Where There’s Smoke

 

STOP ME if you’ve heard this. There are these parents who are worried because their son never worries. So they take him to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist says, “Let’s investigate this in a controlled environment.” So he puts the kid in a roomful of manure. The kid, overjoyed, starts digging through the poop. His parents are dismayed and the psychiatrist is baffled. “What are you doing?” they ask.

The kid responds, “With all this shit, there has to be a pony somewhere!”

The GWB bridge scandal currently surrounding the Chris Christie administration doesn’t make me gleeful the way the pile of manure does for that boy in therapy. I wouldn’t even use the word “optimistic” but I do believe there’s digging to be done.

Last fall, a few months before Chris Christie fired his Deputy Chief of Staff, Bridget Kelly, (whose name is so ironic that pointing out the irony seems redundant), Rachel Maddow had begun airing segments on the George Washington Bridge lane closures. The lane closures caused “total gridlock” according to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich. The surprise shuttering of those lanes for a mythical traffic study led to the resignation of David Wildstein, director of interstate capital projects for the Port Authority, initially appointed by Christie.

Governor Chris Christie announced Deborah Gramiccioni as the new Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority on Friday, Dec. 13, 2013. (Governor's Office/Tim Larsen)

Governor Chris Christie announced Deborah Gramiccioni as the Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority, Friday, Dec. 13, 2013. (Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen)

Another, less sensational scandal, was moved to the back burner when news of the Kelly/Wildstein connection came out last week, so to speak. Aaron Schock, the anti-equality Congressman from Illinois’ 18th District, was unofficially outed by journalist Itay Hod in a less-than-cryptic post on Hod’s Facebook wall. Like a Hedda Hopper blind item, details were withheld. We wouldn’t have known who Mr. Hod was referring to if he hadn’t also posted a link to Americablog’s 7 Gayest Aaron Schock Instagram Posts. A short-lived flurry followed, with dissenters calling Schock’s sex life a private matter. Hod suffered a bit of criticism and the Twitterverse had its daily requirement of shock, outrage, dismay, name-calling, photo sharing and lewd jokes. Citing Schock’s now-shuttered Instagram account, which was peppered with photos of him in a variety of stereotypical modes, the outcry was that stereotypes are not evidence.

Schock’s neat fit into a stereotype and Christie’s proximity to the bridge scandal aren’t enough to damn them but where there’s smoke… In the case of Aaron Schock, that may be an unfortunate double entendre.

Aaron Schock from his now defunct Instagram account.

Aaron Schock from his now defunct Instagram account.

Someone had a hunch in both the Christie and Schock cases that rooms full of manure weren’t being decorated by a rainbow-pooping unicorn. Hod cites a reliable source who maintains Schock was caught in the shower with a person identified as his roommate. Additionally, rumors about Schock’s proclivities are not new. Maddows relentlessness on the GWB closures proved accurate in hindsight when the e-mails between Kelly and Wildstein led to firings, resignations, subpeonas and a massive investigation of Christie’s administration.

Whether  Bridget Kelly and David Wildstein were the only campers responsible for the very smoky fire over the GWB remains to be seen. That unlikelihood is what spurs the investigation. I doubt two sole operatives could have affected the closure of lanes on the busiest bridge in the world. But that’s just me… and half a million others. Does the Schock tumult have a flame? An eyewitness account and years of rumor are enough to raise suspicion. Though I don’t honestly care whose armpits Schock washes every day, if he’s voting against equality while secretly getting his bumpkin buffed, he’s a hypocrite.

Ultimately, it isn’t fair that in the media-mad 21st Century suspicion equals guilt. We have become our own Big Brother: accusing, pointing fingers, calling names, moralizing, judging before the evidence is in. The media latches on, abetted by social media, and spurred by the promise of ratings. In a feeding frenzy of our own making, we threaten to devour our own personal liberty. Schock’s sexuality is no one’s business EXCEPT that, as Michelangelo Signorile pointed out in an excellent Huffington Post response, Schock has a voting history against LGBT rights. Hod’s sources and the relentless rumors of Schock’s sexuality are not in a category with the superficial stuff. Schock’s clothes, his abs on the cover of Men’s Health, his cutie-pie blue belt; those are just internet chum. It is the hypocrisy that is newsworthy. Investigation starts with a tip. Just as, with Christie, the suspicious circumstances of the lane closures raise raise questions that need to be answered.

No public figure should have every aspect of his or her privacy stripped but in the political arena, when your alleged extra-curriculars conflict with your voting record and there’s a big pile of rumor nearby, it is someone’s duty to dig. (I said duty.) If it was known that a pregnant Senator voting to repeal pro-choice rights was secretly planning to abort her pregnancy, where would we stand? Would she still be deserving of her privacy? If a Governor aggressively prosecuted the “vices” but was soliciting prostitutes on the side, shouldn’t that be reported?

unicorn pooping a rainbow (art from www.20px.com)

A unicorn pooping a rainbow (art by www.20px.com)

Christie may not have known anything about the bridge closures. He may not have ordered retribution on Sokolich and a bounty of NJ Democrats who refused to endorse him. Schock may have taken a legitimate interest in Tom Daley’s excellent dive form. He and his roommate may have been showering together because the hot water was running low. Any investigation can lead to a truth we didn’t expect – even if it’s less satisfying than finding a pony in a roomful of poop.

I’m placing bets on two rooms with two ponies.

Tom Gualtieri

About Tom Gualtieri

Tom Gualtieri (@TomGGualtieri)is a theatre artist with his hand in many disciplines: lyricist, playwright, performer, director, knitter. He maintains an ongoing collaboration with composer David Sisco. His solo play, That Play: A Solo Macbeth, was nominated for a 2013 Drama Desk Award.
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