18 February 2016

On Curmudgeons: Larry David, Antonin Scalia, et moi.

My wife accuses me of occasionally behaving like Larry David.  It's a "loving" insult, and I have accommodated myself to it. Being a curmudgeon, it seems to me, is not all bad.  For sure, Larry's curmudgeonly antics are frequently hilarious to observers though Larry's character never gets the joke. I guess that's part of the joke, right?

Pinks went off to her gym class this morning, still chuckling over her husband's Larry Davidlike experience yesterday. 

For most of the length of Gustavia's harbor, the big yachts are moored "stern-to", i.e, the back end of the ship is at the harbor bulkhead, and the ships are lined up side by side like teeth in a comb. At the western end of the bulkhead, there is a place for the cruise ship tenders to dock and discharge their day-tripping passengers.

So, here I was, tooling along in my beach buggy vehicle on Rue de La Republique, Gustavia's main drag that abuts the harbor. Very relaxed, taking in the atmosphere, at my usual 15 mph. (The speed limit is 30 kph, which is about 18 mph.)  I am heading north approaching the tender dock. Traffic heading south is proceeding at the usual morning bumper to bumper crawl.  A tender has just discharged 150 passengers off a cruise ship out of Miami.  While there is a painted crosswalk immediately opposite the landing area so pedestrians can safely cross to the east side of the street where the shops are located, an elderly couple chooses to ignore it, walk ten yards south, then try to cross the street by stepping out between two southbound cars stalled in traffic, and into the northbound lane. They walk immediately in front of my vehicle. I see em at the last moment and hit the brakes. It was hardly an emergency stop because I was going so slowly, but I was pissed these morons risked ruining my day by being run over by my Kawasaki Mule while I was at the wheel. As they cross in front of my stopped vehicle, I say to them, "Y'know, there's a crosswalk there, and that's where you are supposed to cross the street!" He nods, gives me an embarrassed smile, and continues to cross my bow while I wait. His wife, on the other hand, pays me no mind at all. It's like I am not there. She is, after all, an American, while I am obviously some sort of no-account english-speaking foreign hybrid. Besides, she paid for her cruise, so she now owns St. Barths and will do whatever she damn well pleases there. I sit back and sigh.

But I am in alien territory. There are scores of cruise tourists in the immediate area, and an elderly Susie Essman, (the foul mouthed wife of Larry's agent, Jeff Garlin)  right off the Curb Your Enthusiasm sound stage, calls out to me "Hey, they are old people. Respect your elders!" Not to be outdone, another classic "little old lady", doubtless a competitor for the Essman role in next year's Curb production, escalates this confrontation. She screeches at me,  "Fucking asshole!"  "Fucking Asshole?" All of a sudden, laid back, genteel Gustavia has become 42d Street and 8th Avenue! Pinks is laughing so hard she would have fallen out of the car had she not been belted in.  I say to Pinks, "What'd I do wrong? I was trying to save them from ending up in the hospital,"  And Pinks, trying to control her hysteria, says,"You don't get it. It's your tone. You are a Larry David curmudgeon."

Okay, I accept. Not so bad, I guess.

Now there's another "curmudgeon" in the news. I grind my teeth at all these articles reflecting on the charm, vivacity, originality, zest, and colorful writing style of the late Antonin Scalia. There was nothing "Larry David" about him. I always saw Scalia as a prince of darkness who was trying to inflict his religious and political preferences on me. 

I admit he was charming. I saw him at a conference in a good natured debate with Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Charming yes, benign no. To me, Scalia represents a scary version of what this country could become. His concepts of "originalism" and "textualism" were employed only promote his personal social agenda. Under his doctrinal approach, he would have to vote to give Louisiana back to the French,  reverse Roe v. Wade, and overturn Brown v. Board of Education, the decision that struck down the "separate but equal" doctrine that authorized requiring blacks to go to separate schools. His judicial philosophy would require us to cancel out Rosa Parks and make it legal for a state or city to make any racial minority not only go to separate schools but literally sit in the back of the bus. 

I realized how scary he was when I saw a 2012 interview in which he said that Griswold was "wrongly decided". In that case, you may recall, an executive director of Planned Parenthood and a physician were convicted of violating a criminal statute that forbade supplying contraceptive devices to women, even married ones. No, the state was not Alabama, but "enlightened" Connecticut, whose judiciary at every level affirmed the convictions.  This was not that long ago, (1963), and fortunately the Supremes reversed the convictions by a vote of 7-2, and held the statute unconstitutional because it violated citizens' privacy rights inherent in our Constitution. 

We are not talking about statutes making homosexual activity a crime, or permitting same sex marriage. The Connecticut statute punished the act of supplying a contraceptive device for use by a married couple in the privacy of their bedroom.  Scalia said if he had been on the Griswold court, he would have affirmed those convictions and sustained the legality of the statute. How scary is that?

So I think about the religious/political wars today. I think about a Cruz or any of the foam-at-the-mouth R's who cravenly appeal to their religious right base, and I think about any one of them as President living up to his promises and appointing two or three more Scalia's over the next 4-8 years. I think about the possibility my granddaughters will grow up in a country where the government is permitted to criminalize not only abortion, but   contraception as well, because so-called "conservative" judges who adopt Scalia's crabbed view of our Constitution believe our Founding Document permits the state to exercise control over a citizen's reproductive choices. In respect of his social and religious views, Scalia had more in common with Big Brother than with James Madison.

Scalia weren't no "Larry David" curmudgeon. Underneath all that charm was a real bad guy.

And I wish my grandchildren and their parents, in deciding for whom to vote, would consider whether they want two or three more Scalia's on the court, and if not, they should consider who is more likely to defeat the R candidate pledged to appoint them.

Off to the beach now. I will avoid the harbor area till the Susie Essmans have shipped out.

A bientot.