March 14th, 2010

From the Dept. Of Too Cute By Half

by Philip Baruth

What’s not to love about this? Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife, Ginny, an average self-proclaimed Conservative “patriot,” announced yesterday that she feels “called to the front lines” and so will launch her own Tea Party-themed non-profit lobbying group, to lobby and stuff.

In addition to the donations of individuals, the group will be fueled by precisely the sort of unlimited corporate contributions greenlighted by her husband in the now-infamous Citizens United ruling.

To which VDB says loudly and proudly: God Bless America.

You know, in the way your grandmother used to say it, when she dropped a hot casserole on the kitchen floor while trying to wrestle it out of the oven.

Oh, and for old time’s sake, here’s a little bit of satire we wrote years ago about Thomas and the Supremes. Even unearthed the audio, at the end of the piece. Enjoy.

Outward Bound With The Supremes

Like most everybody in this economy, I got a fourth job a while back to make ends meet — but it’s not like work, really, it’s like getting paid to go camping. I work for Outward Bound, and I lead these expeditions that are designed to build tolerance and team-work and problem-solving skills. We take kids from the city with no outdoor skills whatsoever and in a week they’re building rope bridges across perilous chasms, that kind of thing.

So last Thursday, I go out to Swanton to the rendezvous point to meet a four-day weekend group. All I know from my supervisor is that it’s nine people with real serious togetherness-issues. They don’t have time for the regular seven-day course, he tells me; they want me to jam them through the group work and the solo overnighter in half the time.

But as if that’s not bad enough, when I get to the rendezvous, I find out it’s a group of adults, not teenagers, and these nine adults are all wearing these long black robes that look like something out of the Salem witch trials.

Sure enough, the leader, this guy named Roberts, tells me that they’re all judges for some court in Washington, D.C., and they’ve decided to come to Vermont to try Outward Bound because they’re about to tear one another to pieces and they just don’t know what the heck else to do.

I figure, well, I’ve seen worse, and I ask him if they’ve read the Outward Bound manual, and Roberts kind of smiles and says that I can be pretty sure of that.

Then I ask if they plan on wearing their robes all weekend. And Roberts says yes, they do.

So I start the way I always start, with the Circle of Trust. I have the nine of them get behind me in a semi-circle, and I tell them I’m going to fall back into their hands and just trust that they’ll catch me.

But when I let myself fall, four of them immediately reach out and five of them immediately pull back and next thing I know I’m flat on my back in the dirt. The four who reached out start screaming, “Can’t you see he needed help?!” And the five who pulled back are screaming, “Nothing in the manual authorizes us to help!”

And that’s my first inkling that things are gonna get, you know, loopy this weekend.

These people can’t get together on anything. When we go skiff sailing, this little woman named Ruth uses my high-tech bilge-pump to spray water into this guy Clarence’s skiff, and Clarence is soaked and he’s yelling, “This is a high-tech drenching!”

And when it’s time to sack out, sure enough they divide up into two groups, but this woman Sandra Day keeps shuffling her sleeping bag from one group of four to the other, and then back again. Weird.

Finally, I get them to the last afternoon, when they start their solo overnighters. They have to find their own cave and spend the night contemplating their view of the world.

“Who’s first,” I ask, and this stocky little guy Scalia immediately grabs his pack and starts trudging toward the caves. Then before I can say anything, Clarence grabs his pack and starts following Scalia, and I have to remind him it’s a solo and that he has to find his own cave.

I’m not proud to admit it, but once I had them all farmed out to their nine separate caves, I split and drove back to Burlington. I’ve worked with a lot of dysfunctional types in my day, and I’ll work with a lot more, but there are just some separations between some people that no rope bridge in the world is ever going to be able to cross.

[This piece aired first on Vermont Public Radio. Audio of the commentary is available here.]