Allow me to introduce myself: I am Ignatius J. Reilly of New Orleans, Louisiana (sweeping flourish, small bow). I achieved great acclaim back in the 1980s for a published work of mine, a small gem, really, a parvum opus, entitled The Journal of a Working Boy. (Shortly after its publication, I retreated from the frenzied hustle of celebrity and academia, and have since returned to my prior, rather Miltonic isolation, from which I have observed the continued decline of our civilization.)
Sir, I must reprove you now with sharpness!
You have allowed matters here to degenerate most abysmally in the watery wake of the Hurricane named Katrina. The levees are broken and our cities washed away. We have, as I once wrote in Working Boy, “gone from the vortex to the whirlpool of despair…New Orleans, a [once] comfortable metropolis which has a certain apathy and stagnation which I find inoffensive,” now stagnates in putrescence. The air is filled with the puling of women and children. Degenerates and drug addicts rule the day.
Worse, the statue my fellow citizens once erected on Canal Street in my honor now languishes begrimed and deliquesced from the dark floodwater onslaught!
Mr. President, I consider myself a medievalist; as such, I believe in the rota Fortuna, or wheel of fortune. It has been said that a blind goddess spins us on a wheel, and that our luck comes in cycles. Fortuna is a mongrel bitch, and Katrina be her name. With her recent, sudden appearance, I fear that our wheel here in Louisiana (and parts of Mississippi) is rapidly spinning downward.
Thus, we have much work to do here: puddles to mop and homes to re-build! We need a man of action to rally the troops and smite back the chaos! All we got, however, was your FEMA workhorse, “Brownie,” who did naught for a fortnight but stand balked and frightened before water snakes and bedraggled curs! That was a bold avoidance of duty, Sir, and it pleased me when you banished him to the glue factory.
Unfortunately, your new man Paulison, Mr. President, Sir, doesn’t have my fair city’s best interests at heart, and thus isn’t fit for the task at hand. He is a downward-spinning wheel upon our larger downward wheel. He is a swaybacked nag, and he should probably be shot.
Who then to replace him? I would humbly suggest yours truly.
For starters, I have watched your goings-on for some time now. The fin de siecle appearance of your administration, especially after the rampant degeneracy of that satyr Clinton and his panting ilk, was a most welcome disruption of the general malaise of things. You effected revolutionary and deleterious change on the rosy status quo. How I hated that corrupt, fallen status quo. (Incidentally, this falls rather in line with a scheme I posited—which you no doubt have noticed in your readings—wherein pederasts and degenerates would be encouraged to gain high office—the presidency, perhaps—which station they would then neglect as they attended to their sexual and narcotic appetites. There would be no more war, because there would be no one to start the wars—everyone flitting off to parties and such. Your scheme, however, one of sustained, systemic breakdown, appears to be the work of quiet genius, even if it has had the regretful, short-term effect of increasing the incidence of war.)
You stemmed this people’s lemming-like rush after prosperity, you marshaled lagging school children, and you brought zealous religiosity again to the national discourse. You rebuked the Old World! You felled Babylon the Great! (The lazy masses, the picayune media [those bankrupt souls], might raise captious and frivolous objections to these deeds, but I, Sir, say to you [as even God himself might say]: WELL DONE.)
If you were to appoint me as FEMA helm, I would do much to straiten your path. I would act as a mentor to your administration. It might be said of me in your service, much as Chesterton once said of Boethius, “Thus he truly served as a guide, philosopher and friend to many Christians; precisely because, while his own times were corrupt, his own culture was complete.”
To wit, my first official act would be to recast at double its present size and shine up my Canal Street statue, that the dear people of New Orleans, by espying that grand edifice on its granite plinth of hope, might be bolstered in their terrible straits.
As for negotiating the remaining devastation, Mr. President, I would simply crack the whip and order the men to their mops! I would demand obedience—Hup, hup!—and it would be done.
Next, I would handle the terrible state of this nation’s godless media.
Members of the press corps: The parochialism of your ghettoes—The Times, Newsweek, The New Yorker, etc.—will not have prepared you for the uniqueness of Your Working Boy and his President. You believe, I suspect, that all humans living south and west of the Hudson River are illiterate cowboys or—even worse—White Protestants, a class of humans who as a group specialize in ignorance, cruelty, and torture. (I don’t wish to especially defend White Protestants; I am not too fond of them myself.) Nevertheless, White Protestants are now in charge.
You view this White (Protestant) House as an anachronism. Perhaps you sense in us a denial of your values. You suspect that we loathe those cheap baubles you hold dear—your liberal policies, your claptrap about free speech, demands for rights to do this and that, etc. You are right to fear our weltanschauung. We shall deny you your values, and end all your rights.
We—this administration, this President, me—do not wish to be bothered in the future by such tedious complaints. Please confine your correspondence to praise only. We are a busy and dynamic organization whose mission needless effrontery and harassment can only hinder. If you molest us again, sirs, you may feel the sting of the lash across your pitiful shoulders.
That is all I would say to the press corps.
In Working Boy (runaway bestseller), I described a malady of mine. (I have a pyloric valve which is subject to vicissitudes which force me to lie abed on certain days.) I suspect, Mr. President, that you have a similar valve. I shall call it the simianic valve, and I wager that it controls your hypothalamus. When the valve clamps shut, all bets are off. For you, instances of involuntary blockage appear to unfortunately take hold at inopportune times. There is no controlling the valve; its workings are tied to Fortuna. One can only fix one’s face into a calm, meditative mask, and wait for the cycles to change. I shall help our people understand the workings of this condition, and they will thus better know you.
In the meantime, Mr. President, I offer you my jubilant, shining hand of friendship. Together, liveried in the costly apparel of high station, and much as Joseph of Egypt and his trusty servant boy, Tut-tut, long ago once did do, we shall step down from our aerie to bid Louisiana and parts of Mississippi gather at our feet. We shall tell them to rise up and thrive! Be industrious! And they shall do so, and be so.
So long, Big Pardner (a little Texan, in honor of your noble heritage)!
Yours most ardently,
Ignatius J. Reilly
In admiration of [and with apologies to] John Kennedy Toole