It’s What Politicians Deserve
The American political landscape these days is a depressing wasteland of hot air, dirty money and self-serving behavior. At the start of another election year, going onto Facebook makes me physically ill. How many more months of this vituperative bile must I endure before these people are through campaigning? Only, they’re NEVER done campaigning. They spend more time every day raising money than running this country, and it shows in our deficit, our infrastructure, our weakened currency and our numerous crippled government programs. How can anyone pick a side when both parties are walking-talking puppets of whoever funds them?
Starting a new year off fuming about things I cannot change – that probably WILL NOT change – isn’t going to help me. I decided to take charge of how I view politicians instead.
Charleston, South Carolina is one of the oldest cities in the United States. It’s also the place I call home. One can find numerous stories chronicling South Carolina politics here or here or here or here or here. (Warning: Following any of the links in the previous sentence will cause loss of hours to laughter.)
I’m going back a little further for my stab at humor that may help me in the here-and-now.
President George Washington visited our bustling city, one of the pivotal ones in the infant United States of America. The City Fathers, consumed with the symbolism of the event (some things never change), hired an artist to paint a portrait of Washington, one that would showcase the grandeur of the man against the impressive backdrop of our city skyline. It would stare down from the wall of a designated municipal structure for all time, reminding visitors that our city was lofty enough for the first President to darken its doors and haunt its taverns.
John Trumbull won the commission. He would paint Washington as victorious Revolutionary War general on a canvas that would be larger than life. Trumbull created this painting of Washington looming victorious in front of the city of Trenton, New Jersey.
Art is perception. When the City Fathers saw their finished painting, they decided they didn’t like it. While it captured the likeness of the man, it failed to communicate the stature of Charleston. They refused to pay Trumbull the balance owed on the painting but still expected to receive a work of art for the money already expended from the city’s coffers.
Trumbull obliged. He sent the City of Charleston this painting. It now hangs in the Council Chambers of Charleston City Hall.
Even casual consumers of art notice the, um, unusual position of Washington’s horse, rendered ghostly in the background. The horse’s raised leg and backside hover directly over Charleston City Hall. Closer examination of the portrait shows a tiny boat floating in the triangle of water between the horse’s back legs, a boat filled with the City Fathers who stiffed Trumbull and dissed his vision. They sit frozen, prepared to receive a cascade of “campaign contributions.”
And, that’s exactly where I’m going to imagine every politician today. In that boat. Under that raised leg. Unable to flee from the discharge to come.
It makes me laugh every time.