Sunday, February 12, 2006

Rowland's Homecoming

Nothing, one expects, will ever be simple for ex-Governor John Rowland again. He came home from prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania to caterwauling and cat calling. Most of the current spitballs have been launched at him by folk who regularly rail against people for having fallen short of Christian precepts.

Here are some random shots taken from radio talk show host’s Colin McEnroe’s blog site, “To Wit.”

McEnroe himself, fresh from moderating a literary discussion at the Bushnell between Jan Weiner, Kurt Vonnegut and Joyce Carol Oates, led the charge by reproducing a letter written by Rowland interlined with McEnroe’s own comments in bold type.

“People from all over Connecticut have sent cards, letters and prayers over the past year,” Rowland wrote. “This outpouring has comforted me during this difficult time. Thanks for the skin magazines, Brad.”

In his distress, three people friendly with the ex-governor – his wife Patty, fellow radio talk show host Brad Davis and Will Marotti, pastor of the non-denominational New Life Church in Meriden – gave support to Rowland while he was in jail. Apparently no one who violates the strictures concerning remorse and redemption laid down by Rowland’s arch critics is to escape whipping.

McEnroe, who sometime struggles, as commentators occasionally do, with solipsistic delusions – “At times, offstage, it seemed that the only way they [the literary giants for whom he served as a moderator and medium] could communicate was through me” – supposed “without being able to prove it” that Rowland “a longtime Roman Catholic, is part of a general drift in which people beset by scandal or even imprisonment forsake their (often quite serious) involvements with mainstream and old-line religions for something newer, fresher and a little more evangelical.”

Without being able to prove it, a commentator on McEnroe’s blog speculated, “maybe, just maybe, the hypocrisy and political shenanigans of the RCC are part of the man's problems - maybe his political style and ethos is a direct reflection of being a good little catholic boy, of playing the game.”

Or maybe, just maybe, Rowland might have been saved from commentary that borders on anti-Catholicism had he reverted to Buddhism rather than Evangelicalism. Anti-Catholicism is all the rage among the smart set these days; that and a preference for esoteric, unstructured belief systems. We may leave it to McEnroe, a one time religious reporter for the Hartford Courant and a devout Unitarian, to establish the precise connection between a lust for hot tubs and the religion of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. Maybe, just maybe, there is a tenuous connection somewhere. And if there is, McEnroe certainly is clever enough to sniff it out. Amazing what a Yale education and a little knowledge can do for you. More likely, Rowland fell from Catholicism before he fell into Loretto.

The wilder and more dangerous supposition is that suffering sometimes does lead to genuine remorse, the proof of which is always in the pudding. Politicians who have fallen from high estate can be remorseful and repentant. Even King Lear was remorseful.

Only after his fall from power through the treachery of his children, could Lear see the faces of the poor in the storm on the heath. With his Fool by his side -- the Fool in the Elizabethan theatre often representing the untrammeled voice of conscience and truth, a sort of Christian Greek chorus of one – Lear, perhaps for the first time in his life, beseeches the powerful and prideful to tend to the poor:

“Poor naked wretches, whereso'er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your loop'd and window'd raggedness, defend you
From seasons such as these? O, I have ta'en
Too little care of this! Take physic, pomp;
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
That thou mayst shake the superflux to them,
And show the heavens more just.”

An exposure to wretchedness sometimes is curative, when it does not kill the soul. In this way, the distracted and hardhearted may “feel what wretches feel.” The superflux is the overflow of wealth, health and happiness that, people suppose, is the lot of the rich.

Rowland is no Lear, to be sure. But McEnroe is no Fool either.
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