Not yet settled in his career as a prominent literary agent, Mort in the autumn of 1961 was drawn to the romantic lantern light flickering in the gardens of Camelot. Perceiving politics as a noble calling, he thought ro run for a soon-to-become-vacant seat in the House of Representatives reserved for a tribune of the people from Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
Three of the party chieftains invited Mort to lunch at a French restaurant on West Fifty-seventh Street. They weren’t interested in his views on taxes or civil rights, didn’t care whether he’d read Uncle Tom’s Cabin and George Washington’s Farewell Address. Mort’s credentials as a candidate were adequate to the purpose presentable, articulate, familiar with the issues, no prior criminal arrest-but before agreeing to underwrite his campaign they set him a test of his aptitude for the art of democratic politics.
He was asked to imagine that for six months he’d been selling himself on street corners, that the campaign speech had gone stale in his mouth, that he was sick of his own voice and tired of telling lies, that he no longer could see the humor in the questions asked by newspaper reporters looking for him to fall off a podium or forget the name of the president of Mexico.
The party has promised him that on Columbus Day he gets the day off. He can stay in bed with his wife, talk to his children, maybe watch a movie or go for a walk in Central Park. Columbus Day dawns, and a volunteer telephones to say that a car will be out front in twenty minutes.
The schedule has Mort at the head of a parade marching through Little Italy between 8:00 A.M. and noon. He gets to wear a red-white and-blue sash and carry the cross of San Gennaro. It’s raining.
Mort’s examiners didn’t doubt that he would march in the parade (for Jack Kennedy and the New Frontier if not for Columbus and San Gennaro), but would he want to march in the parade?
“No,” said Mort, “not really.”
“Then don’t waste your time or ours, because that’s all that it’s about-waving and smiling and a crowd of maybe fifty people, some of whom speak English.” The committee ordered cognac, offered Mort a cigar, and drank a toast to the beginning, middle, and end of his political career.
முழுவதும் வாசிக்க: "Hearts of gold" by Lewis H. Lapham (Harper's Magazine)