I love Stephen King. I can’t read fast enough nor do I have enough time to have read everything he’s written, but I’ve made a large dent in his existing work. Much of it is deeply disturbing. One in particular really made me “itchy.” It’s called “Cell.”
Here’s a quick plot overview for those of you who are King-deprived or who have other tastes in writing. Ordinary people begin doing really weird stuff–like kindly old people slit each others throats and the like. The unlikely band of heroes thrown together by this madness figure out that every strange occurrence is preceded by a call on the person’s cell phone. The phone rings, a tone plays, and all hell breaks loose.
Recent blunders by people ordinarily too smart to make them have gotten me to thinking. Could it be cell phone messages?
I offer first up the esteemed Attorney General of the United States, a woman who came up through the law in New York where no one takes anything at face value and everyone is a cynic to one degree or another. Ms. Lynch, in the middle of an issues madhouse of police shootings and email investigations is sitting in her plane on the tarmac waiting for what I don’t know.
She is informed that another plane, parked nearby, has another person waiting for what I don’t know; nor does she. In the plane is the former President of the United States of America whose wife is running for president and just happens to be mired in an investigation by Lynch’s own department. So the man from Hope sends a message to the Attorney General that he hoped they might shoot the breeze, could he drop by for a chat. This is not a stupid woman. What makes her do such a stupid thing? A cell phone message?
Then we have the legendary Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice United States Supreme Court. Let us take this as a given. Anyone in the law with the kind of respect gained by Justice Ginsburg has dreamed about being on the Supreme Court. It’s like every kid with a basketball or a baseball glove is in his or her mind by 9 years old playing in the NBA finals or the world series. These kids know every stat, every move, every player, every player’s number and likely how many cats and dogs the player he/she idolizes has. So it is with lawyers and judges. Not only are you schooled on Supreme Court decisions, you know the court protocols, the court history, which justices make up which wing of a given court. And you dream of first arguing a case before the court and then hearing one from the other side of the bench.
Thus there isn’t a judge who hasn’t heard the term “political thicket.” It isn’t some odd analogy tossed off by a long-forgotten jurist. It was a phrase used as a formational warning by probably the most influential Chief Justice in American History, John Marshall. It was referred to twice by Justice Felix Frankfuter, another in black robes of superior renown, once in 1946 and again in 1963 opinions. In fact, the phase as a negative warning reverberates throughout Supreme Court legal history seemingly as many times as there are thorns on a bramble branch.
Remember how Br’er Rabbit always tries to get the Fox to chase him in the thicket of the briar patch? What that thicket does to the clothing and skin of those who run into it is exactly what the justices are warned will happen to them and their robes if they run into the thicket of politics. It is an early learned lesson–like “don’t touch the stove, it is hot and it will burn you.”
And then here comes this 80 something year old brainiac whose creaky knees probably prohibit her from running to the bathroom and what does she do? She runs right into the political thicket. And not once. Nor twice, but three times! How do you figure it? Cell phone message?
In “Cell” there comes a point where hundreds of thousands and then millions of people have gotten “the call.” So our next example, which will find me at least at the edge of the political thicket, comes from Florida and concerns a recent poll and Marco Rubio. It says that at the time of the poll, Rubio the “I hate being in the Senate candidate,””the why attend sessions, no one ever does anything” candidate, the “I can’t balance a check book and yes I used the credit card I shouldn’t have but paid the money back” candidate, has a double digit lead over his two rivals. One I understand, Alan Grayson. After the Orlando shooting, the Congressman must have gotten his own call because he stated that the weapon used, the AR-15 was capable of firing hundreds of rounds a minute. It isn’t and it can’t unless you can pull the trigger a hundred or more times in a minute. Patrick Murphy on the other hand isn’t quite as good looking as Rubio, but he’s a CPA, balances books for a living, and only uses credit cards linked to his own credit system.
Are Floridians being called on their cells?
Any finally Nice, France. Take a guy who has no known (and that’s important) terrorist connections. He rents? owns? is given? the largest type of commercial truck used in Europe. In the back and on the front seat are enough guns and grenades to run a small county fair gun show. He sits in the driver’s seat where he has by sight total command of the road. By virtue of his cat bird’s seat he is also a dead man driving. No way he is not going to be riddled with bullets at some point.
But he seems to be focused, a very task oriented fella this one. And without batting an eye he proceeds to play bowling with the pedestrians. The truck is the ball, the people are the pins. He swerves to the left to knock out a group here. “Oh look, some kids and families over there on the side walk. Let’s go for the strike not the spare.” “Damn that group split, maybe I can pick up this lone pin frozen in fear on the corner.” Until this bizarrely unfolding scenario is recognized for what it is, terrorism, this guy is sitting up in his cab calmly squashing people. His run ends in a blaze of gunfire glory. But until then he’s an automaton going about his business. It’s just that his business is this gruesome form of murder. Go figure.
Anyone hear the phone ring?
What’s the answer? Life imitates art?
Meanwhile I’ll be looking wistfully at my landline for a few days.