Obviously I was never a Knight of Saint Andrew, a member of the Order of the Thistle. For one thing, I'm not a Scotsman, though I'm sure there are some lurking on my father's side of the family tree. (Yes, I know the Order has been empowered to admit persons who are not Scotsmen, including women, Scots or otherwise, and at least one Norwegian king, but that's neither here nor there.) From my point of view, the biggest problem is that I could never live up to the Order's motto.

Nemo me impune lacessit translates as "No one attacks me with impunity": in other words, you do something to me, and you can expect paybacks to be a bitch. I should be so fortunate. It's not like I routinely have Visigoths pounding my porch or anything, but the mundane transactions of everyday life always seem to leave me on the wrong side of the equation. It is not uncommon, for instance, for someone at the shop to pull some amazingly stupid stunt that causes me a substantial amount of extra work. Prosecuting these matters is a complete waste of time, since it will inevitably be pointed out to me that the stuntperson in question was not acting deliberately. And this would be a reasonable argument, were there an actual penalty phase. But there isn't. To my knowledge, no one on earth who has given me grief in the last fifteen years has ever coughed up so much as a perfunctory apology, let alone any reasonable form of compensation. Hanlon's Razor, as least as sharp as Occam's, says "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity," and I am not one to impute malice where it does not exist — admittedly, some people's repetitive failures at clue acquisition make me wonder — but extenuating circumstances won't reduce the workload one bit, and I resent bitterly the notion that I should be forgiving while I sweat.

Some of this, I think, has spilled over into my reactions to the events of the 11th of September. The direct effects on me have been fairly close to nil, but the voice within me is still screaming, "Why isn't someone being roasted on a goddamn spit for this?" Of course, roasting the appropriate someone(s) is not a goal easily attained, as Donald Rumsfeld will happily (or at least serenely) remind you, and then there's all that due-process business in the Constitution that we take seriously, except in the case of people who are believed to possess hemp and/or sidearms, which for some reason annoy the government. And while I'd like to believe I have dovish tendencies — for one thing, it makes it a lot easier to peruse Utne Reader — lately I'm much more of a porcupine than a dove. Coworkers and relatives who consider me to be a prick anyway will be less than surprised.

Maybe there is a small victory in the offing somewhere. It would do my heart good, for instance, to hear that the schmuck who did $200 damage to my doorway so he could steal $3 was caught and perforated by the men in blue. (Recidivism rates being what they are out here, I think it's a pretty good chance that he's taking up crime as a permanent vocation; I would sooner believe Courtney Love had entered the convent than that this weasel had gone straight.) But it's not going to happen. These days, everyone attacks with impunity. I just hope Saint Andrew isn't watching.

The Vent

24 October 2001

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 Copyright © 2001 by Charles G. Hill