Oh, what a bunch of hypocrites we are! What whitened sepulchers! This evidently irrevocable character flaw was never more evident than on Wednesday lunchtime—the nation’s witching hour—when the branded bulls and heifers came out en-masse to register yet again their collective disgust and shock and horror at the latest non-issue. Only this time the wall-to-wall discombobulation had nothing to do with the spilled blood of Saint Lucian youth or tacitly endorsed child rapes or cultural wife battering or suspected extra-judiciary executions. Neither did it involve meticulous analyses of a prime minister’s education by dysfunctional illiterates.
On this occasion the thing that triggered the bovine stampede to Newsspin was the nation’s second most famous misspeaker, our proud answer to Inspector Jacques Closeau, Saint Lucia’s attorney general Lorenzo Francis, aka Doddy. Oh, but let me not make myself a soft target for those who make a living clutching at flies. As useless and corny and counterproductive as might be our guy at the AG’s office, a thing he is not. Unlike dogs and the fire hydrants they pee on, tables and chairs and such furnishings as are to be found only in urinals, Doddy possesses a soul—a sure giveaway (not counting his tendency to err) that he is as human as all other Saint Lucians great and small.
To be precise, then: what evidently angered so many on Wednesday was Doddy’s epiphanic revelation that politics on our rock of sages is no place for good boys—which is to say, no place for Robert Lewis, whose reputation as a gentleman and loyal agent of the almighty is widely endorsed even by those who would welcome the return tomorrow of Hurricane Tomas—provided it swept the Saint Lucia Labour Party to the bottom of the sea at Dauphin.
“How dare he say something like that?” demanded one suitably irate female caller on Wednesday. “You mean to say he is better suited for politics than Robert Lewis just because he is not a good boy? So politics is only for bad boys?”
The same woman thought it important to let Timothy Poleon know this was her very first call to Newsspin. Conceivably she had surrendered her radio-ginity to what she considered a worthy cause. Timothy clearly was unimpressed, for if he knows anything at all it’s the unmistakable sound of a Newsspin ho. So the woman switched tactics. She claimed she had two sons that she prayed would both grow up to be just like Robert Lewis PhD. At the end of her inspired delivery, the host, without the faintest inflection, thanked the “by-no-means-first-time caller” for her inspiring contribution to the day’s program.
There were several echoes of the woman’s sentiments, good enough reason for two male contributors to suggest they were all nothing but party hacks doing what party hacks do best. “And you’re not, of course,” said a bored Poleon to the second gentleman caller, his tongue doubtless firmly planted in his cheek. The next caller took his time delivering his plea that the attorney general not seek to justify his statement, since it was obviously a deliberate insult to the intelligence of this great nation that had produced not just one but two Nobel winners.
Alas, right after the ritual break for news of the weather Poleon made an announcement that must have shattered the last caller’s heart: “I have the attorney general on the line,” he said, “so we’ll hear from him directly.” And I thought: Wow! More proof Doddy still has not learned when to keep his trap shut! At the same time, I felt sorry for his party colleagues who might well pay the price for his untreated recurring foot-in-mouth affliction. Oh, but to my surprise he started out well, with his announcement that though they are election contenders (or soon will be) he considered Robert Lewis a friend. And friends never berate each other. Never!
If only Doddy knew to leave well enough alone. “Tim,” he went on in lecturer mode, “politics is not easy. It demands much personal sacrifice. You have to deal with all kinds of people. It’s no job for a good boy.” He stressed the last word. “I don’t know why everyone seems to be placing emphasis on good when in truth the operative word here is boy.”
Hmmmm, I mused. So Doddy had merely pointed out the obvious: politics is no home for the immature and half baked. Robert Lewis, well over 30, a husband, father, elected MP and college professor, with all his academic and other qualifications, was still only a good boy and not quite ready for prime-time. Saint Lucian politics demanded good men, not good boys. Obviously, whenever Doddy looked in his bathroom mirror he saw a good man with diamonds in his ear, if not on the sole of his shoes. Talk about adding insult to injury. I wondered how much deeper could Doddy dig the hole he was in and scramble out again.
“In any case,” he further informed Poleon, “I am not the one who called him a good boy. Everywhere I go throughout the constituency, when I ask about him the people always say: ‘Mr Lewis is a good boy, you know. He’s a good boy.’ I merely repeated what they said.” I wondered: Might he be holding something back? Does he have a punch line for this sick joke on himself? Might he say something the teeniest bit, er, redemptive? I thought about the million times Labour frontliners had spat on Stephenson King’s nice-guy image. “If being a nice guy is bad,” I imagined Doddy saying, “then why not a boy though his intentions may be good?”
No such luck. Instead, Doddy just kept right on digging. Soon he came to the all-important matter of evidence of work well done. Dangerous territory, I thought. His last House appearance was still fresh in the public mind.
“What has Dr Lewis established in the constituency?” he asked. “What has he done in five years?” Before Timothy could speak, Doddy answered his own question: “Nothing! The former parliamentary representative Desmond Brathwaite left his legacy.”
And I thought: Desmond Brathwaite? The same as had in the presence of their impressionable two little boys famously pushed (not kicked) his wife with his foot down a flight of stairs while brandishing a gun? That Desmond Brathwaite?
“But you’ll have to admit Lewis can do very little when his party is in opposition,” said the host, bending over backwards to avoid predictable red-eyed criticism.
“Well,” said Doddy, doubtless with his pants around his ankles, “you don’t have to be in office to do for the people. I have been able to do many things with the people’s help and with the assistance of friends in the private sector . . .” There was never a greater coudemain advocate. A merciful Poleon resisted the temptation to remind him
that he’d managed to make like Mother Theresa only since becoming attorney general.
By now the dirt had begun to come down upon Doddy’s head, threatening to bury him alive. I couldn’t bear to listen. I turned off my radio and switched my attention to my turkey-and-lettuce sandwich. Meanwhile the national hypocrisy occupied my mind. How many times had we all heard, as an explanation for the relative absence of women in local politics, that it is just too nasty, too dirty, too full of merde and maypwis? How many times had the irrefutable evidence been shoved in our faces that politicians are all low-lifes, blood-sucking vermin whose relationship with the poor and deprived is equal to that of the hungry wolf and the unprotected lamb? I venture to say, as many times as we’ve heard the countering inconvenient truth: politics isn’t by nature dirty, it’s dirty people who make politics nasty and disgusting. It’s the politicians who give politics a bad name. Oh, but to hear Poleon’s callers on Wednesday, politics is the proudest of professions, pristine and without sin, like . . . I almost said like the clergy—but we know better, don’t we? So, better to say as pure as Anna and Joachim’s daughter who gave birth to a son in 5 B.C. yet remained a virgin until her assumption into heaven some 30 years later.
At any rate, so Pope Pius X11 and his successors have taught us to believe. Further proof of (forgive me, father, if I have sinned) our susceptibility to the persistent soft-spoken word!
None of which is meant to justify the irreversible stupidity in Doddy’s latest statement for public consumption. I say latest because I can hardly remember a public comment by our bejeweled AG that was not only absolutely mindless but also counterproductive and unworthy of a man (not a boy!) who never misses an opportunity to remind his audience of his higher learning. When will these geniuses realize they represent education’s worst advertisement?
On the other hand, there is the facticity factor in the line that landed Doddy one more time in deep doo-doo. Politics is no place for good boys. Or, I might add, for good men and nice guys. Deny it at your own peril, pilgrim, but politics, as we know it in Saint Lucia (yes, yes, I know about Weiner, Clinton, Gingrich . . .), is indeed a dirty game dominated by liars, fork-tongued lawyers and otherwise unemployable gadabouts, whether or not in possession of university credentials. As they say, it is what it is. Doddy was more correct than he knows—or is prepared to admit for his own sake.
Politics stinks. It need not be so but it is so. Just listen to the election promises. To hear the candidates yet again, on condition they are elected (which is to say given another shot at the best trough in town) they will give to the especially delusional whatever their little hearts desire: tax breaks, jobs, higher wages, a crime-free environment, enabling labor laws . . . the gift list is long. The one thing they never talk about is who will pay for the freebies?
But then you can’t help wondering who might be the bigger contributors to the sorry mess, the purveyors of snake oil or those who would swallow whatever dee partee pours down their throats. Drunk on delusion, they would chew on their mama’s jugular for some cheap rum and thrice-friend chicken backs. Under their whitewashed outer layer, professional good guys are as much con artists as the regular breed. They have no difficulty whatsoever following leaders in whom they have no real faith, leaders they dare not challenge for fear they are cut loose to swim upstream.
Doddy, the nation’s habitually hebetudinous AG, may have once again inadvertently stepped into his own mess this week. But did he serendipitously bang the nail on the head when he suggested politics as we know it is no place for good people, whether boys, men or women, that it has become a haven for the bad and the ugly bent? How much more proof do we need of the corruptive influences of un-policed power? I suggest we forget about our obviously handicapped AG and concentrate instead on changing our nightmarish politics that too often entices good people only to turn them overnight into monsters: abusers of office, egregious maladministrators whose favorite pastime in and
out of parliament is pointing dirty-hand fingers at similarly stained opponents, with never a thought for the people. Or were they always devils in disguise lookin’ for a home?
Here now, some final words on the subject, by Pope Benedict XV1, no less, taken from his address on “moral truth” while on a visit to Nicosia, Cyprus, on June 5 last year.
Referring to politicians, the Pope said: “You as public servants know the importance of truth, integrity and respect in your relationships with others. Personal relationships are often the first steps toward building trust and in due course bonds of friendship between individuals, peoples and nations. This is an essential part of your role, both as politicians and diplomats. In countries with delicate political situations, such honest and open personal relationships can be the beginning of a much greater good for entire societies and peoples.
Let me encourage you to seize the opportunities afforded you, both personally and institutionally, to building these relationships and, in so doing, foster the greater good of the concert of nations and the true good of those whom you represent.”
As for the promotion of what he referred to as “moral truth,” the Pontiff suggested three ways by which to achieve it: “Acting responsibility on the basis of factual knowledge; deconstructing political ideologies which would supplant the truth; and basing positive law upon the ethical principles of natural law.”
As mindless as were his most recent public statements, including his desperate attempt at justifying them, Doddy spoke a recognizable if convenient truth, and if only unwittingly. Undeniably, at this particular time politics in Saint Lucia is as an open sewer especially attractive to Houseflies—whether or not disguised as good boys and nice guys!