The Breakfast Table

Politics as Fox Hunt

Cunning, ambitious, and good?

I would like to see that … anywhere. Actually, Oprah probably qualifies, but with what result? Eleanor Roosevelt didn’t seem cunning, but perhaps that was part of her brilliance.

I would like to see political candidates, of any party, who did not make me think that something had gone terribly awry with the electoral process and we were now more like a fox hunt (the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible–or in this case, the incompetent) than the crowning moment of a great democracy. I don’t mind clay feet (I worked for Bobby Kennedy, and he was the most mainstream of my candidates, and the coffee-making and the ass-grabbing and the late night rewrite of the incomprehensible coke-fueled rant were just standard), but how about at least ankles of greatness, or shins of intelligence and grace, knees of leadership?

Thomas Szasz (still alive, much to my amazement) should be the Mental Health Adviser for this election. No one else is so charitable on the subject of delusions and bizarre belief systems. (My favorite Szaszism: If someone says, “I am Jesus Christ,” why should we hospitalize him? Shouldn’t we congratulate him?) I also like his fine disdain for almost everyone else in the field. Not for him, the standing on the shoulders of giants blah blah and public back-scratching.

I’m back at work now: article deadlines, bills, a few more deadlines and bills. My father supported a family of four as a free-lance journalist; as far as I can tell, the rate of pay has actually dropped since the ‘60s–good people were getting a dollar a word then (I looked it up)–now they should be getting $5.20 a word to keep up with inflation. I haven’t seen much of that. My tennis partners (the older ones) are all people on fixed incomes in a small town that’s suddenly booming with some new money–not Gold Coast-type money–no mini-mansions, no in-ground pools–but houses are being built in every cow pasture (this was an all-farm town until twenty years ago) and my tennis pals are caught between the taxes for things they believe in (the school) and homes they can’t afford to keep. One of my friends, a retired midwife, says, about my making a living the way I do, and the way they all have, since we are all independent contractors of one kind or another, “Free-lance life is excellent practice for middle-class old age. Nerves of steel and lots of ingenuity.” The plumber and the private eye agreed. The plumber said, “And handle the bills yourself. It makes other people too nervous.” Words to live by; I’m putting it right next to my quote from Henry James.

xo Amy