August 8, 2021
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Crime And Punishment

The local Democratic City Committee convened a Disciplinary Committee, just for me! They tell me that they have devoted more than 100 hours this summer to compiling a dossier of my offenses.

If I apologize at once for my all my crimes, whatever they imagine them to be, and if I express contrition and remorse, and if I join them in the serenity prayer, they say they might possibly show mercy.

My offense, as far as I can learn, is that I have hurt people’s feelings. I also stand accused of being loud, argumentative, of raising my voice, of gesturing or gesticulating when I speak, of obstinacy, of using big words, and of being hard to understand. I am, they say, too inclined to believe myself right, too critical of officials and party officers when they are wrong, and I manipulate obscure details of law and procedure.

All this sounds hauntingly familiar. Loud, obstinate, argumentative? Gesturing and gesticulating and difficult to understand? Excessively concerned with ritual and law? Where have we all heard this before?

Hi, Fagan! I never thought my neighbors would look at me and see you! And good day to you, Mr. Shylock. Welcome to the new middle ages.

My great and terrible offense against the Democratic Party, it seems, is that I have sometimes engaged in policy discussions and political bargaining! Or, perhaps I have engaged in policy discussions while Jewish. Or, to be scrupulously fair, perhaps the objection is that, in the course of these political discussions, I’ve behaved Jewishly.

Of course, there is no rule against any of this. Those inconvenient rules concern things I have not done: endorsing Republicans, misusing stationery, committing actual felonies. (One might bring an interesting case that the Disciplinary Committee infringes the rule on misuse of Party resources, but even thinking that is probably a crime, right? )

Sure: I’m sometimes dramatic, often long-winded, occasionally cantankerous. (Look at this!) I am inclined to interrupt. I’m impatient with fools and contemptuous of frauds. I sometimes consider my opinion to be correct. No doubt my mother would be very sorry to hear how badly I turned out, but my mother died eighteen months ago. I cannot see that this is anyone else’s business.

Our government still holds captive children stolen from refugee parents. The West of our land is on fire. One of our two political parties is in a state of open insurrection. Police murder black citizens with impunity. A terrible plague has killed a half million and continues unabated. Yet the most important priority of the Democratic Party in a city of 60,000 as it approaches municipal elections is, apparently, me.

I wonder why?