August 15, 2020

No News From Doodlebug Island…by William F Jordan


While Jeff Wimberly doesn’t actually live on Doodlebug Island, it is as if he did, inasmuch as he has represented us in the Arizona legislature for twenty-six years. In that time his good nature has been repeatedly tried, not so much by folks at home as by other members of the legislature with whom he serves. He was recently in to see me at the Doodlebug Publishing Company about an upcoming political ad.

“If there is any insipid, inane, quirky, or downright stupid legislative bill I haven’t already heard of, I’m fairly certain someone is working on it as we speak, and will submit it at the next session. I mean these people are in love with but three things: increased access to guns; restricting women’s right to choice; and passing Quixote-like legislation that is meant to offset Federal control. And, they don’t seem to mind that the impassioned speeches they deliver are little more than a repeat of the same speeches already delivered in some rambling fashion by up to a dozen others before them. Why, each one is given to a veritable Niagara of words, often the equivalent of the entire contents of Websters’ Collegiate Dictionary. Any more and it could be said of them they vie with the unabridged, while a few have exceeded the outer limits of the Oxford English Dictionary.

“We deliberate—if what we do could in any way rise to the level of the word—the same agenda each year, And there is an almost Trump-like disregard of consequences. Gun deaths are rising dramatically under the paper-thin logic that ‘guns don’t kill people; people kill people.’ Meanwhile, the number of children in state care is rising exponentially because health care involving contraception is denied mothers too poor to exercise choice. And, apparently Wall Street outrages aren’t sufficient to make us glad for federal intervention.”

“I’d say you’ve served your sentence,” I told him. “Why don’t you retire and come to work with me? People are tired of my editorial rants and rages. You could bring a new voice and a new depth to things. How about it?”

He thought about it for a time, his face mirroring the temptation he felt. But presently he gathered himself.

“Wouldn’t do, Bill. I know that I’m no Leonidis, and the battle I wage is no Thermopylae, but modern Xerxes-like equivalents are attacking, and someone has to stand in their way, It’s always been the pattern; barbarism and ignorance are destructive forces that feed on themselves and society. Neither can be countenanced. Ergo, I and a few others like me must maintain our commitment. Thank you for the offer, however!”

Now, I have enough of the reformer in me to know that further argument was useless. It would, in fact, deepen his resolve, so I didn’t pursue the matter. Looking over his shoulder, I could understand the grueling task he faced: single-issue legislators bent on undermining public education or wanting to give their faith the force of law; people who consider themselves possessed of a god-like knowledge regarding conception; attention seekers jockeying for handholds to more lucrative offices; relatively few with any real historical awareness or the simple desire to be of service.

When he left, I watched Jeff’s retreating figure, hunched against an early fall cold snap, and I was filled with admiration for the man. Who were his heroes, I wondered? Where did he gain the courage to continue to court reason in the face of the ignorance of which he spoke?

It was then I caught a reflected glimpse of myself in the darkened window of my office, and the rhetorical nature of my questions took on a personal note. What was it that drove men like Jeff and me to hurl ourselves into an unwinnable fray? More importantly, did we have a choice? It was at that moment I saw something else in that reflection, an overly serious, even smug look of superiority that evoked a self-conscious laugh. It was then I remembered the words carved om the tombstone of Rafael Sabatini by his wife Christine: “He was born with a gift of laughter and the sense that the world was mad.”

Ah, there was the nub of it. What sense could be made of a world bounded by madness?

What seemed infinitely worse, however, was that the effort that had to be made though it was akin to being a ‘Right-hand Man’ to a universe seemingly without any directionality whatever!

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