Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Today, I cringed...

First, a preface...
I am a Republican.
Specifically, I am a Reagan Republican.
I am Scrooge-like in my frugality on matters of fiscal responsibility. I consider the likes of Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun to be spineless in their hemming and hawing on matters of national security.
Yet, if the social matters concern something other than the killing of unborn babies, I am quite moderate and even somewhat liberal. Yes, it may surprise some to hear that there are Republicans who rest unsettled at night when thinking of hungry children and criminally under treated AIDS/HIV in Africa.
Still, I am a Republican... as well as a massive nerd. As such, I thoroughly enjoyed watching every televised minute of the confirmation hearings of now Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito.
The entertainment I gleaned from these hearings was not borne only out of observing the cognitive brilliance of the two jurists. No, no... I am also slightly red in the neck. So much of my delight was generated by the wit and witticisms of the Republican Senator from Alabama, Jeff Sessions.
This is Senator Jeff Sessions...
His genial and engaging style brought a smile to my face. His colloquialisms referencing matters of great importance made me think, "Yes... yes... I am happy the majority of people who voted in Alabama voted for Jeff."
Today, Senator Sessions did not make me smile. He did not make my head nod in affirmation. Rather, Senator Sessions made my butt cheeks flex involuntarily and scoot across the surface of my office chair with embarrassment... not unlike a family dog relieving the irritation of worms on the living room floor.
What caused the anguish you ask? The answer is Senator Sessions' May 17th press release in which he hailed the passage of his border fence provision with the following:
I appreciate an ability in leaders to articulate matters of importance to the proletariat. This was one of, if not the, only redeeming characteristics of President Bill Clinton. It was, in fact, a characteristic that I admired greatly.
(An admission that makes me feel as though I need to reenact the "Finkle-is-Einhorn/Einhorn-is-Finkle" shower scene from Ace Venture: Pet Detective).
Conversely, I do not appreciate the complete and total perversion and mutilation of deep thought into a mongrel snippet of ignorance targeting the lowest common denominator.
You see, while red-necked, I am not completely without education. Naturally, the acquisition of that education brought me into contact with some folks who knew how to think and knew how to write about what they think. One of these folks was a man named Robert Frost.
This is Robert Frost...
This is one of his writings...
(summary provided below... but I suggest you read it... it's greatness)
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors?
Isn't it where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."
In case you didn't read all that, a stone wall separates the speaker's property from his neighbor's... a division that consists of an apple orchard on one side and pine trees on another. The writer, therefore, sees no need for the wall. Even so, he contacts his neighbor and aids in the wall's rebuilding when freezing, thawing, hunters and "elves" cause the wall to crumble. Periodically, the speaker says "Why the crap are we doing this? There is no need for this. Mother Nature is basically telling us every year 'hey, you don't need this' and tears it down for us." To which his neighbor simply replies with the stubbornly obtuse "Good fences make good neighbors."
Frost uses the refrain "Good fences make good neighbors" as a means of portraying the fence builder (the speaker of the refrain) as close minded, ignorant and lost in an outdated thought process due to his inability to consider the reality of the circumstances.
Senator Sessions displays what seems to be incredible contextual ignorance in using this phrase. Sure there's an argument to be made that the writer in Mending Wall was not a total anarchist and alluded to circumstances in which walls would be necessary i.e. when there are cows roaming around.
These are illegal immigrants...
These are cows...
It could very reasonably be argued that illegal immigrants are Frost's not-so-absent "cows" of today's predicament. As such, you could say that we need a wall.
However, Frost took this adage and, with the use of irony, gave to it the connotation of alienation and small mindedness... something of which Senator Sessions, or at the very least, his press secretary should have been aware.
Was Senator Sessions simply ignorant of the phrase's literary connotation? Is he simply saying we need a wall? Perhaps not... perhaps his amiable style was perfectly suited for directing this phrase towards an audience unfamiliar with its connotation.
This is a tactic politicians have long used. Speech writers in every office search high and low for the perfect 8 word phrase... the applause line... the "fortune cookie candidacy"... never minding what the next 8 words will be. When waters are troubled, crack open the cookie and soothe the masses with sugary reassurance.
Similarly, an over arching political principle is that having the issue is more important than providing the solution... a tactic nicely coupled with that of the "fortune cookie".
Three hundred and seventy miles of fence will be of absolutely zero consequence in stemming the tide of illegal aliens. But, what building a fence will do is provide red meat for the Republican's conservative base and give the illusion that something is in the works... straddling the fence, if you will... between maintaining the issue and providing half measured solutions... both designed to maximize political gain.
I find that infuriating.
I'm incredibly torn on this issue. I do not for a single second believe a wall will keep somebody from an opportunity to feed their family... it sure as hell couldn't stop me...

This is my niece Sophia Elizabeth...
If Sophie was going to bed hungry at night and I could feed her by working in Guadalajara, the Federales would have to capture me and carry out a sentence of "Death-by-Donkey-Show" before I stopped high-steppin' it over a damned fence.

*Note: I was going to provide visual aid for "Donkey Show" but I would like to continue being employed by the government and I am fairly certain a Googling of the phrase "Donkey Show" on a government computer would put me in some kind of "database" along with "Lenny", the guy who bought a windowless passenger van last week...

At the same time, boundaries are the symptoms of organized societies. Unless you are an absolute anarchist and believe Mongolian or Scottish marauders have the right to do their will (i.e. raping your wives) then you probably, as did the Chinese and Romans, recognize the need for literal boundaries...

such as this...
and this...
Civilized societies since the time of Hammurabi have the added advantage of figurative boundaries. To wit, written rules. Laws are walls; justice is the process of wall-mending.

Perhaps a better, albeit figurative, wall could be built by a better Mexican economy... a less corrupt Mexican government... a f@&$ing Mexican "New Deal"... Sunset in Chihuahua's Copper Canyon is far more enchanting than any of our national parks... build a damn road and some hand rails.

Admittedly, I am frustrated. That frustration led to a tangent. That tangent took me from literature to politics and, in the process, wasted several minutes of your life that you will never get back. For that, dear readers, I am sorry... but I am nevertheless, frustrated.

I am frustrated by an American government who argue the issue ad nauseum and aphoristically appease the minuscule attention spans of the ignorant for political gain rather than present viable solutions.

I am frustrated by a Mexican government who expect water fountains to be installed in the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico rather than realizing their country is so pitifully abhorrent that its residents are risking death rather than staying there.
But mostly, I'm bored...