EXAMINER PUBLICATIONS – AUGUST 6, 2008
By Rich Trzupek
We are reliably informed that a reader in Examinerland has threatened to circulate a petition, calling upon the powers that be to remove your humble correspondent from page eight – or rather from this publication altogether – swiftly and forthwith.
I really, really hope this is true.
Being the object of a petition drive, for a writer, is a milestone of sorts, is it not? It’s a right of passage, kind of like when Hollywood stars go into rehab.
I would truly be honored to sign this petition myself, if it indeed exists. I’m not sure if I would be the first columnist to campaign for his own removal, but it seems certain that it’s a pretty elite club. My blushing bride would undoubtedly be a willing signatory as well. Hell, she’d probably take the thing door to door, so that I’d have more time for the infinite list of honey dos.
Of course, knowing the disposition of our esteemed publisher, I’m sure that delivery of such a document to The Examiner’s World Headquarters will have the opposite effect. Let’s just say that he’s not a guy who abides stuff like this lightly, so the likely consequence is that he would duct tape me to my keyboard so that I could crank out even more satirical blather.
Perhaps I should rethink signing after all.
Anyway, you may wonder what straw of prose broke the back of this angry reader? The answer is a predictable one: my June 25 column about Abe Lincoln, “How to Judge the Man?” pushed her over the edge. ‘How dare he compare George W. Bush to Abraham Lincoln?’ she huffed.
The only problem is: I didn’t. George W. Bush is not mentioned anywhere in that particular column. Not once.
Now some of you are saying: “wait a cotton-pickin’ minute! Do you think we’re dopes? It doesn’t matter if you mentioned Bush by name or not. You were obviously trying to make us think that the 43rd President of the United States is as good as the 16th!”
To which I must reply: I did no such thing. I made one simple, undeniable point: that the sober judgment of history is very often quite different from the passionate judgment of the moment.
There are many historical examples of this phenomenon. Churchill was reviled in the 1930’s, virtually cosigned to Great Britain’s political dustbin, until a certain Austrian corporal proved that the great man had been right all along.
Similarly, I have revised my view of one William Jefferson Clinton with the passage of time. He was, to be sure, a moral slob and he bears responsibility (with a host of others) for not recognizing the threat that Al Qaeda posed, but his administration included a number of initiatives that were spot on. Welfare reform and our intervention in (and subsequent stabilization of) the Balkans are the ones that stand out in this columnist’s view.
Will we be comparing Dubya to Honest Abe fifty years hence? I seriously doubt it. But I also believe that the wild rhetoric of this President’s opponents will fade into background noise over the decades, and that history will be kinder to him than the New York Times’ editorial board.
We’re drifting off point here. It really doesn’t matter what sets somebody off. The fascinating thing, for me at least, is that there are people who clearly despise this column whom still continue to read it.
I would be the last one to complain about this phenomenon. Anyone, in any level of journalism, will tell you that it hardly matters if one’s readers are fans or enemies, so long as they’re readers.
But it’s also an unfamiliar phenomenon – or perhaps “mindset” is the right word – for your humble correspondent. For as good as a writer as he is, Jay Mariotti’s opinions are so repugnant to me that I simply can not stomach reading the guy anymore. I prefer to “shroud him”, placing him in the same “unseen – unheard – unloved” category of journalists that I place Mike Downey in, albeit for much different reasons. While I find Mariotti’s opinions ill-conceived and mean-spirited, his prose is unquestionably first rate. Downey’s opinions and prose, on the other hand, can both be placed in the same two trash heaps of journalism: pointless and dull.
There are some writers with whom I disagree, but whose words I still digest with relish. I could never agree with Christopher Hitchens’ defense of atheism and hatred of religion, yet it’s impossible not to be drawn in by his brilliant intellect. (An intellect which, by the by, also led him to the conclusion that the US ought to be in Iraq, much to the dismay of his fellow liberals). I digest Hitchens because I think it’s important to always challenge your beliefs, and there are few who can do so more adroitly than he.
Yet there are those who will chose to read The Cheap Seats and be infuriated. It’s very odd. Still, I’ll take every reader I can get.
Unless I can get a chance to sign that petition of course.