The Breakfast Table

Digging and Dignity


Are you there? Are you okay? I’ve been reading reports of the snowstorm in Chicago. A photo even made the cover of this morning’s El Diario–some poor guy with a shovel. As a native Chicagoan who recalls the Blizzard of the Century in 1967, and then that other Blizzard of the Century in 1979 (the one that lost Michael Bilandic the mayoral election, and imprisoned me in O’Hare airport for 14 hours), my heart goes out to you.

Moving on rapidly to impeachment, the New YorkTimes cites the objections of constitutional scholars to Lott and Daschle’s efforts to short-circuit a full trial: “They argue that the Senate should weigh the risk that a quick end to its proceedings would only serve to trivialize presidential impeachments and encourage the House in future exercises of outrage that lack the gravity impeachment should demand.” But if the objective is to ensure that the impeachment process is dignified, I agree with Cornell historian Joel Silbey, who points out: “… the prospect of Monica Lewinsky being asked physical questions–where is the dignity?”

Lessons in dignity surely can be learned from Jesse (The Body) Ventura, who gets sworn in today as governor of Minnesota. The New York Post reports that when asked about the content of his inaugural speech, he replied, “I don’t know what I’m going to say. I just hope I don’t cuss.”

All sarcasm aside, my award for the most dignified news subjects of the day goes to the prostitutes in the red light district of Calcutta, who have organized to demand that customers wear condoms. As reported in the Times, the prostitutes have raised condom use from 3 percent in 1992 to 90 percent in 1998; over that period, the HIV infection rate has held steady at 5 percent in their district compared to more than 50 percent among prostitutes in Bombay. Reports the Times, “Delegations of prostitutes, wearing distinctive green medical jackets over their saris, visit madams and tell them, ‘If you are to enjoy the fruits of the tree, you must keep the tree healthy.’” This story is the latest in an excellent series called “Dead Zones” which the Times has been running about AIDS around the world.

Here’s hoping you have sturdy triceps.