Barking Backward

A Blog by Jameson Parker

The Span of Life

The old dog barks backwards without getting up.
I can remember when he was a pup.

- Robert Frost

Memorial Day: Dulce et Decorum Est

May 24th, 2015 5 Comments

Flanders fields

 

Memorial Day weekend. A time to reflect on the men and women who serve our country and those who served before them. A time to honor them in ways that are so simple and so easy: tending a grave, attending a parade, little things.

Unfortunately, Darleen came down with the bubonic plague or the creeping crud or something, so we were more or less housebound. Our only sortie was when I drove her into town to pick up some meds, where we made a contribution to our local VFW and were each given a small artificial red poppy.

Such a little thing, yet it brought back memories of my father taking the family to one of the famed cemeteries now collectively known as Flanders Fields after the famous poem by Canadian poet John McCrae:

           In Flanders fields the poppies blow

          Between the crosses, row on row

                    That mark our place; and in the sky

                    The larks, still bravely singing, fly

          Scarce heard amid the guns below.

 

          We are the Dead. Short days ago

          We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

          Loved and were loved, and now we lie

                    In Flanders fields.

 

          Take up our quarrel with the foe:

          To you from failing hands we throw

                    The torch; be yours to hold it high.

                    If ye break the faith with us who die

          We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

                    In Flanders fields.

It was almost sixty years ago, so I no longer remember which World War One battlefield it was that lingers in my memory from that long ago trip—Ypres, Passchendaele, another—but the visual memory remains, brought back by an artificial poppy.

I’m very grateful to my parents, both of whom served in World War Two, for taking me to so many places and exposing me to so many different aspects of man’s most memorable achievements, from Roman aqueducts still in use over two thousand years after they were built, and the glorious life-affirming beauty of the best of man in the form of art from the caves of Lascaux to van Gogh, to the darker, destructive side represented by those battlefields and others my father knew so much about. I can still hear his voice explaining to a small boy: “This is where Wellington sat his horse. This is where the German tanks… This is where General Patton…” I hear too my mother’s voice giving us her sometimes accurate, but always colorful historical accounts of this Civil War battle or the siege of that castle by… Most, and the best, of the education I have was never learned in any classroom.

I wonder what my parents would make of the world’s current troubles in the form of ISIS and radical Islam. I’ve been reading a lot of history lately, including an account of the causes of perhaps the most ridiculously unnecessary war of all time, World War One (The War that Ended Peace, the prize-winning account by Margaret MacMillan), the war of Flanders fields and Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon and so many others, and it’s hard to make an unequivocal argument in favor of war, any war. Certainly World War One represented more destruction, more loss of life, for less reason than perhaps any other war in the bloody history of man, but all wars, seen through the excellent bifocals of hindsight, seem so unnecessary, so avoidable. And yet here we sit again, watching the bloody rise of maniacal monsters, and it will all play out again, one way or the other, and there will be more fields, with more crosses, and more poppies.

Perhaps the shortest poem to come out of that most destructive and unnecessary war that inspired so much great poetry was by the great Rudyard Kipling. Kipling, like so many others of that and every generation, actively encouraged his son John to fight for… For what? God and country? England’s honor? A patch of earth? What? It still boggles the mind that World War One should ever have taken place. But John joined the Irish Guards and was killed in the Battle of Loos at the age of eighteen. In his grief, Rudyard Kipling wrote the following couplet:

          If any question why we died,

          Tell them, because our fathers lied.

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Aplastic Anemia

May 13th, 2015 8 Comments

sisters Sam and Alex Kimura

 

I’m a grumpy old curmudgeon. I hate having my heartstrings plucked while watching the news: life will pluck your heartstrings far too often in the normal course of events, whether you will or no; I don’t need anyone to go out of their way to pluck mine.

But this morning, as I was eating my breakfast and talking to Darleen and trying to make sense of my schedule for the day and watching the news, all at the same time—it’s called multi-tasking, and it’s about the least efficient or intelligent thing you can do, since it guarantees you will perform none of the tasks well or thoroughly—there was an item about two girls traveling around the country in a van. I was only giving the television about one fourth of my brain, such as it is, and even less of my attention, and certainly I had no interest in two girls going off on a post-college romp, no matter how happy and pretty and energetic they looked, but then we heard a phrase Darleen and I know well. It seems the two girls, sisters who look remarkably alike, were trying to find a bone marrow match for the younger one, who has aplastic anemia.

The television got all our attention.

Thirty-six years ago, just around the time Darleen and I first met while working together on an episode of Simon & Simon, and then on an episode of her series, Maverick, with the late James Garner, she gave birth to a little boy (by her feckless then husband) who was born with aplastic anemia.

There’s no point going through it all blow by blow. Suffice it to say, back then, the options were practically non-existent, and Darleen used to go from the set to the hospital to spend the night with her little boy, sleeping on the floor outside his room in the first hospital, on a fold-out chair in the room with him at the second hospital, as she frantically prayed and searched and fought for a miracle that did not happen.

The next morning she would be back on the set, composed and professional, on time, lines learned, ready to be whatever the day’s work called on her to be.

My oldest son was born the same year as her little boy. My oldest son is thirty-six now, married, happy, successful, and I rejoice for him, for the fact of his being.

Her little boy died when he was only three.

These two young ladies, Sam and Alex Kimura, are planning to drive all across the country in an effort raise awareness about this implacable disease, and in an effort to find the right DNA to save Sam. If anybody lives anywhere near where these two young ladies are going to be in their search for a bone marrow/DNA match, please stop by and give a sample of your DNA. It involves nothing more than a few minutes of your time and a swab of your cheek. Here is a link to their website: http://www.sharingamericasmarrow.com

I spent the morning sending out invitations to all my Facebook friends to like the sister’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/sharingamericasmarrow?_rdr, and I’m so incompetent computer-wise and especially Facebook-wise that it took forever—the sisters are probably somewhere else by now—but please go on one of their sites and see if you can help. If you’re smarter than I on the computer—and it’s hard to imagine anyone not being smarter—please pass along the information about Sam and Alex Kimura.

Thank you.

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Heaven Forefend We Should Offend

May 7th, 2015 18 Comments

Titian Annunciation

 

I’ve been thinking about the reaction to the shooting of those two purported ISIS terrorists in Garland, Texas. You know: the ones who wanted to massacre cartoonists drawing caricatures of the prophet Mohammed.

The wild-eyed loonies of radical Islam, both here and abroad, have issued the expected call for the “slaughter” of the organizer of that event, a reaction that is both drearily predictable and about as intelligent as you would expect from seventh century savages.

But less predictable, and a good deal more alarming has been the reaction of so many non-combatants, all the pundits and politicians who love to pontificate publicly about everything. A lot of those people, primarily in the media, both liberal and conservative, have been damning the lady who organized the cartoon competition, saying she deliberately provoked the attack.

Really? Well, now. Isn’t that an interesting perspective. Golly, using that logic, any woman who gets raped should be blamed for wearing provocative clothing—she brought it on herself!—and from there to “She deserved it,” is a small step. Is that really the standard we wish to set? Of course here the difference is that blaming the lady in question takes us away from just the small-minded, smug self-righteousness of blaming the rape victim and into larger areas of the first amendment.

But beyond that, there seems to be a feeling in America these days that we should refrain from doing, saying, writing, even thinking, anything that might offend anyone else, and I find that both frightening and offensive. There is practically nothing anyone can do, say, or create that won’t manage to offend some delicately balanced soul. And more: if you don’t offend someone, you probably haven’t said or done or created anything worth paying attention to.

Unthinking multicultural inclusiveness seems to be the new norm: we’re all supposed to be just one big, happy family of man, with no differences between any of us, all of us carefully looking out for the feelings of everyone else. No one is bigger or smaller, no one is faster or slower, no one is stronger or weaker, no one is smarter or stupider, no one is even man or woman. No one is an individual; we’re all just supposed to be part of a happy homogenized collective, unthinking little ants or bees, all working for the common good of all.

And if that’s the new norm, we can expect just about as much artistic creativity from this brave new homogenized world as we might from ants or bees, because creativity and political correctness cannot coexist.

Think of the politically motivated art from the Soviet era… What’s that? You can’t bring any of it to mind? There’s a reason for that. The function of art is to rattle your cage; art that’s intended to appeal to everyone will touch no one. Think of the memorable “art” that hangs on motel walls. The very definition of art is something that touches the emotions and, by touching a nerve, stimulates the mind. If you’re appealing to the soppiest, lowest common denomination of sentiment that can’t possibly upset anyone then, like a Thomas Kincaid painting or a cupcake, you will be eminently forgettable. Unfortunately, that seems to be what we’re all supposed to do these days, create gentle, colorless little distractions that will linger in the memory for less time than it takes to chew your Tums.

In the old days, back when art and artists had muscles and testicles, and didn’t give much of a damn who they offended, works were created that had both impact and longevity.

Dante managed to insult just about every group you can think of (including Muslims; his portrayal of Mohammed in the ninth circle of hell is a study of barbarism, and Gustave Doré’s engraving of the suffering Mohammed wouldn’t win a lot of fans in ISIS) yet his masterpiece has been revered for eight hundred years, and is still considered the defining work that marks the end of the medieval era and the beginning of the Renaissance.

All the art of Giotto and Botticelli, much of da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo, and most of Titian glorified God in ways that would have appalled any Muslims around to see it when it was painted, and it can still give atheists the vapors and cause them to bring lawsuits if hung in a government building. (That’s Titian’s “Annunciation” above.)

If Shakespeare had sat around worrying about offending Jews, we wouldn’t have Shylock, and ditto for Charles Dickens who gave us Fagin.

Politically correct school systems in this country have either removed Huckleberry Finn from their shelves entirely, or bowdlerized it, to protect delicate young readers from seeing the “N” word, thereby ensuring generations of students are impoverished by their protection.

I’m sure generations of Native Americans were offended by their portrayal in just about every movie John Ford ever made, but I still think The Searchers is one of the all-time best Westerns.

The drunken, brawling Irishman was a staple of English literature beginning with Henry Fielding and continuing on through early twentieth century American literature.

I have heard an Italian-American deeper thinker rail against The Godfather movies for perpetuating the Mafia myth.

And on and on and on. Get over it.

I’ll leave you with an historically inaccurate (the Medicis had more to do with the arts and the Renaissance than the Borgias, and the Swiss didn’t invent the cuckoo clock), but correct-in-spirit quote from the movie The Third Man:

“Don’t be so gloomy. After all, it’s not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love. They had five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly.”

America today is well on its way to mass-producing cuckoo clocks.

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At the Movies, On a Desert Island

April 27th, 2015 43 Comments

Old TV set

 

Darleen and I stumbled backward, who knows how or why, into one of those “what-if?” games. If memory serves, we were talking about how certain movies bear up under repeated viewing, just as there are certain books one thinks of as old friends, that one can go back to again and again, always certain of the same good company, the same warm welcome, the same comfortable patterns of emotion and delight: The Wind in the Willows, Treasure Island, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Irish RM, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, The Great Gatsby, all of W.W. Jacobs, much of P.G. Wodehouse, most of Dylan Thomas and much of Tennyson, practically anything by Dickens, everything by Shakespeare, all those books and poems and plays that act as comfort food for us when all other diversions pale and fail.

So one of us posited the question: if you were stranded on a desert island conveniently provided with a television and a DVD player and the electricity to run them, which ten movies would you take with you to help you through your isolation?

After radical culling, the kind of culling that shows off my iron will power, my cold and ruthless capacity for abnegation, my towering strength of character, my ability to endure any kind of hardship, I have compiled my short list. It is, in no particular order:

Dr. Zhivago

The English Patient

Bridge on the River Kwai

The Third Man

A Christmas Story

It’s a Wonderful Life

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

The More the Merrier

Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Unforgiven

To Kill a Mockingbird

Singing in the Rain

The Godfather, Parts I & II

Tom Jones

The Lion in Winter

Lawrence of Arabia

The Lady Eve

The Lavender Hill Mob

Mr. Roberts

Libeled Lady

I’m sorry. What did you say? That’s more than ten? Oh, for God’s sake. This isn’t a damned math class. People put far too much store in numbers and precision and all that nonsense. Life should be much more flexible than that.

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He’s Back…

April 20th, 2015 11 Comments

wildlife 001 (Small)

 

…and his disposition has not improved.

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An Easter Message

April 6th, 2015 15 Comments

Scott's oriole

 

I don’t think God spends a lot of time agonizing over me and my struggles with faith and doubt. I certainly hope He doesn’t, because He knows He has a lot more important things on His plate at the moment.

On the other hand, every now then one of those magic moments occurs that make you sit back in wonder. I’m not talking about the big, dramatic things: the dead who rise up like leavened bread or speak coherently even as the undertaker arrives to take the body; the beloved child rescued whole and sound after hours under icy water; the mysterious stranger who saves a life and vanishes; the signs, the visions, the inexplicable, all the glorious and incomprehensible magic of life that reaffirms life and faith and wonder.

I’m talking now about little things, those brief and delicious moments that make you catch your breath for an instant before breaking into joyous and delighted laughter, laughter because you’re alive in a world of breathtaking beauty where people and animals do marvelous and unexpected things that preclude any other reaction but delight.

I had been debating not going to the Easter service. If my fingers aren’t moving on the keyboard, I’m not earning a living, and we’ve been accumulating medical bills and veterinary bills at a staggering rate—literally staggering, as Sisyphus staggered with his load—and we just paid the income taxes and the real estate taxes, and the automobile registration is due on both cars and that’s not insignificant in California, and the state has added another “fire” tax for people in rural areas, even though there is no state fire agency in this county, and we’re among the people whose critical information at Blue Cross was hacked, and we had to hire an electrician to make some repairs at a cost I normally associate with brain surgery, and I had two deadlines to meet, and could I really afford two hours away from my desk, and… All the “ands” we all face.

But in the end, I decided to celebrate the holiest day in the Christian year, if only for a few hours in the morning.

The liturgical colors of the Roman Catholic Church do not include yellow. (I’m being specific here because the liturgical colors of both the Byzantine and Russian Orthodox Churches do include yellow or gold.) But one of the colors most popularly associated with Easter is yellow; think of all those nauseating candies and plastic eggs and cardboard silhouettes of bunnies. Yellow symbolizes both the presence of God and the sun’s renewal of life and growth and fecundity, the ongoing processes of our world, spiritual and temporal. In our little church up here in the mountains Father Michael’s vestments at the Easter service were trimmed in yellow, and the transept—our modest and abbreviated transept, barely deserving of the name—and the chancel and the sanctuary were all decorated with daffodils and jonquils. Among the worshippers yellow and pink were the most evident festive colors visible, a testament to the faith of our little congregation, because the thermometer plummeted on Easter day, and most of us opted for heavy winter clothing; Darleen and I both wore pink, but it was buried under layers of green and black wool.

But rightly or wrongly, like much of the wide world in general, I associate yellow with Easter, and as I was just about to get into the car to drive to town for our Easter morning service, I saw a flash of the most brilliant yellow, a lemon flashing through the oak trees behind the house.

It was an oriole, a Scott’s oriole, to be precise, and what makes it so especially delightful is that we don’t often get them up here. The Bullock’s oriole—a Western variation of the northern oriole that used to be called, and still is by me, a Baltimore oriole—is a common resident in the spring and summer months, but the Scott’s oriole is more of a desert bird, more often found in Joshua trees and yuccas and piñons at lower elevations than in oak trees at four thousand feet. They’re not complete strangers up here—I have seen them before—but usually not quite this early, and certainly not with the temperature in the uncomfortably cold bracket, the barometer plunging, and the threat of snow in the forecast.

Yet there he was, boldly brilliant and beautiful and commanding my attention completely as he rested on a branch above my head. And after that first intake of breath at his beauty, I began to smile and then to laugh.

It may have been nothing more than a bird in a tree, but then, perhaps God communicates with us all in the ways we can best understand. I took the whole day off.

 

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Honor and Distinction

March 31st, 2015 13 Comments

Dorsey, Leo H.

 

The New York Times and I are not on good terms. For their part, they have no idea I exist. For my part, ever since I canceled my subscription after I caught them, about twenty-five years ago, either deliberately lying or engaging in willful ignorance about a second amendment issue, I have paid little attention to anything they write.

So I only recently twigged to the fact that their editorial board has called for Bowe Bergdahl not to be charged and tried for desertion and misconduct. Here is the salient paragraph from their editorial:

“But trying him for desertion and misbehaving before the enemy — for allegedly engaging in misconduct that endangered his unit — stands to accomplish little at this point. A conviction would most likely deprive a traumatized veteran of benefits, including medical care, which he will probably need for years. A dishonorable discharge would make it harder to rebuild his life as a civilian.”

As it happens, I learned about this editorial just as I was starting to write an article about Chris Dorsey.

Chris is the co-founder, president, and CEO of Orion Entertainment, an independent, Denver, Colorado-based entertainment company that produces a wide variety of programming for various cable television channels. They produce everything from hunting to home improvement to reality shows, and they have enjoyed unprecedented success.

I’ve known Chris for about a quarter of a century, and I remembered him once telling me that his father had been a survivor of the Bataan Death March, and that he, Chris, used to be woken in the night by his father’s screams. In the course of doing my research for the article, I came across the following information from a variety of sources (the words that follow are mine, but the facts are accurate):

Leo H. Dorsey (above) grew up in Janesville, Wisconsin. In 1939 he enlisted in the Wisconsin National Guard’s 32nd Divisional Tank Company, and in 1940 he was called up to regular duty when his tank company was made part of the regular army under the name of Company A, 192 Tank Battalion, subsequently known as the Janesville 99. The 192nd Tank Battalion was sent to the Philippines, arriving at Clark Field on Thanksgiving Day, 1941.

On December 8th 1941 Clark Field was attacked by the Japanese. The Army Air Corps was completely destroyed, and the assault was followed up by an amphibious attack. Corporal Leo H. Dorsey and the 192nd Tank Battalion retreated onto the Bataan peninsula and spent the next three months, without food or supplies, trying desperately to slow the invasion of the Philippines by a vastly superior and better equipped Japanese Army.

They fought the Japanese, they fought disease, they fought starvation, and when they were finally compelled to surrender, they were treated to a little overland excursion to Camp O’Donnell that has gone down in history as “The Bataan Death March.” To this day, no one knows precisely how many men died on that march.

Bataan Death March

 

At Camp O’Donnell, Corporal Leo Dorsey became so ill through disease and malnutrition that his weight dropped to ninety pounds. His life was saved by Lieutenant Leroy Scoville and an unidentified member of A Company who would surreptitiously hold Cpl. Dorsey up and help him to walk so that the Japanese would be fooled into thinking he was healthy enough to work. Like so many others, Lt. Leroy Scoville did not survive the war.

From Camp O’Donnell, Cpl. Leo Dorsey was sent to first one prison camp and then another before being shipped to Japan on one of the aptly named “Hell Ships,” where men were packed in so tightly they could not even sit down. Suffering from a wide range of diseases, including dysentery, the men were compelled to defecate on themselves and their fellow soldiers. Many did not survive the trip.

In Japan, the soldiers were forced into slave labor for various Japanese industries, loading and unloading ships, and building a dry-dock. Things came to a head when the POWs refused to handle munitions and other military supplies; they simply refused to touch any of the war materials for the Japanese. They were beaten severely and repeatedly, but they endured and eventually the Japanese gave up and assigned them to other tasks.

Then the American POWs began a lengthy program of sabotage, slowing their work down to the barest possible minimum. They were beaten, but they endured and they persevered.

They deliberately mixed the concrete too thin, so that the walls of the dry-dock collapsed. They were beaten. They endured.

After four years of captivity, slave labor, torture, abuse, starvation, degradation, Cpl. Leo Dorsey and the other American POWs were finally liberated. Only one third of the Janesville 99 lived to return home, and they returned bearing the scars, physical and psychological, they would take to their graves, but they went to work, they raised families, they lived their lives as they had served their country, with honor and dignity and courage.

Cpl. Leo Dorsey may have woken his children in the night with his screams, but he raised nine fine young men and women; I was at Chris’s wedding, so I can attest that they are fine young men and women.

And now the New York Times feels it would be unnecessarily hard on Bowe Bergdahl to face charges, and that it would “make it harder on him to rebuild his life as a civilian.”

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Comprehending the Incomprehensible

March 28th, 2015 6 Comments

Dante's Inferno Charon

 

Every newspaper and television news station is trying to make sense of the deliberate crashing of the Germanwings flight in the French Alps. Over and over I hear people ask why and how, interview pundits about depression, about mental illness, the legal responsibility of mental health providers, the possibility of predicting the actions of those being treated for this or that. Other pundits are interviewed about what Lufthansa (owner of Germanwings) could have, should have done to anticipate this, to prevent that: doors that can be broken down if you have the secret decoder ring; smart locks that don’t exist that could be opened only by special devices that also don’t exist. Lawyers are interviewed about what new laws and rules and regulations can be passed to prevent such a horror from ever happening again.

As if such a thing could be anticipated or legislated out of the realm of possibility.

I see the same reactions over and over again every time some narcissistic lunatic shoots a bunch of people, only then blame is always assigned to the firearm, which makes about as much sense as assigning blame to the airplane in this tragedy.

No one can do anything to prevent such horrors, nor can we understand them. The closest we can come to comprehending evil like that can be found in Dante’s The Divine Comedy. In the eighth canto of the first canticle (Inferno) Dante and Virgil are in the fifth circle of hell, which is devoted to anger. They approach the capital of hell where the rebellious angels refuse to open the gates to them. The poet John Ciardi, in his introduction to the eighth canto, describes the rebellious angels as “creatures of ultimate evil,” and goes on to say, “Even Virgil is powerless against them, for human reason by itself cannot cope with the essence of evil. Only Divine aid can bring hope.”

I believe that’s as close as we will ever come to understanding such tragedies.

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An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton

March 27th, 2015 11 Comments

 

Hillary Clinton

 

March 27, 2015

Dear Ms. Clinton,

I was intrigued to read about the list of words your volunteers consider to be “coded sexism.” The words, as I’m sure you know, are “calculating,” “polarizing,” “disingenuous,” “insincere,” “ambitious,” “inevitable,” “entitled,” “over confident,” “secretive,” “will do anything to win,” “represents the past,” and “out of touch.”

Leaving aside that some of these are actually phrases, not words (though perhaps such nit-picking represents the past, something from our long-ago college days, back when proper English usage was still considered important; today, of course, what difference, at this point, does it make?) I find it both calculating and insincere of you and your volunteers to assume such words or phrases should inevitably apply exclusively to you. It is perhaps out of touch with reality to assume such common words and phrases cannot equally be used to describe other ambitious and polarizing candidates. After all, is it not inevitable that all over-confident politicians who feel entitled to the presidency and who will do anything to win, will be described the same way, with the same words? Even if you secretly believe you are the inevitable next choice for president, it is disingenuous of you to presume these words are not part of the lingua franca applicable to everyone on Capitol Hill or Pennsylvania Avenue. Surely you are not so desperately willing to do anything to win as to pretend you have forgotten the calculated and polarizing effect of insincerely playing the “woman-as-victim” card. On the other hand, perhaps you have forgotten, because—not to indulge in too much coded sexism—in women, according to doctors, memory loss and foggy thinking are associated with post-menopausal hormonal imbalance and that can manifest itself in a variety of ways: forgetting where you parked the car; difficulty remembering to do routine tasks such as turning over all your emails as required by law; forgetting to sign the required documents upon leaving office; or forgetting that your foundation is not allowed to solicit money from foreign governments while you hold public office; all those silly little details.

On a lighter and more personal note, I do hope you are not feeling too enervated by your campaign. I’m actually slightly younger than you, even though we are both sexagenarians (closing in on becoming septuagenarians!) and I know I too would be a decrepit, geriatric wreck if I were unscrupulous enough to run for public office. After all, Hillary, we’re both senior citizens, hoary and wrinkled with our many years, and who can say whether or not we might both become incapacitated? And while we’re not quite in wheelchairs, yet, we are both grandparents, fighting off stroke and Alzheimer’s and the grave as best we can. Almost like dodging bullets at the airport in Bosnia back in the old days! I don’t know about you, but sometimes I look back at the long ago time when I was in my prime and I feel like such a doddery, enfeebled relic of an irrelevant era. It must be hard for you, in the dilapidated condition of our advancing years, to try and appear relevant once more. I admire your feisty spunk, little lady.

Sincerely,

Jameson Parker

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Politics Is Applesauce

March 18th, 2015 15 Comments

Hillary Clinton

 

“It’s a good thing we don’t get all the government we pay for.”

Will Rogers (1879-1935)

 

Have you been following the Hillary Clinton email (pick one) debacle, scandal, disgrace, tempest-in-a-tea-pot, much-ado-about-nothing?

How you choose to describe it has much to do with your political leanings and how you feel about the Clintons personally, but there is another aspect to the whole affair that makes it a paradigm of government in general, or perhaps makes the Clintons a sort of synecdoche for all elected officials.

In case you’ve been watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island, or just not following the news at all in any form, the issue has to do with the legality of conducting government business on personal electronic devices (that phrase is intended to include cell phones, smart phones, any and all kinds of computers, servers, anything and everything that might be used to convey information from—in this case—the Secretary of State and her office to any other entity, public or private, domestic or foreign) and also with the legality of turning over—or not turning over—all such communications to the federal government as required by law.

The story was originally broken by the New York Times, and since then far better and better trained minds than mine have debated this daily. Was it legal or illegal? Did she or did she not turn over the emails? Did she or did she not sign the document she was required to sign that certifies under penalty of perjury that she had turned over the documents? Is it more illegal if she did turn over the emails but did not sign the document, or is it worse not to have turned the emails over and to have signed the document? Is it more illegal to have conducted the people’s business on a private computer than to have conducted personal business on the people’s server (well, it may have been her server, but who paid for it)? What if she did neither? Or both? Or something else entirely? Knit one, purl two. The permutations are endless and—knowing the Clintons’ history—will probably never be fully disclosed.

It is distressing to think we will never learn the full truth about the Benghazi debacle and various other issues that occurred under Hillary Clinton’s watch at the Department of State (notably, as reported by Sharyl Attkisson, the six billion dollars that were unaccountably “lost” at the Department of State during her tenure, a loss that begs the question of how well we might expect a President Clinton to take care of the American people’s money), but none of it is as distressing as Hillary Clinton’s attitude about all this.

Let’s be very clear: in this case I am indeed using Hillary Clinton as a sort of synecdoche to represent every single one of our elected officials, so when I say her name, think of any congressman or senator you wish. Or all of them.

I watched the news conference where Mrs. Clinton answered questions about the missing emails, the private server, the documents signed or unsigned, as the case may be, and what struck me most—as a former actor used to picking up on the unspoken message behind the words, the facial expressions, the body language, the tone of voice, the whole package by which the body conveys what the mind is really thinking, regardless of what the mouth is saying—was her clear annoyance at being questioned.

Let’s make sure we understand this: here is a lady who is running (yes, she is running) for the highest office in the land, for the most powerful position in the world, for the responsibility of guiding America and the rest of the world through a period of unprecedented dangers, and she’s annoyed because the press sees fit to question her actions?

The truth is that all elected officials, by definition, have enormous egos: you don’t run for public office unless you are convinced your ideas and opinions are better than anyone else’s, that you can do a better job than anyone else, that you are better suited for the task at hand, more intelligent, more competent, than anyone else. And if you get elected (or appointed, as in the case of Secretary of State) that success confirms you in your own high opinion of yourself.

Once you are elected you are surrounded either by people who also believe in you and hence reinforce your positions and actions at every turn, or by people who are simply unscrupulously venal and will turn themselves into yes-men for their own enrichment, but in either case, you are not likely to encounter a lot of people who disagree with you or even question you. Except (when it suits their own purposes and political leanings) the fourth estate, the press, the putative conscience of our society. Some politicians are smart enough to be able to deal with uncomfortable questions without losing their temper or their cool, but Hillary does not appear to be one of those, and that is a direct result of her own sense of entitlement. She believes she deserves to be the leader of the free world, that she is better than, smarter than, more competent than, more—damn it all—deserving than you or I or any of the insignificant little people out there on whose lives she will have such an impact.

Do you doubt it? Here is a true story:

Back when my bride and I first moved up into the southern Sierras, I was filming a hunting show and had to travel constantly. Bad weather had delayed my various flights, and I made it back into Los Angeles airport for my final plane change at the last possible moment to catch the last flight of the night, a flight that would take me to Bakersfield, about an hour and a half drive from my home.

When I boarded the plane, I was the sole passenger, but instead of taking off, there was a delay, followed by the stewardess coming back and telling me they were holding the flight for The Honorable—————, then US Representative for California’s twenty-third district, the district that back in those days, before redistricting, encompassed a weird strip of this part of the state, but that included Bakersfield.

Okay. I sat and waited and in due course twelve men, clearly much stimulated by artificial means of the liquid variety, boarded the little plane with a lot of loud and boisterous jocundity.

That’s fine; I’ve been known to over train for the main event myself. But what shocked me into full alertness was the nature of their comments. The mercy of oblivion has set in over the years, and I have deleted most of it from the memory bank, but the general tone was one of contempt and disdain for the constituents they were on their way to visit, for the stupidity and ignorance of the people who had elected this man to office. The one comment I have not been able to delete was spoken by the Great Man himself, and it brought howls of laughter from his staff. He said: “I had to spend three weeks in Bakersfield one night.”

Don’t ever forget, America, that’s a pretty accurate reflection of what your elected officials think of you.

 

“Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else.”

Will Rogers (1879-1935)

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