Long before he got old and bitter and boring, author Kurt Vonnegut penned a brilliant little short story in 1961 that remains one of the most scathing portrayals of “progressive” thought ever written (probably much to his chagrin).
Harrison Bergeron begins:
The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anyone else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.
Vonnegut’s short story came to mind as I watched the Republican and Democratic conventions these past two weeks and listened to the speakers (Confession: I listened to the Democratic speakers as much as I could stand — but I was there for most of Clinton, Biden, and Obama) and even more so by the “analysis” of the network and cable pundits and “fact-checkers”. These people seem to have self-proclaimed themselves our official “Handicappers General.”
Because the numbers are so close, many feel that the election will go to the man who wins the debates. There will be three presidential debates and one vice-presidential debate.
The self-assigned role of our modern “Handicappers General” will be to promote their sorry and depressing men and get them re-elected by handicapping Romney and Ryan down to Obama and Biden’s level. So it will be equal.
In the short story, this is how it is done:
And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.
I imagined George to be us (the viewers) and the noise to be the voices of Chris Matthews or Stephanie Cutter or Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
In Vonnegut’s short story, genuinely attractive people are dealt with like this:
They were burdened with sash-weights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in.
Kind of like Romney is “burdened” with demonstrably false accusations of outsourcing jobs, not paying his taxes, killing the wives of his employees, purposely bankrupting profitable companies so he can sell of the pieces, his crazy cult religion…
And Paul Ryan, my hero? He will be in for the toughest handicapping of them all prior to his debate with Crazy Uncle Joe.
I imagine him metaphorically handicapped like Harrison Bergeron himself:
Nobody had ever borne heavier handicaps…Harrison looked like a walking junkyard. In the race of life, Harrison carried three hundred pounds. And to offset his good looks, the H-G men required that he wear at all times a red rubber ball for a nose, keep his eyebrows shaved off, and cover his even white teeth with black caps at snaggle-tooth random.
In the conclusion of the story, Harrison triumphantly manages to break out of his chains and weights on national television. That’s the good part. He’s then shotgunned to death by the Handicapper General. That’s the bad part.
I hope our story will have a better ending.
(Graphic from TheWarriorBard.com)