Tuesday, March 09, 2004


The score of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado won't stop circling my mind like water down a plughole - and it's The Mikado himself who sings (if you can call what is required of a character in a G & S Operetta 'singing'):
"My object all sublime,
I shall achieve in time
To make the punishment fit the crime,
The punishment fit the crime!"
The libretto then goes on to elaborate on a series of crimes and criminals and the imaginative punishments created most especially for them; fairer, bien sur, than those traditionally meted out.
I like the one about the cheating pool player who gets locked up in a cell and can only play:
"On a cloth untrue,
With a twisted cue,
And elliptical billiard balls!"
"The advertising quack who wearies,
With tales of countless cures,
His teeth, I've enacted,
Shall all be extracted
By terrified amateurs!"
And The Mikado's a fun judge - you've got to love a guy whose final twist in the tale of judgment is:
"To make each prisoner pent
Unwillingly represent
A source of innocent merriment!
Of innocent merriment!"
Humiliation for them, entertainment for us: sounds fair to me.
What doesn't sound so very fair to me is the punishment so far exacted on Martha Stewart. And understand as I write this, I am surprised myself at the feelings of injustice that rise unbidden within my bosom on her behalf. Because the fact is, I don't like her - probably for much the same reasons most people don't like her;she strikes me as a bit of a phony, I've heard she's unpleasant to underlings, and her storied perfectionism just makes me feel exhausted and inadequate. Also, to be honest, I'm just the teensiest, weensiest bit... um - how shall I put it? Judgmental and punitive? That'll do. (And that might well be understating the decidedly unattractive adamancy of my opinions.)
For instance, I was the only soul in my group (and there are an unaccountably large contingent of conservatives in my posse) who was infuriated by former U.S. President Clinton for his behaviour during Monica-gate. I was disgusted, not by any sexual favours he may have dispensed or received (in, out, or hanging from a chandelier in the Oval Office) but rather by the fact that he lied about it. And that character flaw might not have bothered me overmuch had the lies not been in service to the saving of his own skin in a considerably more serious and disturbing matter - an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse he may or may not have committed against Paula Jones.
I could go on (Please? Please? Anyone want to hear more?) but that's a burr long worn out from the friction under my saddle and relevant only in that we're considering the divergent fates of two high profile people - one a public citizen, the other private; one a man, the other a woman; one a multi-millionaire, popular after dinner speaker and much admired bon vivant, and the other... following the loss of several hundreds of millions of dollars, her business, affiliations, respect and reputation, is this minute (with the help of a parole officer and in front of several hundreds of millions of citizens worldwide) contemplating a significant amount of time in a federal hoosegow. And I'm not the only one who has connected the dots (fashionable this season) between the two - the cable pundits (and where do they advertise those jobs, by the by?) have also made the connection - though their connection being: famous people under investigation and intense scrutiny - tee hee, giggle, giggle -ain't it awful? HOW ABOUT THEM RATINGS!!!!
So for me, it's the amount of vitriol, the volume of the discourse, the unconscionable glee of the commentators and the enormity of the personal loss that have set my internal alarm bells ringing like the insistent beating of The Telltale Heart.
It's too much. The punishment - and by all accounts, there's more to come, above and beyond the amount of time she'll be sentenced to in the near future - does most emphatically not, in my opinion, fit the crime.
How about:
"The proud domestic diva
Despised more than Babylon's whores,
Shall spend eternity,
Locked in the absurdity,
Of Walmart 'Designer' stores!"
Well, why not? I'd be satisfied. And I could get back to the business of heaping unsolicited judgment on other worthies. There's a whole sponsorship scandal to be mulling, an interesting presidential race brewing south of the 49th, not to mention it's Wild Card night on American Idol - and I've yet to have my second cup of coffee...

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