Saturday, October 19, 2013

Island of Misfit Politicians

Not too many years ago, I took a job in an rather dysfunctional office environment.  While there was nothing wrong with the office itself or the place in which it was located, one couldn't help but notice over time that there was something disturbing about this sanctuary of industry.  Try as I might however, I could put no finger on what about this isle of employment that was so unsettling.  No matter who was in charge of it (and that was an ever-changing array of characters) or which employees came or went; there were still far too many incidents of embarrassingly disconcerting behavior, annoying inter-personal conflict, and incomprehensible temper tantrums; episodes which occasionally even rose to the level of infectious mental meltdown.

One day as the Christmas season approached however, and while someone in the office discussed the week's prime time holiday TV schedule, a singular point of clarity shook me to my very foundations.  I suddenly found myself flashing back to the days of my youth and my introduction to a 1964 made-for-TV movie entitled "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer".  It wasn't the title character whose luminous snout lent this tawdry offering its title; nor even Hermey, a rather strange little elf who wanted to be a dentist that struck a disconcerting chord with me however.  It was instead "The Island of Misfit Toys", that was discovered by Rudolph and his gang of intrepid wanderers in their travels.

This island, for those of you who have somehow missed this quirky claymation classic, is a place full of wagons with square wheels, planes that can't fly, and even a 'Charlie-In-The-Box' (instead of a Jack).  In other words, it was an Island of mutant toys that even the X-men probably couldn't love.  It was also apparently, a place into which I had fit into rather handily for some time ... a fact that looking back on it now, I find strangely demoralizing. 

As I also now look back on the recent made-for-cable-news dramas of the 'partial shutdown' of non-essential federal employees that occurred because once again Congress ignored its fiduciary responsibilities in passing an annual budget; I cannot help but wonder at the comparison.  As I contemplate the 'imminent default' on a national debt that can only occur when these same 'Chicken Littles' threaten us with dire consequences by discussing a failure to pay the interest on debt that they incurred if not allowed to raise the credit limit on the national credit card; I cannot help but be struck by the overwhelming similarities between the cartoon misfit location and Washington DC.

Think about it.  Isn't there something slightly physically off-putting in the appearance of many of these public servants to start with?  Without commenting on the attractiveness of their politics, it's certainly not difficult to face the concept that neither Harry Reid nor Nancy Pelosi is likely to win the 'Sexiest Legislator Alive' in People magazine (even the forthcoming 'Extra-special Halloween Zombie Edition).  As for John Boehner and Mitch McConnell; they too capture the sometimes unattractive spirit of this costumed season by looking more like professional undertakers than senior statesmen.  As for the guy in the White House, one cannot help but notice the eerie (eary?) resemblance to a certain famous Disney character made famous in a 1941 animated feature (or the polka dot version depicted on the Island in Rudolph).

As for those from either side of the aisle whose physical appearance is slightly more appealing (if not downright photogenic), isn't there an unhealthy aroma of zealotry that instead often permeates the room around them, tainting their efforts with something that's more felt than seen?  It's so pervasive that one cannot help but wonder in many of these cases whether a 'Dorian Gray' style portrait might be tucked away in an upstairs room of their ancestral homes, and whose appearance now carries the sins and scars of their misfit nature (political and otherwise).

Even if taken at their most appealing however, all these political misfits are people who have sought a career in the exercise of power over their fellow man.  Regardless of the humility and altruism with which they may have entered the fray, or any misguided attempts to retain them; the modern day game of party politics requires participants a lifetime of self-serving and self-interest in order to lay claim to one's place on this island elitism.  And once having achieved a true misfit level of pompous legislative nobility, few have the strength of character to resign their positions of power until unavoidable senility of Island life, revelation of unforgivable public error, or a decision of overwhelming political disfavor to overtake them.

No, there's little doubt that over the years, Washington DC has become little more than a government incarnation of this imaginary place that in its reality should be called the 'Island of Misfit Politicians' (a term which is probably in fact redundant).  Far different from the sad place of unloved toys of Rudolph's adventure however, these misfits see themselves as well-loved indeed (or at least self-loved) and seek anything but freedom from their sordid island retreat.  Appearing to all but revel in their misfit status and nature, they do all they can to stake whatever greedy claim they can to even the meanest plot on its shores; and instead fight to the death to retain the power and privilege of their misfit island paradise. 

Unlike Rudolph's long ago adventure, I suspect perhaps that far it's too late to rescue any of these misguided misfits and see them off to good homes, should they even allow us the opportunity to do so.  So since we cannot rescue them, perhaps it's past time that we sought to rescue ourselves from them instead.  The continuous exhibition of their misfit nature is tainting even the land around them, and all but unfit to live in. (Where's the EPA when you need them?) 

Before we create the next Island of Misfit Politicians however, we should consider changing the rules to save them from their own misfit nature.  For their own good (and that of the nation), let's limit their time as misfits, their exposure to the toxicity of the Island, and return them to society in general; where with luck, there may yet be hope of them fulfilling a less misfit existence.


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