Friday, May 26, 2006

All Hail, the American Boy(s)!

The jury has spoken.

The judge has spoken.

The commentators have spoken.

The whistleblower who continued working for Enron long after she blew her barely perceptible whistle has had her say.

The ex-employees who “lost it all” have spoken, secure in the knowledge that their own greed and suspension of their critical faculties (assuming they had any to begin with) had nothing to do with their losses.

Even Greg Hurst has spoken.

“When you rise to the top of the ladder in corporate history,” declared the Channel 11 anchorman, “it’s a long fall to the bottom.”

Yes indeed. The '90s are officially over.

The predictable witticisms about Lay and Skilling being involuntary anal-receptive partners in impending jailhouse sex acts (“quips” that have even edged their way into the margins of mainstream media) also have reached a quick crescendo and abated, leaving the suggestion that the private unmanning of these two order-barkers will be the true and fitting punishment, the real justice served. (For some reason, in these “quips” the penetration of Lay and Skilling’s special-purpose entities is always carried out by large black convict [America can be such an unforgiving place, on so many levels!].)

As we’ve said before, there’s no other way to view the Enron story except as farce. Not to be cruel, but a failure on such a colossal scale that produced only one known suicide rates nowhere near tragedy. It only suggests what a cosseted society we have become, and the degree to which shame has been banished from the public sphere.

No shame. God has another plan.

(We will say, however, that Skilling seemed to greet his fate with shrugging resignation, equanimity even---perhaps a sign that he had come to grips with and acknowledged his guilt, or, more likely, had acquired a prescription for whatever pharmaceutical that seemed to keep Mrs. Fastow floating forward).

We, of course, were wrong from the outset, having figured that Lay might walk and Skilling would be nicked, but what did we know. As the trial wore on, (and we only followed it sporadically, as it continued to tax our meager attention span), it became apparent that the government just had almost too much material to work with. We realized the butt-fucking jokes were imminent when one of the defense lawyers thundered at one of the prosecutors: “Don't come to Houston, Texas, and lie to us."

Yes, we didn’t need these slick out-of-towners coming down here and befogging the locals with their lies and fabrications. But the jury proved reasonable and astute, reconfirming our sometimes shaky faith in the common sense of the American middle-class, just as the jury that refused the government’s demand for the execution of the hapless Moussaoui did.

A few weeks ago the Chronicle columnist Loren Steffy, killing time while awaiting the trial’s conclusion, wrote of the Enron parallels to be found in the corpus of American fiction. One Steffy reader reached back and suggested The Confidence Man, perhaps the most perceptive and difficult novel by our most perceptive and difficult novelist, while Steffy invoked The Great Gatsby, which seems to be a misreading of Gatsby’s motivation (or perhaps our view of the book has been forever colored by the Robert Redford movie).

But that’s OK, as Steffy, as far as we know, was the first commentator type to offer what now seems to be the obvious description of Lay as Nixonian (a comparison that had crossed our mind about Lay during a news conference he staged back in the mid-’90s while campaigning for the public funding of what would become Enron Field----maybe it was the way all that barely suppressed anger seemed to center in the lower jaw, or, more superficially, the 5 o’clock shadow he had at 2 o’clock; nonetheless, we were working at the time to corral our reflexive habits of mind and quickly expunged the comparison from our files).

Our choice would be A Cool Million by the brutally sardonic hotel clerk Nathanael West, with Enron investors and employees and the media as the innocent Lemuel Pitkin, he of the unshakeable belief in his own goodness and faith in God’s design, who winds up shorn of teeth, an eye, a thumb, is dismembered, shot through the heart, etc.

Or maybe Lay is Pitkin.

Having been written in 1936, the book contains not even a veiled suggestion of homosexual rape (that we can remember).

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