12/22/2007 13:49

Fons stultitiae

"He must have drunk deeply from the fountain of dumbness," remarked my friend over a midafternoon meal. We were speaking, of course, about one member of the local City Council.

It is interesting to note that to be dumb once meant "to be unable to speak" but now it has come to mean "to speak or act far beyond one's actual ability".

Members of that Council, it should be explained, have recently gone to much trouble and some expense to place our fair city in the lists from which one may select appropriate objects for derision. Having learned that the Freedom_From_Religion_Foundation was daring to threaten a different city (some miles away) because it was willing to pay the electric bill for an illuminated nativity scene on public property -- having learned this, the elected officers of our City Council determined that our city, too, should be likewise threatened.

Being in the lists once meant "engaged in symbolic but still unsafe combat". This is precisely where the city will soon find itself. The term lists was used of the place of knightly combat. I suspect some deep longing to be banged on the head lies behind the current entrance into controversy.

It is not so much the lawsuit itself which matters. The city will surely lose the suit, if it comes to trial, since we had no regulations which would permit a display of a religious, political, social, or cultural nature to be carried up to the roof over the entranceway of our boxy City Hall.

What's more, when more than several religious, social, and satirical displays had been delivered to City Hall with the expectation of a similar accomodation, the City drank another draught and ordered all but the Council's President's display to be suppressed, thus providing all missing evidence needed by our putative plaintiffs to show egregious bias.

We the citizens will likely have to pay for the defense of this hopeless case (since the Council officers signify no glimmer of reasonability in the matter), but it is not so much the money wasted which matters. Besides, we have all drunk a bit from that same fountain of dumbness -- how else would these civic leaders have obtained their positions? -- and so we all deserve to share in some bit of the punishment.

It matters more that our City Council has decided to play the part scripted for them by their presumed adversaries. The Council's President, and the Vice President if I can trust reports from my usually reliable friend, have made public claims that they are intending to champion the freedoms of right-thinking Christians against the arguments of those godless atheists. (I don't recall whether the politicians made the redundancy quite so explicit.) The freedoms of left-thinking Christians, and especially those of straight-thinking Christians, have been entirely left aside.

But my point is that they are not doing what they say. What they are doing is handing publicity to an organization whose primary function is to seek publicity for their views. What they are doing is handing a public relations banquet to a foundation which feeds mainly on public relations.

That confusion of end results makes the City's official actions teleopathological (and well justifies publishing this comment on the website of the Wisconsin Institute of Teleopathy).