February 26, 2007

Now That's What I Call Public Service!

As hard as it may be to believe, I do get cranky with my coworkers from time to time. Sadly, the rules of polite office discourse limit my flexibility in responding to them as I'd like to, and since my boss nixed the idea of keeping a flamethrower under my desk, pretty much the only weapon I have at my disposal is the Death Glare.

Over the weekend, though, I was reading a fine book, One-Night Stands with American History, which is chock-full of amusing anecdotes about our nation's past. Two entries caught my eye, each having to do with public officials communicating with constituents. These two anecdotes have inspired me, and will henceforth serve as the basis of my communications with co-workers.

The first dates back to 1873, when a Colorado man named Alfred Packer ate five of his companions while trapped during a blizzard. This act was horrific in itself, but worse yet (in the eyes of some) all the victims were, coincidentally, Democrats. One of those disturbed by the partisan nature of the crime was the judge, M.B. Gerry. Judge Gerry delivered Packer's sentence thusly:

Stand up, you man-eating son-of-a-bitch, and receive your sentence! There were seven Democrats in Hinsdale County, but you, you voracious, man-eating son-of-a-bitch, you ate five of them. I sentence you to be hanged by the neck until you're dead, dead, dead, as a warning against reducing the Democratic population of this state.

It's hard to pick out a favorite part of this quote - it's a delightfully furious rage that would put Bob Knight to shame - but suggesting to someone that he or she "be hanged by the neck until you're dead, dead, dead" has a certain appeal.

The second anecdote dates from 1935, and was cited in John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage. This is a quote from California Congressman John Steven McGroarty, like Judge Gerry a Democrat, who responded to a letter from a constituent as follows:

One of the countless drawbacks of being in Congress is that I am compelled to receive impertinent letters from a jackass like you in which you say I promised to have the Sierra Madre mountains reforested and I have been in Congress two months and haven't done it. Will you please take two running jumps and go to hell.

Perhaps amazingly, McGroarty was re-elected to Congress the following year, though after two terms he decided he'd had enough and did not run for re-election in 1938.

Not infrequently, I feel the urge to tell someone to go to hell. I feel immensely better than, in the future, I can quote a U.S. Congressman when doing so.

Posted by Mediocre Fred at February 26, 2007 08:13 AM | TrackBack

I can just imagine an ancient Carter-appointed federal judge in Texas delivering a sentencing rant similar to Judge Gerry's against someone who'd killed several white Democrats.

Posted by: PG at February 26, 2007 12:28 PM

I am all for public representatives who intelligently curse on the record. For this reason, I am hereby nominating Michael F. Holt for the U.S. Senate from the great Commonwealth of Virginia. Holt in 2008!

Posted by: PapaShaft at February 26, 2007 05:38 PM
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