Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Rhetorical Sumo

Well, everyone else seems to be blogging about the Alito hearings, so I guess I'll join the crowd.

When I was studying the martial arts in college, I remember hearing stories about quasi-mystical matches between swordsmasters, in which the two masters faced each other, unmoving, waiting for the other to move . . . it was supposedly a tribute to their mastery that they were so patient, even in the tension of the conflict, waiting for the perfect moment. I even heard that some matches ended without swords being drawn, their will and patience was so unperturbable.

I feel that way listening to the Alito hearings. Senators assume their rhetorical stance, hardly changing an iota (how many times did we hear the word "troubling" in the questions?) while Alito patiently answers the same question five consecutive times identically, without budging a millimeter from his original phrasing. It's almost a Monty Python argument ("Yes, it is. No it isn't. Yes it is. No it isn't"), but less heated.

You might think that the politicians, free to be as partisan as they wanna be, would have the upper hand in this contest. After all, it's a twelve-to-one randoori, and Alito has to go several days of the whole Senate judiciary committee tag-teaming him. But surprisingly, the judge seems to have and easier time of it. After all, judges are supposed to be annoyingly consistent in their reasoning and their opinions. We would think less of him if his stance changed under political pressure to have a more interesting-sounding answer. But politicians have the added burden of being interesting and likeable and sound-bitable, and though they too have super-human powers of staying-on-message, somehow they seem to be the ones who sound silly asking the same question five times, rather than Alito who gives the same answer five times.

Maybe it's more like Goju . . . Alito-sensei muscles into a tight stance, and Orrin hatch breaks a two-by-four across his back. Again. And again. And again . . .



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