June 7, 2011

He Went All Parnell On Us

With the pathetic revelations about Anthony Weiner’s online hobbies, we have yet another political “hero” brought down by personal failings.  I am reminded of Joyce’s fixation with charismatic Irish nationalist Charles Stewart Parnell, and how Parnell’s personal failings set back the cause of Irish independence.
  He was for Ireland and Parnell and so was his father: and so was Dante too for one night at the band on the esplanade she had hit a gentlemen on the head with her umbrella because he had taken his hat off when the band played God Save the Queen at the end.
  Mr. Dedalus gave a snort of contempt.
  — Ah, John, he said.  It is true for them.  We are an unfortunate priestridden race and always were and always will be till the end of the chapter
  Uncle Charles shook his head, saying:
  — A bad business!  A bad business!
  Mr. Dedalus repeated:
  — A priestridden, Godforsaken race!
  He pointed to a portrait of his grandfather on the wall to his right.
  — Do you see that old chap up there, John? he said.  He was a good Irishman when there was no money in the job.  He was condemned to death as a whiteboy. But he had a saying about our clerical friends, that he would never let one of them put his two feet under his mahogany.
  Dante broke in angrily:
  — If we are a priestridden race then we ought to be proud of it!  They are the apple of God’s eye.  Touch them not, says Christ, for they are the apple of my eye.
  — And can we not love our country then? asked Mr. Casey.  Are we not to follow the man who was born to lead us?
  — A traitor to his country! replied Dante.  A traitor, an adulterer!  The priests were right to abandon him.  The priests were always the true friends of Ireland.
  — Were they, faith? said Mr. Casey.
  He threw his fist on the table and, frowning angrily, protruded one finger after another.
  — Didn’t the bishops of Ireland betray us in the time of the union when bishop Lanigan presented an address of loyalty to the Marquess Cornwallis?  Didn’t the bishops and the priests sell the aspirations of their country in 1829 in return for catholic emancipation?  Didn’t they denounce the fenian movement from the pulpit and in the confessionbox?  And didn’t they dishonour the ashes of Terrence Bellew MacManus?
  His face was glowing with anger and Stephen felt the glow rise to his own cheek as the spoken words thrilled him.  Mr. Dedalus uttered a guffaw of coarse scorn.
  — O, by God, he cried, I forgot little old Paul Cullen!  Another apple of God’s eye!
  Dante bent across the table and cried to Mr. Casey:
  — Right!  Right!  They were always right!  God and morality and religion come first! 
James JoycePortrait of the Artist as a Young Man
And so our leaders are done in by failings that have little if anything to do with their actual purpose in life.  It’s a far stretch from Parnell to Weiner, but it’s the same at its core.
I remember thinking how foolish it was for Irish Catholics to abandon Parnell just because of his affair with Kitty O’Shea.  And so, as annoying and pathetic as Weiner may be, there’s little point in turning our back on him … except, of course, besides little fits of pithiness toward his conservative colleagues, he hasn’t done anything worthy of support.  It’s not like he’s Dennis Kucinich or Bernie Sanders, after all … so it doesn’t really matter if we turn on him or not.
I am much more concerned with the “morally upright” politicians who destroy our nation (Mitch McConnell), and I reject demagogues for more than their “moral” failings (Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump).  In the end, I always considered John Edwards’s biggest failing not to be the fact that he fathered a child out of wedlock and lied about it; but rather, the fact that he concealed a secret that gave John McCain’s zombie ghost the chance to win an election that he would have no chance at winning otherwise.  Say it with me now: Sarah Palin, a heartbeat away!

[UPDATE:  This blog post (courtesy Suzy Bright's Facebook page) is hands down the best discussion of the Weiner scandal.  Please read it.]


comfortstarr said...

It's sad for New York though. First Spitzer, now this guy. Spitzer's bull-dog tenacity around the financial services industry is missed. Weiner, though as you say no Sanders nor Kucinich, is still on the right side of things by and large. It's just amazing how much he bungled this thing. Amazing. My take is similar to yours: if you get caught doing something that you've railed against or even legislated against, that's much worse than this. Had he not messed up the handling of it so bad (lied, pathetically tried to deflect), I'd say 100% he should not resign, nor be rebuked in any manner. Even with his horrific response to it, I still think he should be allowed to remain. I never gave too much of a shit about Bush II's alleged coke use or his alcoholism... whatever with that stuff right?

Sharripie said...

I like this post. These "scandals" are so tiring. At least Weiner's not trying to legislate his way into my pants, unlike so many of his Republican colleagues.

Bill Zink said...

Thanks for chiming in, Clark. I don't have a bead on Weinberg as Senator, and just because he's not a Kucinich or Sanders now, doesn't mean he won't be in the future.

And yeah, Spitzer was much more of a shame in my eyes. And like you, I never cared about W's personal failings either. My biggest problem is he was the smiley public face for Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, and whole pack of people that were real assholes.

So, Clark, does Weiner survive this? I can't tell.

Bill Zink said...

Reading back over this, there is a point that is not real clear: Joyce returns to Parnell again and again in his writing because the fall of Parnell is tragic in the traditional Greek sense of tragedy. The fall of Weiner is pathetic in the current American sense of the word; pathetic in how our culture takes the trivial and vulgar and celebrates it as something of significance.

Can we only stare at the vulgarity on the ground because looking skyward blinds us?

Oh, and I stayed up an extra hour last night after finding that Joyce citation just reading randomly through *Portrait* and *Dubliners*. Joyce has but one equal in the English language, and his name is Shakespeare. And, on five days out of the week, I think Joyce has no peers.

Bill Zink said...

Whoops! CONGRESSMAN Weiner. Sorry.

On a related note, John Yarmuth, pride of Kentucky 3, is as boring and swell as ever.