Author’s Note: Observing the current controversy over the election of Mr. Giant Joint, it has become immediately apparent to me that a brief exit from my Winter Break oasis of literary isolation in the California hills is not only appropriate, but essential. Though my original plan had been to leave the topic for my first column of the second semester, it is important to strike while the iron is hot, or, to use a more apt metaphor, to inhale while the joint is still lit, so I will make one exception to my “no columns during breaks” rule and submit this.
This Christmas morning, fresh from a lovely and long sleep on West Coast time, I awoke to find a precious gift waiting under the tree – a first edition, signed copy of H.L. Mencken’s Notes on Democracy, a document which contains many exceedingly well-taken insights on the peculiar American political neurosis of which the title speaks. Mr. Mencken observes, for instance, that “Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage.”
Harsh though this statement is, I must admit to feeling a sort of ghoulish joy upon reading it, given the context of the election of a Mr. Giant Joint to the Wesleyan Student Assembly. Before proceeding with this column, however, let me take the time to congratulate Mr. Joint on his victory after so many soul-crushing defeats, and also to assure him that I bear him no ill will whatsoever for besting me in the 2010 Class Representative election of a few years ago. If one proposes to try to stand in the way of history, one must be prepared to get crushed occasionally (much as Alan Keyes did when he attempted to stop the juggernaut known as Barack Obama), and I am confident that trying to compete with Mr. Joint is one such case (not to mention I am sure that he will make for an infinitely wiser legislator than Mr. Obama).
However, it appears that, in a true example of politically motivated cruelty, many of my peers have begun trying to wrest Mr. Joint’s victory from him before he can properly enjoy it. They raise such superfluous objections as the idea that Mr. Joint is not a Wesleyan student (an utterly moot point, given that I suspect these same people voted for President Obama, who, as we all know from his speeches, professes to be a citizen of the world rather than the United States), and also that his election “degrades” the WSA. Ironically, I find myself in complete agreement with this latter charge (though perhaps not with its terminology), yet this is one reason why I think Mr. Joint’s seating is not only necessary, but that to do otherwise would constitute a severe miscarriage of justice.
Mr. Joint emphatically should be seated – not as a monument to the joyful success of Democracy, but as a living, breathing, smoking symbol of its inevitable teleological descent into mediocrity and apathetic, puerile childishness, at the dreadful point where civic engagement has become nothing but a postmodern practical joke. Not merely that, but his solemnly wafting presence in the halls of power should serve as a powerful reminder to the WSA itself of its own complete irrelevance, and the fire of his sizzling, contraband conviction should amply achieve the valuable task of puncturing the slowly swelling balloon of insular self-importance which pervades that institution.
Practiced readers of this column will have to forgive the cynicism of my old age, but the recent uselessness of the WSA over my four years here is a topic which has been scandalously ignored, to the detriment of Wesleyan students everywhere. If nothing else, Mr. Joint has done us all a service by bring it to the fore, and exposing these self-important elections for the sham that they are – every year, a portion of our parents’ hard-earned tuition money, or of our much pleaded for student loans, or in some cases of our own money gets poured into the WSA, with the express purpose of funding student activities, student government, and some variant thereof. The WSA is even given its own office within Usdan, as though it were an arm of the administration (which at times, it may as well be).
And what does the WSA do with its hallowed money and its specifically allocated office in Usdan, besides supply us with a convenient free photocopier, red-stamping Michael Roth’s rampage through our endowment, caving to insane protestors calling for the university to mortgage its future in the name of some nebulously defined abstraction known only by the saccharine name of “social responsibility” and allowing the smarmiest members of the exact same groups on-campus to bolster their resumes year after year? What they do is waste our money on pointless new committees, squander it by creating new “funds” with socially conscious names and then by asking us to approve them in costly elections ex post facto, violating the rules they write for themselves and then changing those after the fact, and generally allow a collection of shamelessly amateurish politicos to cut their pork barrel teeth squabbling over a pot of forcefully expropriated money! And let’s not forget telling us to respect organizations designed to trample all over every Western notion of due process with Orwellian “speech codes” and bizarre rulings!
Unfair? Perhaps, but harsh though my assessment may be of the reasons for the WSA’s farcical perception among the student population, one cannot deny that the perception exists, given the election of Mr. Joint. To be sure, part of the problem is the general apathy and childishness of a student body for whom posts on the ACB constitute meaningful political discourse, but let us confine ourselves to problems we can actually solve. I, for one, do not think that students find it easy to view the WSA elections with any sort of dignity at all at the point where many candidacy statements – especially the ones which, God forbid, try to be funny – are such an affront to our intelligence. In any case, Mr. Joint’s election should be respected as the exercise in legitimate, commonplace Democratic decision-making that it is. If nothing else, it will save the members of the WSA the trouble of indulging their tastes for illicit substances outside the conference room, and perhaps – just perhaps – Mr. Joint’s tenure will be sufficiently unimpressive, and the WSA’s performance will be that much improved, that students can be induced to give a damn about his seat again. In the meantime, Mr. Joint should remain elected as a warning to all members of the WSA currently serving that there, but for the grace of God, incumbency and devoted friends go they.