Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Ignorant or complicit?
There are so many ways to say it: between a rock and a hard place, between the devil and the deep blue sea or -- for you classics fans -- between Scylla and Charybdis, the dilemma Homer rolls out for his seafaring hero, Odysseus, in The Odyssey.
Scylla is the six-headed monster, "the yelping horror," in Robert Fagles' essential translation. "No one could look on her with any joy. She has twelve legs, all writhing, dangling down and six long swaying necks, a hideous head on each, each head barbed with a triple row of fangs."
Charybdis, the sucking whirlpool, gulping water down, vomiting it back up, is hardly better, "like a cauldron over a raging fire, all her churning depths would seethe and heave—exploding spray showering down ... she swallowed the sea-surge down her gaping maw the whole abyss lay bare and the rocks around her roared, terrible, deafening."
Steering clear of one means straying into the clutches of the other.
For embattled New Jersey governor Chris Christie, the choices are ignorance or complicity. Either he was in the dark as his top aides shut down the George Washington Bridge in a truly insane effort to create a days-long traffic jam to punish the mayor of Ft. Lee, New Jersey for the laughable offense of not endorsing Christie in the last election, plus the additional acts of political pay-back that have already begun dribbling out, with the promise of more to come.
Or he knew. And with it going on, not as a lapse, but a habit, he almost had to. Unless the notorious bully really was in the dark about the bullying go on in his name all around him.
Which is worse?
Had to decide. I suppose knowing is always worse, from a criminal point of view. But ignorance, the figleaf Christie tried to squeeze his bulky humiliation behind during his already infamous two-hour press conference, carries its own price. How can a guy who wants to be president of the United States shrug off that he was at the center of an idiotic carnival of dirty tricks involving his closest and longest-serving aides? "I was aware of it" gets him hounded from office, and "I was blind to it," kills off the political future that he obviously craves.
Those are the only two options, frying pan or fire. There isn't really a third.
Odysseus, by the way, opts for Scylla, figuring better to lose a few sailors than risk losing them all in the whirlpool. And he does, three crewmen plucked from his deck like little fish snagged by an angler. In the same way Christie, allowed his compromised underlings to be jerked off the political stage, one by one. Odysseus, his heart wrenched, continues on his voyage toward home. But no safe port for the governor of New Jersey, looking more and more a figure out of Greek tragedy himself. I'm betting that, reeling from Scylla, Chris Christie ends up blundering right into the swirling vortex of Charbydis.