Half Past the Month

February 18, 2022

The Lost Art of Defenestration

SOME OF US are getting a handle on how the Legislature works: Somewhere in the continuous rounds of lunches and dinner parties, the leadership is told by the most activated lobbyists that a certain set of issues is to be given priority this session. All else must jockey for a place on crowded committee calendars.

OK, that’s the way political rooms have worked since the reign of the Tudors. What is new, what could be called post-politics politics, is that those promoting patently stupid ideas are not beheaded.

Everything must be taken seriously, and the daft ideas proceed along with the corrupt until the former ceases to endanger campaign funding or can be compromised into the democratic ether — or,  horrors, becomes obtuse, unworkable law.

An example from this session is a mercifully short-lived plan to at least figuratively put body cameras and, if possible, Vulcan mind probes, on public-school teachers. This was debated as if it were a sane reaction to sloppily taught American history. (What, exactly, do principals do these days?)

If we’re going to video anyone it should be the legislators themselves, members of what Will Rogers called a criminal class, one well below the skill set, the intelligence and the real-world acumen of any teacher in any classroom at any level. Ankle monitors would be useful.

Another example headed our way — from France, but not anytime soon we hope — is the idea that 13-year-olds should have the right to choose whether they want their mother’s or their father’s surname.

Defenestration would be appropriate in this case but all someone need say is, “It’s only fair.” That will launch a campaign. No legislator will dare stand athwart the Statehouse steps to respond, “Begone, you fools, and may God save your children.”

The columnist and culture critic, Theodore Dalyrmple, has thought through to the root of this insanity for us. Here is his conclusion:

“Preemptive appeasement seems to be the main stance of the political class faced by such pressure groups: Not believing in anything much itself, except in its own survival, it is prepared to defend nothing, resist nothing and fight for nothing.”

Defend nothing, resist nothing and fight for nothing — that is the motto of this governor, this House Speaker and this Senate President Pro Tem. It is their expertise. They call it leadership.

What a sad employment. — tcl


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