Monday, March 21, 2016

Pontius Priebus: A Parable

[Note: The following was inspired by a conversation Mary and I had about Palm Sunday. Please don't ask me to trace the course of this chat back through the many hairpins, doglegs, and cul-de-sacs to its point of origin, because I have learned over the past twenty years that that way lies madness. Thank you.]

So I've always figured that if you go into politics, you may not get what you deserve, but you deserve what you get, whether you're a Roman Senator or a hustling ward-heeler. But I do feel a modicum of sympathy for bureaucrats. Sure, they can also be social climbing careerists who get promoted above the maximum ceiling of their competence through seniority, patronage, or graft, but you could say the same thing about the private sector, and unlike your average Banker Bro, the world financial system is not likely to be crashed by the guy who runs the Motor Vehicle Department in American Samoa. (I tried to find out who that person actually was, but while there was a link to the MVD, the American Samoan government apparently didn't pay their Go Daddy bill, because it just opens a page that says "This Account has been suspended.  Contact your hosting provider for more information." But hey, I've had my utilities turned off a time or two, so rest assured that I'm not pointing fingers, American Samoa. I just don't think you should necessarily be in charge of the World Bank.)

Anyway, my point is that I empathize with the plight of Joe Bureaucrat, who has to do the unglamorous work of making a system designed by egomaniacs and idiots actually function on a day to day basis. Which brings me to Pontius Pilate.

Pilate was basically the First Century AD version of Michael Brown, the head of FEMA during George W. Bush's administration. Like Brown, whose previous experience was running the International Arabian Horse Association, Pilate was a member of the equestrian class, had powerful connections, and went largely unnoticed until a crisis hit and his professional shortcomings were suddenly exposed. (I have to give Pilate the advantage here, however, since Hurricane Katrina claimed over 1800 lives, while Jesus' plastic hassle with the Sanhedrin claimed only one. True, Brown didn't kill God, as a lot of Christians believed Pilate did, but in Pilate's defense, a lot of those Christians have historically preferred to blame the Jews anyway; and besides, that one death didn't even stick.)

So let's put ourselves in Pilate's place. He doesn't care about Jews squabbling over the finer points of their weird religion (it's only got one god, so what's there to fight about? It can't even provide decent dorm room bull session fodder, like "Who would win in a fight, Jupiter or Mars?"). He doesn't think Jesus is a criminal, let alone that he deserves the death penalty. But it's Passover, everybody's touchy, and the last thing Pilate needs is an uprising on his watch. So he pulls out his old Monopoly game and basically stacks the deck so that Christ will pull the Get Out of Jail Free Card.

[Note: for the purposes of this playlet, Pilate will be played by Claude Rains.]

PILATE: Happy Passover! I hope everyone is enjoying their big crackers and salty parsley, or whatever. As you know, it's our custom every year at this time to release one prisoner, chosen by you, the audience, and judged by this complicated brass applause meter from Antikythera. Now...

[PILATE gently steers JESUS forward]

PILATE: You can either have this small town rabbi who's got a great healthcare plan for the lepers, but with whom one or two of you might have the teensiest bit of doctrinal differences, or...

[Disdainfully nudges forward a filthy, glowering brute with the toe of his sandal]

PILATE: You can have this MURDERER...!

CROWD:  We'll take the murderer!

PILATE: What! Why?

CROWD: We like the cut of his jib!

[Pilate gives the crowd some patented Claude Rains side-eye]

PILATE: Jib? What jib? We're in the desert.

CROWD: We were misinformed!

Tough day at the office, right? And this is how I imagine things going for Reince Priebus ever since Donald Trump got into the race. Reince doesn't want to involve himself in the hairsplitting arguments between the candidates, let alone appear to arbitrate them, but he'd clearly prefer the mob come to a certain conclusion.

[Note: for the purposes of this playlet, Priebus will be played by Arnold Stang.]

PRIEBUS: Heyyyyy, Republican voters! Hope everyone's having a good primary season. Say, just a quick show of hands, no pressure, but would you fine folks prefer a tested conservative with executive experience...?

(REINCE jerks his head toward Jeb Bush and Scott Walker so hard he appears to be suffering from St. Vitus Dance)

PRIEBUS: Or a man whose spray tan is the color of an Orange Julius after a bum peed in it?

GOP PRIMARY VOTERS: We'll take the urine-infused beverage from a food court!

[REINCE hangs his head, goes off to check the trades to see if anyone is thinking of rebooting Top Cat.]

I know, times are hard, and frankly, I could use a job, but I don't think I could take this one. At least not with a straight face.


Debbi said...

Great post! I especially loved Claude Rains in the part of Pilate. Nice side-eye!

Would you believe when I first Pilate's name, I mentally pronounced it PI-LAH-TEE, as in Pilates?

I need to take a break! :)

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Punch Us Pilates, coming soon to WoC near you.

Dr.BDH said...

"We like the cut of his jib!"

Apparently the crowd thought he said his name was Pontius Pirate,\.

Meanwhile, being from the state whose citizens elected Scott Walker THREE TIMES (my New Year's resolution: use caps instead of swear words), I can shamefully recite this lame joke:

"What's dumber than 10% of Iowa Republicans?"
"All of Wisconsin!"

Jono said...

Arnold Stang as Reince Priebus just about made me fall out of my chair. It really works for me.