[This article is notable in that two of its elements—the “going postal” remark and the imaginary car crashes—were cited as evidence of my “violence” during that now-legendary meeting between me and the Chancellor (Dec. ’98). Do those elements suggest that I am violent? You be the judge.]
[From Dissent 10, 11/9/98]
THINGS JUST KEEP ON SUCKING by Big Bill
Among philosophers, there have been many who, upon beholding the world, have declared it to be pretty rotten. Surely they are correct. We want to believe that Good always prevails and that Evil never ultimately triumphs, but facts keep getting in the way.
This insight has led some philosophers to take refuge in religion, which provides a larger picture—including God, the judge, and an afterlife. In this grand scheme, ultimately, justice and goodness emerge triumphant, though not in this life.
Me—I’d rather just face up to the fact that, often, things suck. They suck, and they keep on sucking.
* * * * *
On the morning of the election, I drove down to Saddleback College to distribute the latest edition of the Dissent. I started my rounds, as usual, with the 3rd floor of the library, where eager readers of the ‘Vine and the Dissent can always be found. I said hello to some friends and acquaintances.
I also ran into Pam “Same Sex” Zanelli, a non-friend, who regarded me blankly. We exchanged curt “hellos,” the kind that mean “f*ck you.”
When I headed back to my car—a Toyota—I noticed a stunning new European sports car schussing about in the parking lot. “Serious bucks,” I thought. “Wow.” As the car came nearer, I realized that it was driven by none other than Mr. “PF,” one of the more odious members of the union’s Old Guard. (I could be wrong; I only saw him for a moment.) He seemed to smirk at me as he drove past.
Mr. PF is a member of the most conspicuously abominable group within the union: the “Scandalous Boys.” These are deeply troubled men who regularly get into serious trouble on the job. (Can you say, “flagrante delicto”?) Naturally, the union leadership are always there to bail them out.
On several occasions, this particular “Scandalous Boy” has left me messages in which, with a voice that quakes and leers, he hurls insult after insult in an apparent uncontrollable frenzy. (I think he may be choking himself somehow. It’s pretty disgusting.)
Here’s what he said during one of these performances, which was preserved as voice-mail:
Hey Roy. [Mr. PF], Saddleback College. Just thought I’d congratulate you for being demoted and heading back to the classroom, which is what you’re supposed to be doing anyway. Weren’t you hired as a faculty member instead of going around pointing fingers at people? Yeah, I remember a meeting that I was at where you were pointing fingers using the word “that’s immoral.” I guess that’s what you philosophers feel you can do. You can make moral adjudications about other people’s behavior. Meanwhile, that’s OK for you--that’s OK for you to join a group of people who, uh, try to make a claim that a board member is anti-Semitic, but when someone decides to use political free speech by sending out a brochure [namely, the homophobic “same sex” flier]--and I didn’t even agree with the brochure--that’s immoral because it’s homophobic.
--Oh, that’s right, the other word you use is “logic.” That’s very logical, isn’t it? [Mr. PF begins to have trouble breathing.] Isn’t it interesting how philosophers always have the time to make moral judgments about other people’s behavior when they don’t look in their own backyard? Oh, that’s right. That word “logic” comes up again. I just remembered: one of the reasons why you were on the other side is because you were a school chair and you were trying to protect your own backyard. [For the record: I began to criticize the union in November of ‘96, 6 months before becoming chair of my school—a job I had for less than two months.] That’s very logical. And then, when somebody stands up at another meeting and makes a racial slur [huh?], well, that’s very logical according to you. That’s what you said at the meeting. That was OK. That’s not immoral. That’s logical! Oh, I get it! [He breathes very heavily now.] Gee I’m learning about logic without even having to take your class!
Let’s move on. Uh, since I can’t find anybody on this campus to, a, stand up for what they believe in [Mr. P’s voice quavers uncontrollably], since you seem to be able to do that, uh, why don’t you make an agreement with me to meet in a public debate over all of these issues?
It’s been five years of HELL, and it’s come to an end. And, ya know the final logical thing? [In a low, conspiratorial voice:] Here’s what it is [Mr. PF breathes harder]: IT’S CALLED SCOREBOARD!
Good night now.
Wow. Anyway, it was, I think, this remarkable and theatrical fellow—Mr. PF—whom I saw driving the snazzy sports car.
“How perfect,” I thought. “A symbol of my union: a degenerate behind the wheel of a car that my yearly salary could barely pay for.”
* * * * *
Some friends had spoken of the possibility of an election party, but nothing ever materialized. But then, on this day, we heard that Pete Maddox had secured a room for the evening at the Holiday Inn on La Paz.
Most of us realized that Maddox and Galcher’s election chances were dicey, and so, not wishing to experience communal disappointment I suppose, some decided to monitor the election from the comfort of home. But I’d never been to this sort of party, and so, after going home and feeding my cats Buster and Sunny, I headed over to La Paz.
The room at the Inn was set up in the usual way for such functions: tables and chairs, food, busy busboys, clinking glasses, a blaring TV displaying the vacant face of Jerry Dunphy. (Evidently, we couldn’t get OCN.) When I arrived, there were only five or six others, but soon, some 40 and 50 people were in the room.
Later in the evening, someone said that, as you look around the room, you see the very best people of the district: people known for their integrity and decency. I could not help imagining the party for the other side: Mr. McClendon discoursing on democracy and unionism; Lee Walker in the corner, trying to think of the name of the Governor; Ken Woodward hissing and sneering and alerting others of his “Ph.D. in economics”; a bepolyestered Sherry bitching and moaning about her unparalleled labors at the Xerox machine; some of the “Scandalous Boys” leering and choking and turning red; Frogue and Mathur trading paranoid fantasies. In a room like that, no decent person could resist the urge to go postal.
At about 9:00, we got news about the absentee votes. It wasn’t good. Pete assured us, however, that Galcher and Maddox had made their presence known at the end of the campaign, and the absentee ballots reflect the situation near the beginning of the campaign, when Padberg and Wagner had been busy sending mailers. People were reassured.
I talked with lots of people while I nursed two over-priced beers. Eventually, I talked with Pete, who seemed hopeful but realistic about the situation. We agreed that the Maddox/Galcher team had put up a very good fight, and, if “we” lose, we will be able to hold our heads up high. I offered that you can’t really expect to compete against huge chunks of sewer money and the other side’s willingness to do whatever it takes to win, no matter how unseemly and unethical.
One thing our union leadership and Padberg/Wagner have in common, it seems, is a willingness to embrace the notion, long discredited among civilized folk, that the “end justifies the means.” I remember challenging Sherry to acknowledge this aspect of her “leadership” at a forum shortly after the notorious ’96 campaign. (January 10, 1997.) On that occasion, she said that the leadership had to resort to unsavory campaign tactics in order to “preserve life as we know it.”
“So,” I said, “you are saying that the end justifies the means.” “No,” she answered. “I am not saying that at all. I’m saying that we needed to take this action [using a homophobic flier] to protect life as we know it.” Oh. At the time, I got the distinct impression that the woman does not know what the phrase “end justifies the means” means.
And Padberg and Wagner? They were a part of a larger effort by the right-winged Education Alliance to place proponents of “traditional values” and “school choice” on school boards.
Isn’t honesty a traditional value? Well, yes, but it must take a back seat when victory for the righteous is at stake, apparently. There is, of course, no “tide of liberalism” sweeping through south county. And, as trustees, Padberg and Wagner will be able to do absolutely nothing to prevent the El Toro airport. Padberg and Wagner lied and deceived to get elected.
Pete went to the phone and talked with a reporter at the Registrar of Voters. By then, the party was at its liveliest, but I could see that he was getting bad news.
After a while, he walked up and turned down the TV. Everyone hushed. He explained that we had lost both races.
He became eloquent. He spoke of the friends he had made and the quality of the people with whom he had worked during the campaign. He expressed genuine regret that we hadn’t done better.
At one point, Pete, contradicting my philosophers, assured us that the bad guys only win in the short run; they always lose in the long run. This, of course, is false.
Still, we can hope. Who knows? Perhaps someday Mr. P, overcome by one of his bilious thoughts, might lose control of his fancy Beemer, jump a curb, and ram the damn thing up Frogue’s ass. Williams, Fortune, Lorch, Mathur, and their sleazy union allies will then attend their hero’s funeral, where, mysteriously, they will be dispatched by a lurid gas emenating from the Great Man’s gaping mouth. After the vapors clear, peace will break out throughout the district. Once again, things will be right.
* * * * *
The next morning, I happened to arrive at the parking lot outside A100 at IVC at the same time as three friends. After exchanging forlorn looks and discussing our miserable situation, three of us headed to the administration building to do some “victory laps.” As we walked, one friend told me of her husband’s habit of calling neighborhood children “rat bastards.” “Who’s at the door, honey?” “Oh, nobody. Just some o’ those rat bastards.”
Now, I may believe in animal rights, but I also believe in the power of language, and “rat bastards” is a great phrase. I was determined to use it ASAP.
As we did our victory laps inside, we noticed Bobbi Weiner, whose desk is just outside Raghu’s office. We walked over to her and talked. Just then, Raghu walked past—he was returning from a visit to the bathroom. He entered his lair. We decided to leave Bobbi to her work, but, on a whim, I told Bobbi that, before leaving, I wanted to say one thing. Thereupon, loudly, I said, “Rat Bastard!” Bobbi cringed. I assured her that I wasn’t talking about anyone in particular.
I went to my office. After a while, I got a nasty telephone call from some sneering, bleating lout—it was, I think, Mr. P! Three seconds into his harangue, I simply hung up on him.
I checked my email. Someone had sent me the following message:
SUBJECT: THANKS A MILLION!
DATE: Wed, 04 Nov 1998
South Orange County Commu-
nity College District
Roy, Thanks a million for all the help you gave us in wining [sic] the board elections. Without you and the Vine [sic], I beleive [sic] we would not have won. So thanks from the dark side of the campus.
Members of the Sherlockian Society will note that the author of this message is both an illiterate and a coward. This we may deduce from his numerous misspellings, his poor grammar, and the fact that, in order to avoid detection, he actually went all the way to the library to send his message.
He may be an illiterate and a coward, but he’s a winner. —BB