjoys holding a low opinion of knaves?

The governor of the State where I took my undergraduate degree, it turns out, is what is called enmeshed, in what is called a scandal. The man's business engages in racketeering against an entire city in his fiduciary care, and this is analogised to a zit. Make note, dear reader, lest ye dream too small. Earl Long, eat your heart out, with chocolate toppings.

But let's be fair, I was educated in a rogue's paradise; and I can tell you forthrightly, the scion in my Class of its discreetest of blue collar families, was screamingly drop-dead gentlemanly, with or without his lacrosse stick perched across the trapezius lent of our heavenly father's own private collection. In short, a way around these little matters has never detained a New Jersey fellow of qualities, unduly. One knew them not to stand upon the ceremony of public proceeding, needless to say; but a genial doze amongst the fishes might be arranged for small fry, chastely renounced.

Whence now, the governor's heroic declaration, that with his cashiering of toadies he's stashed away enough good will amongst his ballot-riding simpletons, to be assured of their acceptance of his apology, in lieu of any actual penalty for the flagrantest unequal protection of the laws since the dinosaurs sacrificed themselves for our fuel. And yet, begging the indulgence of a readership already overtaxed by laundry and eugenics in the same week, can anyone really suppose that one cares about the politics of this matter, given that he has Wilson's precedent to uphold, of shining the occasional watt upon the conduct of his feast at the public trough? 

Like you, dear reader, I repaired to a finer judgment on the contours of such matters, in the specifications adduced by Mr Orwell, that they be the product of a stable society where the all-prevailing hypocrisy did at least ensure that they should have strong emotions behind them. And were anyone to doubt what strong emotions precipitated this reckless endangerment of persons deprived of transit, we have the governor's own quotation of The Godfather's Jack Woltz, a man in my position cannot afford to be made to look ridiculous.

You may say, that I stray repeatedly into the vein of self-reference, but I fear this understatement of my direction would arise from ignoring the title of this posting. I am only sorrowfully implicated in this critical strand, as an unwitting consumer of claptrap; and I'd ask permission to stipulate to that hoary, anachronistic postulate, that crime ought not to pay. Cui bono, Mommy, is a question I did not invent. Who profits from the impress of a crime, until it is discovered, is of implacable statutory interest. One had that dreary sort of education, too. Yet didn't this little caper resonate of the style of George W. Bush's Falwellian caryatid at the US Department of Justice: How much do you adore the President?

Are you and I, possibly, the last ones standing, who despair of the expedient press conference apology? Mind you, I'm old enough to remember the best. President Clinton's endless protestations of the grisly ordeals of venery only reinvigorated the entire lexicon of hypocrisy; while, given the alternatives, he very reasonably felt safe in accusing the electorate of idiocy, rather to its face. Now it's happening again, and we are contemplating the pristine beauty of apology, being brought low as a tactic of self-interest.

It strikes one's footnote-
resistant mind to propose, 
albeit for the several mil-
lionth time in this one lan-
guage alone, that an apology 
suffices only and uncondi-
tionally to the extent that 
it is not linked to one's 
exoneration, but to one's 
exposure. It cannot be in-
voked as a merchandising
shield; or it is an insult 
heaped upon injury, with 
contempt aforethought. But
why should our knaves un-
befriend us so? Mr Liebling
foretold our chagrin, not
with them, but with the
treason of our own clerks.

This office-holder only ac-
cuses himself, too wide of
the mark; and taking every-
thing into account, it is
not merely his aim that is
deplorable. It is also his
ability to depend, upon our
debauchery of apology.

A. J. Liebling
The Earl of Louisiana
The Press
  The End of the Free Lunch;
  Collection reprinted from
  The New Yorker
The Library of America, 2009©

Francis Ford Coppola
  and Mario Puzzo, screenplay
The Godfather
Paramount, 1972©

George Orwell
The Decline of the English Murder
Penguin, 1965©

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