Friday, June 13, 2008

Among the Albanians

I'm a radio star!

Okay, not quite -- but among the many adventures of my junket to Albany was a brief appearance on Post State Editor Fred Dicker's daily radio show, which he hosts every morning from his office on the third floor of the Capitol. I'd be remiss, I suppose, if I didn't at least confess to the existence of a recording -- and though I at least held my own, I can't say my appearance was all that impressive.

Some people, as they say, have the face for radio. I'm still working on it.

Had I had my wits about me, I might have observed that Albany is a city of paradoxes. The first is the state version of that old chestnut that everyone hates "Congress" but loves their own congressman. I really did enjoy most of the politicians I met -- with full knowledge that they wouldn't get many votes if they weren't good at leaving that impression. Their office also pleads their case: A people worthy of democracy must be capable of elevating at least some competent and honorable men and women to lead it.

Otherwise, "By their works you shall know them" -- though that's perhaps not as friendly a judgment. I recommend Fred's show for a taste of what all this actually looks like.

The other paradox is something akin to what G.K. Chesterton called the "entirely practical and prosaic statement" that "whoever will lose his life, the same shall save it" -- or perhaps to Merry the Hobbit's insight from Lord of the Rings: "The closer we are to danger, the farther we'll be from harm." In other words (Chesterton again) the paradox of courage.

Not that you see much courage up there, of course; it's rather that if you look with open eyes, you start to see with precision the otherwise obscure moments where courage, and justice, and temperance, and study are lacking -- and thus, the ennobling role the virtues can play in shaping politics, even where "three men in a room" is the law of the land.

And as far as inspiration goes, that sure beats another tired Obama stump speech. At least, once you learn how to breathe through the fumes.

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