Sunday, May 21, 2000

The Most Simple Minded Thing Ever

A Southern Baptist minister, who otherwise shall remain nameless, recently confided to Classics Corner that G.W. Bush had secured his vote for President. While there was little in this particular circumstance to shock and surprise, the minister’s reasons were, nonetheless, oddly compelling.

“The last time I voted for an honorable man,” he said, “was Jimmy Carter in 1976. Ever since, I’ve been in it purely for the entertainment value.”

And so, G.W.’s predictable stands on abortion, gay marriage, and gun control not withstanding, this Man o’ God will cast his puny little vote for the smirking idiot, simply because G.W. Bush is the bigger joke.

Here in Seattle, home of the worlds’ most boring City Council, we at Classics Corner have come around to his point of view: if our politicians can’t serve, they should at least amuse.

For example, why doesn’t anyone bother to come up with a good birth myth anymore?

Honestly, why should we vote for anyone who wasn’t fated to rule from Day One? Moses of Egypt, Jesus of Nazareth, Cyrus of Persia, all as infants had powerful people who wanted them dead. Can Jan Drago say that? Richard Conlin? Of course not. Nobody cared that they were born, and most of us still don’t.

Peter Steinbruek at least has political dynasty going for him, but he’s never gone the extra mile to claim divine favor. This, to our mind, shows a pathetic lack of chutzpa.

Where is these people’s sense of political theater? We long to be entertained! It’s not too late for Paul Schell to grab a second term; he need only emulate Pisastratus, an early tyrant of Athens.

Pisastratus, who once seized power by more conventional means only to be overthrown, reinstated himself by convincing a tall and beautiful woman from the next city-state over to dress in armor and ride into town on a chariot as Athena herself. Heralds ran head, loudly proclaiming her endorsement of Pisastratus. The people loved it. Herodotus disgustedly calls this “the most simple-minded thing, in my judgement, that has ever been.”

Had we voted for entertainment value, Charlie Chong would be Mayor, and Paul Schell would be a happier man, but we as voters lacked the imagination. We were more comfortable with the staid elitism of Paul Schell than with Chong’s inarticulate populism.

Chong needed only to make himself believable as mayor. He could have learned from Egypt’s Amasis, who has appeared in this column before. As the story goes, Amasis, when summoned by the king, lifted himself from his horse, farted, and said “Take that to the king.” A populist gesture if ever there was.

Later, after Amasis had led the Egyptians in revolution, the people were having a tough time accepting the distinctly nonregal Amasis as their ruler. In a bit of political theater unlikely to be reproduced in our day, Amasis had his golden footbath melted into the image of a god, and set it in the square where people bowed before the idol.

“I am like this footbath” he said. This lowly implement, in which the people had once pissed, vomited and washed their feet, had been transformed into a thing to worship. And that was how, says Herodotus, Amasis “conciliated the Egyptians to the justice of their slavery to himself.”

Charlie Chong in 2001. It’s just crazy enough to work.

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