Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Winking Lizard

6111 Quarry Ln
Independence, OH 44131

(216) 524-2226

by Beau Cadiyo
“I think it’s good for the city,” Frank said. 
I let out an incredulous bark. 
We were meeting over burgers at the Winking Lizard in Independence.  I’d brought up the new young adult program being pushed by Fitzgerald.  Frank, a famous skeptic of county government, had just said he thought the program was a good idea. 
“No,” he corrected me, “I think it is good for the city.”
What’s the difference?
“OK,” he said, gazing up at the ceiling as if figuring out the best way to explain something to a child.  “We are dedicated to Cleveland, believe it is an incredible city, and want to make it as good as it can be, right?
“We can agree that government in Cuyahoga County is despicably corrupt and wholeheartedly ineffective, right?”
“We agree that if, say, the government was kicked out wholesale, everyone would benefit?”
“We can agree that the way they’ve been doing things needs to change?”
“We can agree that the system itself is a corrupting influence, and that the people within the system can change but they are not going to change the system?” 
Well, what’s the point?
“It’s simple,” he said, as if he’d been waiting for me to get annoyed.  “This program is going to make it easier to identify the enemies of our city.  This program is specifically designed to catch the people who are young and to co-opt them into the system that needs to be destroyed.  It is going to appeal to people who are ambitious but not smart enough to think about what they’re doing, who want to change the system but aren’t smart enough to escape it.  And then we know who the enemy is. 
“See, kids are going to apply for the program, and then they are put through a selection process, which makes them feel special. It is custom-MADE to sound like it is selective, and it is.  It is selecting for the most promising leaders that the government can find.  These kids are then brought into the system.  They meet the so-called leaders of our communities.  They are taught who controls the government and how they should act.  They’re taught where to go to meals to impress people, how they should look and most importantly what bribes they should accept.  They’re taught how to bow and how to bend over, and they’re shackled to the old way of doing things.  In ten years, twenty years, these kids with their fresh-scrubbed faces are, like Orwell’s pigs, going to look exactly like Russo and Fitzgerald and all the rest of the politicians ruining this city.  I mean, do you think that any of these young “leaders” are going to try to buck the system as soon as they are the system?”
“Exactly.  So it’s good for the city.”
But how, if they’re taking the crème-de-la-crème and co-opting them and preventing them from revolting?
“Ah, but that’s where you again don’t understand me.  They’re not the crème-de-la-crème.  The people who apply for this program are already going to be the kinds of people who blindly do things for the baubles that result.  They’re going to be the kinds of people who pin nametags on their chests and look at the new line on their resumes and say, ‘I’m somebody.  Hey, look at me, I’m important.’  The thing is, the real leaders of tomorrow aren’t going to care about these baubles.  They’re going to care about improving the city.  These young executives are trying to get into government so they themselves can benefit; the next generation of leaders are going to care about destroying these young executives and saving our city.” 
What do you mean?
“There’s a revolution -”
A black revolution?
He smiled.  “A Cleveland revolution, afoot.  People are disgusted by politics and the politicians.  They are not looking for a new voice, a new leader or a new regime.  They are looking for a new system.” He pounded the table.  “FitzGerald and his boys and girls know this, and they’re going to fight it.  The county executive – I mean, Fitz is the one who opposed the executive passionately because it went against the old system, and then he’s the one that the system put in place to make sure that nothing really changed.” 
I took a bite of my burger.  It was ok. 
“But we actually do have a new generation rising, and they can’t stop it.”
Because they didn’t start it.
“You can feel the anger and the passion in the air.  There are social networks forming independent of the old guard, and it’s making them furious because they can’t tap into these networks as easily as they are used to doing.  They’re used to the old ways of doing things around here.  With these new groups, they realize that they can’t get access.  This young executive program is a dying gasp – a fighting gasp, yes, but a dying gasp, and anyone who helps out with this, who applies, is going to have a black mark on themselves.  We’ll be able to mark them out as functionaries, as servants.  Fitzgerald is trying to use them to keep the others in check, under control, keep them passive, keep them peaceful and nonviolent.” 
I heard echoes. 
“They’re going to use these young executives as pawns to try to control us.  These kids are the chameleons, the courtiers, who betray our city and each other in order to preserve themselves."
I still didn't get how it was good for the city.  
“Well, I think it’s good for the city, because it is going to help us identify the people we can’t trust to run this city, this county or this state.  Soon we’ll have mug shots and resumes of the very people who are being willingly put in place to prop up the current regime, the current system.  We will, in effect, have a line up of the traitors we can’t trust.  And when the time comes, we’re going to have to deal with these people the same way we’ve always dealt with traitors.” 
He looked at me for a difficult moment.
“Even if they’re trying to run this county like a third-world colony, this is still America, and we’re still Americans.  We’re Clevelanders.  It’s not easy to live here, and it’s not easy to love this city.  It’s not easy to deal with the system, and it’s not going to be easy to overturn the system and turn all of these traitors out into the streets.  But it’s coming.  Yes, it is.  It’s coming, and it’s people like us who are going to lead the charge.  We’re going to take a whole generation of these so-called leaders and, when we know who they are, we’re going to make sure that they don’t have a place at the table.  They play tough, and they’re going to be playing tough in order to stay in power.  But when push comes to shove, we’re still willing to create a revolution.”  Then his voice lowered, and he got the pace.  “‘A revolution is hostile.  A revolution knows no compromise.  A revolution overturns and destroys everything that gets in its way.’” 
“‘And you, sitting out here like a knot on the wall saying ‘I’m gonna love these folks no matter how much they hate me,’’” I said, laughing. 
“No, YOU need a revolution!” he roared, and it felt like Cleveland was looking at us and not just the waitresses and the people at the next table, and I suddenly had hope again, and the burger tasted just that much better.  
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