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W.E. Gutman: The fibs of a parish president

Posted: June 19, 2010 9:40 p.m.
Updated: June 20, 2010 4:30 a.m.

I dream a lot. My dreams define me. Many of my nocturnal escapades involve flight.

When I was a little boy I had a recurring dream. I was strolling in the middle of a tree-lined street. I extended my arms and took off like a bird. I felt elated, freed from the fears of an agitated childhood.

I keep revisiting the dream as often as I can. I now strap on a parachute before taking to the sky — a wise precaution as I occasionally develop engine trouble. Or is it flak?

Sometimes I jump up, each time higher, feeling ecstatic and proud of a feat that people on the ground find as startling and farfetched as some of my editorials. I take off and find myself near the portals of deep space where cries are never heard, tears are never seen and the human drama is all but a distant and nebulous conjecture.

I survey my home planet with a mixture of nostalgia, compassion and disquiet, suspended as I am at a point beyond time. I fear I can never make a safe descent from that astral height. So I lean forward, my arms swept back to reduce drag, my fingers arched in a camber of my own design and I become airborne again — a lone, tired gray eagle hitching a ride on an auspicious updraft.

My takeoffs are labored, the ascent shallow and sloppy. Gravity is harder to conquer, but I’m soon aloft. I’m now both winged night stalker and a spectator at my own air show.

Sometimes I dream I have the gift of ubiquity. I can replicate myself and be in several places at the same time — a useful skill that confounds my detractors, all of whom waste heavy ordnance on an ever-moving target. I can transport myself at will, basking on Grenada’s white sandy beaches, strolling the Champs Elysées, taking in a Broadway show, admiring a Velázquez, a Goya or a Bosch at the Prado Museum in Madrid — all at once. Here you see me, here you don’t.

Last night, after hearing La Fourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph’s scurrilous response to President Obama’s Oval Office address on NPR, I dreamed that I had the gift of temporal retrogression — in plain English, that I could turn back the clock.

Predictably, Randolph, a BP gofer, blamed Obama for the deadly explosion in the Gulf. She would have blamed him for every ill America faces had she been given the time. She accused him of hatching a sinister plot (the moratorium on deep-sea drilling) and of “sacrificing some Americans to achieve his agenda.” Using artful equivocation, she then flippantly charged the president with “telling the people of south Louisiana that they are not worth the effort.”

What effort?

Then, using an argument from ignorance — or was it selective amnesia — she called Obama’s message about safety on the rigs “disingenuous.” Her reasoning? “There was only one explosion on one rig. This is not an industry-wide problem. Rigs were inspected right after the mishap and now he wants more inspections?”

Then, turning to scabrous prevarication, she glibly asserted that “the industry is capable of policing itself.”

Now on a roll, accusing Obama of “killing an industry” and predicting that BP would not pay to fix “an issue created by the president,” Randolph put fear in the hearts of Americans by trivializing alternative energy sources and predicting — owing Obama’s dastardly schemes — that “they won’t be able to turn on their air-conditioners or drive their cars unless they pay $5 for a gallon of gas.”

Conceding that “Americans must kick their addiction to fossil fuels,” Randolph sneakily delivered a very low blow: “But do we have to sacrifice Americans to do that?”

The La Fourche Parish President, it is obvious, speaks from both sides of her mouth. As I drifted into the arms of Morpheus that night, I summoned my powers of ubiquity and promptly turned back the clock to that horrific explosion on the Deepwater Horizon in which 11 men perished and 17 were seriously injured precisely because “the industry” is incapable of policing itself and because money — damn human lives — is what the mega-corporations are after.

And from my perch high above the rig, I asked myself: Would Ms. Randolph have shot her mouth off, distorted facts and resorted to shameless lies on national radio had her husband, or son or brother been among the victims?

W. E. Gutman is a veteran journalist and author. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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