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A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dies Irae

Dies iræ! dies illa
Solvet sæclum in favilla:
Teste David cum Sibylla !


which means

Day of wrath! that day
Dissolves the world in ashes:
As foretold by David and the sibyl!


The wrath in question is that of the voters, and the sibyls are the pollsters.  Supposedly, these will be made manifest most everywhere save New York, Connecticut, and possibly California, as the voters replace one band of nitwits by another.  The winners will fall to their knees to pray that our short attention spans will make them safe in two years.  Our liberties are secured by inducing fear in the hearts of legislators.  No more safe seats! 



Well, maybe.  Every time Those Who Are Born to Rule are told, well, no, actually you're not, they imagine the world dissolving into ashes.  How one longs for the champions and opponents of yesteryear, when Lincoln could go against the Little Giant, or Teddy Roosevelt mud rassle with Taft and Wilson in a cage fight.  The current prexy is sometimes compared to FDR (who went against people the likes of Wilkie and Dewey), but it is not so:  Why Obama is No Roosevelt.
Roosevelt: 'Your government has unmistakable confidence in your ability to hear the worst without flinching and losing heart.'
Obama: We don't 'always think clearly when we're scared.'
 The description of FDR's "Map Speech" is instructive.
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Vote Early and Often

As they used to say in the Chicago Machine, one of the last remaining Big City Machines.  Both Parties used to have them.  Tammany Hall, the Hague Machine, and so on; but the Repubs were taken over by progressive goo-goos back in the 1890s and so, and they retired to their country clubs so they wouldn't get their hands dirty doing any actual, you know, politics.  (And yes, I have seen sausage made, too: at the Kutztown PA Dutch Fest.  It takes a lot of guts to make a sausage.) 
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Quantus tremor est futurus,
Quando iudex est venturus,
Cuncta stricte discussurus !


(How much tremor there will be,
When the judge is come,
Investigating everything strictly!)



Watch the close races, for they are likely to be Frankened.  This is the practice of re-counting and re-re-counting per omnia saecula saeculorum until the results come out right.  Sometimes entire missing ballot boxes are fortuitously discovered. 
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The Memsahib and I went to vote early on this morning, ca. 10:00 hrs.  At that point, the election judges told us, about 159 people had already voted.  "It's like a general election." 

The morning was cold, due to global warming, and the frost would have been on the pumpkin, saving only that most of the pumpkins had achieved their apotheosis a few days before.  We entered the polling place and the first judge (a young man.  I am immediately on my guard) says, "Still hot out there?"  And I say, "Sure is.  I think I'll work on my tan today."  This passes for High Humor, as anyone who has heard me can attest.  The next judge says, "Hi, Mike," and it is the lady who used to schedule the lectors at the parish.  I ask if my dad has been in, for you must get up early in them morning to beat my dad to the polls.  Surprisingly, he has not yet voted.  The third election judge looks up and says, "Is this Joe and Rita's boy?" 

Now, it has been a while since I was referred to simply as my parents' child.  But my cousin Mariellen once commented that when her mother used to introduce her to someone back in childhood days, she always assumed she was related to that person somehow.  It is not a very large city, as such things go; though more diverse than when the Heights were called German Hill and this part of it was called Schwar-town.  I am no longer related to everyone.  On the block where I live, only two other houses belong to cousins of mine, and one is what we used to call a cellar-door cousin.  But I digress. 
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Inter oves locum præsta,
Et ab hædis me sequestra,
Statuens in parte dextra.


(Grant me a place among the sheep,
and take me out from among the goats,
setting me in the right-hand parts.)


Margie and I then do our civic duty, which consists of closing our eyes, lying back, and thinking of America.  Wait, no.  We pressed buttons on a big computer-sort of screen.  Deep within the hardware, special software then converted those finger presses into....  who knows what?  Whatever some pimply-faced hacker in Seattle wanted them to translate into.  For all I know the voting machine was programmed by Joe Biden.  This would be good news, since he would be bound to screw it up.  (Oh yeah?  And what about Glenn Beck, hunh?  It is a measure of where we have come to that we automatically compare our elected officials to clowns and comics.  And that the comics look good in the comparison.  Minnesota almost elected a comic.  I count Al Franken as almost a comic.) 

One thing to keep in mind is that American liberals and conservatives are both liberal by the Auld Definitions.  In Europe, anyone espousing laissez faire capitalism is a "neo-liberal."  Sometimes differences appear very large when you are very close.  Reflexively, liberal liberals grow uneasy with socialist tendencies.  Being bossed around by the lord of the
manor is not what they had in mind.  And conservative liberals scowl a bit over rampant populism.  We ought not confuse the public will with the public whim any more than we ought confuse will and whim in general.  I have always wanted to register and proudly vote as... a Whig.  But they won't let me.  The Whigs were the only major party since party-formation not to give themselves a self-flattering name.
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Mors stupebit, et natura,
Cum resurget creatura,
Iudicanti responsura.


(Death will marvel, and will nature,
With the creature resurges,
Responding to the Judgement.)


In any case.  The buttons pressed, the curtain parts, and I step forth to find it is... Morning in America.  And has been locally for about ten hours, but what the heck.  The line of eager voters is now reached the door.  Banging and pounding.  Impatient voters demanding entry?  No, just slaters working on the roof.  "All year long," grouses one man about the community center, "you can't get them to show up; but today, they're all over the roof." 
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As I exit, an incoming voter is attired in pinstripe suit with an American flag tie.  Now there is someone who knows how to dude up. 

On the way in to vote, an exiting voter had spoken to the vacant air.  "Only one way to vote today," she said.  "Straight Democrat!"  I had forestalled myself from leaping upon her and pinning her to the ground in a citizen's arrest for politicking within the limits of the polling place.  But this would be a) unseemly b) unlikely to achieve any meaningful objective and c) almost impossible physically to effect, there being few creatures in the world who could not outrun me easily.  Still....

Politicking.  There were yard signs all along the path into the polling place.  The poll watchers, who were not watching the polls but handing out Literature, just in case we had shown up to vote without having decided for whom we were showing up to vote.  There is a jolly game they play when they are of more than one species.  When the other species leaves for a potty break, the first dutifully yanks all their signs out and lay them flat on the ground.  At least, I have seen this in the past, but not today. 

There are three of these poll watchers.  One points her finger at me.  "You're a Flynn!" 

Busted. 

I think... Do I owe this person money?  But no, it is a classmate of my middle brother and she has in some manner discerned the essential Flynnishness of my countenance.  So we chat for a few moments while folks enter the polling place unmolested by her.  Then I hear a disturbance. 

The first poll watcher had been wearing a cap with some military fooferaw on it.  Now I heard a voice say, "...not wear that when you're doing political work!  Your grandfather would be ashamed."  I glance over my shoulder.  An older man, also wearing a military style cap with the designation of (I think) a naval vessel is addressing the poll worker.  The older man walks with a cane and begins to hobble away.  The poll worker is not young by any means, and he says defensively, "I'm a vet, too, you know." 

I don't know for sure what the response is; but I know what it sounded like.  Without turning, the old man said almost as if to himself, "Wrong war." 

I do not know for which Party the younger vet was politicking or whether the old vet was objecting to the Party or to the politicking while wearing military identifiers.  I was not actively listening but talking to my brother's friend.  I offer it as a simple, and in its way, sad vignette. 
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I rejoined the wife in the car and we drove off into the chill autumn morn, the Republic once more safe, more or less. 

Lacrimosa dies illa,
qua resurget ex favilla
iudicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus.

1 comment:

  1. While I can't stand it when young folks say "I'm a vet," the only response I have to the 'wrong war' guy is unfit for polite company. Kind of like him.

    That kind of BS is what my uncles and father faced coming back from being drafted-- applying it to folks who volunteered to risk life and limb for folks they don't even know is bullshit.

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