Famous people frequently visit the bookstore. I have already recounted my brief encounter with Mr Curry. I missed Robert Redford the other day, alas.
But yesterday I had quite a brush with fame. Or infame, if that’s a word. Our fearless Def Sec, Donald Rumsfeld, wandered into the store. His popular book was prominently displayed at the front counter, though I don’t know if he noticed. He certainly didn’t sign any copies.
I was grateful that it was time for my afternoon break, since I feared what I might say or do. Here is one imagined conversation…
Your Humble Author: My good sir, is it still the case that I am legally allowed to think and feel as I wish within the confines of my own mind and heart, without fear of prosecution?
Donald Rumsfeld: It is indeed so, for the present.
yr Hum Auth: I am most grateful, then, since you cannot pursue me in any court for what I am thinking and feeling at this very moment, sir. But another question. If I give voice to these thoughts and feelings, and they are expressed simply as statements of opinion and not calls to action or incitement, I can speak of my thoughts and feelings without fear of prosecution?
Donny Rumster: This is also, at least for the present time, so.
yHumA: Then can I say that I believe you to be a ghoulish and most damnèd villain; and can I say this to your face, and can I add that I sincerely and fervently wish some horrid form of wasting sickness upon you; and none of this would open me to litigious action on your part, causing me to spend the holidays at, say, your lovely resort in Guantanamo?
DeeRum: Regrettably, this is so. Your utterences are vile and in extremely poor taste, but “under the First Amendment, there is no such thing as a false idea,” so yours are merely offensive, disgusting, and unpatriotic. But they are not illegal, precisely because they are neither actionable nor (most regrettably) treasonous. For the moment. In the meantime, I wish to procure this book. And I will pay in cash, lest through the sinister machinations of the Patriot Act my purchase history is traced through my credit card and I am hauled before some secret court to answer for my thoughtcrimes.
YoHumbumA: So, there really are secret courts?
Da Rumble: No, no, of course not. We just send people to Room 101.
YA-HA-AH: I am relieved, since I would be saddened to think that the courts would be sullied with such sordid business. Better indeed to bypass the whole system and cut right to the heart of the matter. So, Mr Secretary. Can I ask you something else, about your boss, that’s long troubled me?
DaDoo-RumRum: No, I must be going. Thanks for the book and stimulating conversation. You are a credit to your demonic and America-hating kind.
But of course, no such converation took place. Instead I fled to the relative sanctuary of the coffeeshop next door and had my lunch, noting the very unhip-looking guys with little hearing aids trying to act casual out front in their North Face anoraks, and the white Suburban idling in the road.
I pondered if Rumsfeld has ever read Crime and Punishment.
When I returned from my break, the store was still abuzz, and some very unpatriotic and almost? treasonous utterances were heard, in, of course, hushed tones. One fellow came in to purchase a copy of Dan Brown’s stratospherically popular thriller, The Da Vinci Code. We informed him that a certain in-famous person had just bought a copy of that very tome only a few minutes before. The blood drained from his face. He told us he’d be right back, and rushed outside. When he returned, he had a stack of bright yellow bumper stickers for us:
It Takes A Village To Elect An Idiot
And then, right there in my head, I once again engaged in an imaginary conversation.
Your Humble Author: I find your bumper sticker very humourous, but not entirely accurate, and indeed somewhat annoying, for several reasons.
Bumper Sticker Guy: Yes, and how so?
YHA: I will tell you. This is a song in three parts. Part First: I did not elect this president. I understand this is a democratic republic, not a democracy, and my one vote does not go directly to the election of anyone. All I did was tip the scale in the state of which I was then a resident to impell the members of the electoral college to cast their votes for Al Gore. I exercised my right as a citizen to cast my vote, and am in no way to blame for the current occupant of the Oval Office. My village, in other words, had nothing to do with it. (Besides, given the chance, I’d vote for Jed Bartlet anyway.) Part Second: The people who voted otherwise are also not to blame. They are, of course, deeply misguided and deranged people who hold stunningly idiotic and delusional ideals that I find abhorent, cruel, wrongheaded, and suicidal – but they have every right to be this way. The current president better represented their caustic and destructive worldviews, and so they too exercised their constitutional right to vote. They too are blameless. Fair enough. Part Third: The village you speak of is comprised of two very specific populations. Five members of the US Supreme Court, and the nearly 100 million people who couldn’t drag their sickly pathetic asses to their polling places for twenty minutes on Election day. How many whining spineless curs are kvetching right now about all the horrific nightmares unfolding around the globe, finding plenty of time to watch, oh, eight hours of television each day, consume gallons of cheaply-flavoured sugar water and greasy mounds of fatty hydrogenated meals. They can manage to find their way to the drive-thru window – but can’t spare a half an hour out of their torpid, meaningless lives to vote? They mewl about the condition of their highways and the price of health care, but can’t be bothered to pull a lever, fill in an oval, punch a hole in a bit of paper? A pox on them, the unpatriotic, apathetic bloody deadweight around our neck. That’s your village, out there, with their bad teeth and their heart disease, and their moronic God Bless America bumper stickers. God better bless America, they say, since I’m not going to lift a finger around here except to throw things in landfills and eat and eat and eat and eat. That’s your village, and they didn’t vote for a damn thing. It takes a village to sink into the lethean waters of our corporate media, in bed with anyone who will pay them. It takes a village? Maybe, but this village is shitting where it eats and can’t muster the energy to care about a single fucking thing beyond its own ephemeral appetites. End of song.
BSG: So, uh, you don’t want this bumper sticker?
HA: Give me ten!
Again, no such conversation took place. Instead, we exchanged the Secret Liberal Handshake and cooed our wacky leftist platitudes to each other.
So that was my day.