The sedulous flycatcher
There was a faction, after the Bush victory in November, that urged a more compassionate approach to heartland America, outreach on divisive social issues, and even the well tempered expression of faith, on appropriate occasions. LI says to hell with that. Ourselves, we believe that the liberal/left strategy should be one of the fiercest and most unmitigated contempt for the logrollers from the confederacy who are now straddling our necks and digging in their spurs. You will find, here and there, expressions of mild surprise that the rightwing set seems to want to expand the federal government in several ways, and seems headed, as an objective correlative of their real politics, for eight solid years of record deficits. The idea that conservatives once foolishly elevated to power would deny the human impulse to self-aggrandizement to which all conservative theology admiringly refers in the chaste pursuit of small government is, itself, a cause for some amazement: are the depths of human gullibility ever to be plumbed? When a man seeks to reform our vices by throwing himself into the profession of pimp, suspect the purity of grasping heart. And so it is with the chorus of neo-conmen in Congress, who sweat to think that somewhere in America, someone is having some pleasure that they haven't passed a law to suppress -- a fear that ranks with one that sometimes renders them flaccid in the arms of their mistresses, the mighty panic of having, somehow, somewhere, offended a business lobbying group.
LI has little to say about the Schiavo ordeal except that the eructation of Tom Delay on the American scene was diagnosed, in its essence, for all time by H.L. Mencken’s coverage of the Scopes Trial, and his obituary of William Jennings Bryan. From that obituary, we would like to lift a phrase that is even more apposite for a man who sprayed DDT for a living before he decided there had to be an easier way to make a buck and went to that Valhalla of chislers, egomaniacs, and penny ante geniuses, D.C. – the “seduluous flycatcher.” We rip it from perhaps the most marvelous passage ever to open an obituary:
“Has it been marked by historians that the late William Jennings Bryan’s last secular act on this earth was to catch flies? A curious detail, and not without its sardonic overtones. He was the most sedulous flycatcher in American history, and by long odds the most successful. His quarry, or course, was not Musca domestica but Homo neandertalensis.”
“One day it dawned on me that Bryan, after all, was an evangelical Christian only by sort of afterthought -- that his career in this world, and the glories thereof, had actually come to an end before he ever began whooping for Genesis. So I came to this conclusion: that what really moved him was a lust for revenge. The men of the cities had destroyed him and made a mock of him; now he would lead the yokels against them. Various facts clicked into the theory, and I hold it still. The hatred in the old man's burning eyes was not for the enemies of God; it was for the enemies of Bryan.
Thus he fought his last fight, eager only for blood. It quickly became frenzied and preposterous, and after that pathetic. All sense departed from him. He bit right and left, like a dog with rabies. He descended to demagogy so dreadful that his very associates blushed. His one yearning was to keep his yokels heated up -- to lead his forlorn mob against the foe.”