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About Forrest Gump and the Promise of Poetry
A sage named Cuomo once said that “Campaigns are poetry, but governance is prose.”
Once upon a time, a great people elected a leader who promised greatness. He had been editor of the Law Review for a Great Legal Institution. He had published a brilliant, touching autobiography. He campaigned with stirring promises at a time of economic turmoil. He courted all sectors of the polity, even saying pointedly – “If I can’t turn this economy around in three years, I won’t deserve reelection.”
He was, in many ways, the first of his kind. Little was done to penetrate the hagiographic fog surrounding his resume. Normally the editor of a major law review is a major legal mind, the kind who will be selected to serve as a supreme court justice’s law clerk or as tenured faculty in a first tier law school, or offered a partner track in a major law firm. There is always a trail of scholarly articles from these men and women, many of whom become respected jurists in their own right. There were no scholarly legal articles authored by the leader when he was at law school or later. The leader’s first nomination to the highest court in the land was a scholar, while the leader himself was secretly seen as the beneficiary of the practice of selective social/political promotion. Even as a lecturer at a second tier law school, he left no trail of distinguished legal scholarship.
Three years passed and the economy of the great country did not turn around. But the leader announced that he would seek reelection, and began aggressively raising money for the campaign.
Many members of the this leader’s party privately grumbled among themselves: “What have we done? This man is a political chameleon, a dangerous poseur, the very kind of faux intellectual that Eric Hoffer, that famous longshoreman philosopher, warned us about. Worse, his lack of practical experience and failed promise has just driven our party into a minority position for the first time in decades.”
In even deeper private, key members of his party whispered to each other: “We have hired a one eyed, one handed, untrained, judgment-deficient pilot, who is partying in the cockpit while the plane is losing altitude at an alarming rate. We can’t visibly seek to fire him because it will violate the ADA. So those of us who can afford the parachutes are to exit the plane, quietly, so as not to start a panic.”
“But what about the rest of us?” someone asked.
“This, too, will pass. Smile and pretend to be surprised at the hard landing.”
As it turned out, the great leader was not particularly intelligent. His worshipers had confused sonorous glibness with wit and wisdom.
But the wisdom of Forrest Gump holds that stupid is as stupid does.
Of course, this is just a parable.
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Jay B Gaskill is a California lawyer who served as the Alameda County Public defender before her left his “life of crime” to devote full time to writing. His profile is posted at www.jaygaskill.com/Profile.pdf .