Friday, August 7, 2009

Mau-Mauing The Flak Catchers - 2009 edition

I have no idea what point I'm trying to make with this post. Here goes....
One of the best non-fiction essays ever is Tom Wolfe's "Mau-Mauing The Flak Catchers".
Someone worthy of sainthood has typed the entire thing onto the 'Net.
Every time I read or see videos of the Town Hall confrontations about the Insurance Destruction Program, I think of Mr. Wolfe's essay.

A brief excerpt:

This man comes out , and he has that sloppy Irish look like Ed McMahon on TV, only with a longer nose. In case you'd like the local viewpoint, whites really have the noses ... enormous, you might say ... a whole bag full ... long and pointed like carrots, goobered up like green peppers, hooked like a squash, hanging off the face like cucumbers ... This man has a nose that is just on the verge of hooing over, but it doesn't quite make it.
"Have a seat, gentlemen," he says, and he motions toward the wooden chairs.
But he doesn't have to open his mouth. All you have to do is look at him and you get the picture. The man's a lifer. He's stone civil service. He has it all down from the wheatcolor Hush Puppies to the wash'n'dry semi-tab-collar shortsleeves white shirt. Those wheatcolor Hush Puppies must be like some kind of fraternal garb among the civil-service employees, because they all wear them. They cost about $4.99, and the second time you move your toes, the seams split and the tops come away from the soles. But they all wear them. The man's shirt looks like he bought it at the August end-of-summer sale at the White Front. It is one of those shirts with pickets on both sides. Sticking out of the pockets and running across his chest he has a lineup of ball-point pens, felt nibs, lead pencils, wax markers, such as you wouldn't believe, Paper-mates, Pentels, Scriptos, Eberhard Faber Mongol 482's, Dri-Marks, Bic PM-29's, everything. They are lined up across his chest like campaign ribbons. He pulls up one of the wooden chairs and sits down on it. Onle he sits down on it backwards, straddling the seat and hooking his arms and his chin over the back of the chari, like the head foreman in the bunkhouse. It's like saying, "We don't stand on ceremony around here. This is a shirtsleeve operation."
"I'm sorry that Mr. Johnson isn't here today," he says, "but he's not in the city. He's back in Washington meeting some important project deadlines. He's very concerned, and he would want to meet with you people if he were here if he were here, but right now I know you'll understand that the most important thing he can do for you is to push these projects through in Washington."

The man keeps his arms and his head hung over the back of his chair, but he swings his hands up in the air from time to time to emphasize a point, first one hand and then the other. It looks like he's giving wig-wag signals to the typing pool. The way he hangs himself over the back of the chair--that keeps up the funky shirtsleeve-operation number. And throwing his hands around--that's dynamic ... It says, "We're hacking our way through the red tape just as fast as we can."

"Now I'm here to try to answer any questions I can," he says, "but you have to understand that I'm only speaking as an individual, and so naturally none of my comments are binding, but I'll answer any questions I can, and if I can't answer them, I'll do what I can to get the answers for you." And then it dawns on you, and you wonder why it took so long for you to realize it. This man is the flak catcher. His job is to catch the flak for the No. 1 man. He's like the professional mourners you can hire in Chinatown. They have certified wailers, professional mourners, in Chinatown, and when your loved one dies, you can hire the professional mourners to wail at the funeral and show what a great loss to the community the departed is. In the same way this lifer is ready to catch whatever flak you're sending up.
It doesn't matter what bureau they put him in.
It's all the same.
Poverty, Japanese imports, valley fever, tomato-crop parity, partial disability, home loans, second-probate accounting, the Interstate 90 detour change order, lockouts, secondary boycotts, G.I. alimony, the Pakistani quota, cinch mites, the Tularemic Loa loa, veterans' dental benefits, workmen's compensation, suspended excise rebates--whatver you're angry about, it doesn't matter he's there to catch the flak.
He's a lifer.

So if you're going out to a Town Hall meeting this weekend, be gentle.
There are polite, Christian ways to let the Flak Catchers know that everything they're advocating is batshit crazy.
Here's a video of the AARP's Flak Catchers getting hit with flak, shrapnel, and anti-aircraft fire at a meeting in Dallas a few days ago.
Warning: This gets ugly. Especially the spelling.

Don't bother telling me that most of these folks are already on Medicare and Medicaid, and wouldn't dream of parting with it. That way I won't bother telling you that both programs are out of money.


Jackie D said...

What an awesome display of power shown by the AARP speaker.

"I'm taking my microphone and going home."

The Whited Sepulchre said...

Yep. That's the problem with an open debate.

Is there even a remote chance that someone in the House or Senate will sit down and submit to an interview about this abortion with a journalist who is even a moderate skeptic?

I think not.