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In the Scarlet Letter, the good and proper New England townsfolk made
a poor “single mother” wear a large red “A” (for adulteress) as the
punishment for having a child by a man other than her then-husband and
refusing to divulge his name. Hawthorne uses this as a vehicle to show
the pettiness and hypocrisy of the “decent Christian” townsfolk (the
father was the local preacher). The way it’s taught in modern high
school and college courses is almost entirely contemptuous; how dare
those people judge decent, loving Hester Prynne!
(Almost universally overlooked is the historical fact that public
embarrassment, by way of making people wear a letter patterned after a
crime of which they had been convicted, was a common practice. For
instance, a man convicted of being a hog might have had to wear a red
‘H’ for some time. And, yes, shame was quite an effective deterrent to
As of Jan. 21, 2001, Bill Clinton will no longer be president. He has
defiled his office, abused his power and made a mockery of the very
Constitution that allowed him to become president. Worse, he has set a
precedent which will make it nigh impossible to throw out future
“scumbags” by avoiding removal from office through a brazen lack of
Until the above date, we’re stuck with him, and freedom-loving
Americans will do their best to oppose him. Afterwards, however, they
scratch their heads. Should they just live and let live, he no longer
being in a position to threaten their freedoms? Should they attempt to
get him disbarred and tie him up, for a good chunk of the rest of his
life, in litigation? I have to admit that I like the latter best but I
have a better and much more fitting punishment in mind: ignore him.
Think about it: this is a man who will say anything to anyone in
order to gain their approval and then turn around and say the opposite
thing to someone else less than a day later to gain theirs. He is a
better actor than Ronald Reagan because, at his core, he’s a lot like
Jeff Megall, a talent agent in Christopher Buckley’s “Thank You For
Smoking,” described as “a titan of ambiguity.”
Thus, Milosevic can be our partner in peace one minute and Hitler the
next. He can tell one group of businessmen that he raised their taxes
too much and a more liberal audience that he could cut taxes but then we
might incorrectly spend the money. He can say abortion should be safe,
legal and rare and veto a bill that would outlaw only the most
barbaric and medically unnecessary form of abortion possible.
There is one thing he craves above all else: the spotlight. He held a
press conference in 1995 just to say that he was too! still
Just a few years ago, I might have cheekily suggested that Congress
pass a law forcing him to wear a scarlet letter, but, besides the
absurdity of it, it wouldn’t work. He has systematically shown that he
has no shame whatsoever. There would also be the added complication of
too many letters to fit (A for adulterer, T for traitor, AR for alleged
rapist, etc.). I, therefore, depart from any “mark of Cain” style farce
to issue a far more serious challenge.
I propose that anybody who reads and agrees with the sentiments
expressed in this letter should help to take his spotlight away. It
wouldn’t be all that difficult.
Democrats: Don’t let him speak at your events and refuse to attend
when he does. Throw any fundraising letters with his signature in the
trash without consideration. If he endorses someone and there is another
alternative, go for them (Bill Bradley would be a good start).
Hollywood et al: Don’t give him a job and, failing that, refuse to
work in his pictures. Turn his premier showings into graveyards.
Restaurant owners and staff: Don’t just refuse to seat him, ignore him
entirely. When he complains loudly, ignore that also.
Taxi drivers and limousine services: Don’t stop to pick him up and
tell him that all cars are taken.
Book publishers: Refuse to even consider publishing his memoirs. That
shouldn’t be too difficult as his last book was a total flop.
Preachers: When Bill Clinton visits your church, refuse to give him
any special consideration whatsoever.
Reporters and essayists: Write about and cover other things. Refer to
Bill Clinton only as much as is absolutely necessary.
Historians: There are 40-plus other presidents to write about. Make
sure the Clinton entries in history textbooks are spare and boring.
Always mention that he was only the second president to ever be
For all the rest of us: Let’s return to normalcy, where words mean
things and honesty is a prized trait rather than a handicap. I propose
that, as of Jan. 21, 2001, we all cease to recognize the words “Bill
Clinton” as a reference to a fellow human being and, instead, substitute
the definitions, “to act in a dishonest manner; craven; to recognize no
higher authority than oneself.”
Jeremy Lott is a senior editor of