There is a paradox in our society. Government must serve the needs of the people and to so effectively must necessarily lend itself to extensive corruption. Yet exposure of such activity inevitably leads to dismissal of those responsible. Everyone recognizes the existence of corrupt politicians, and if one has a proper sense of sophistication the need for such individuals is eminently clear. We accept them as necessary to maintain our well being in a stable or expanding society. Secretly one may yearn to be a participant in similar schemes so he may also make a Akilling@ and share in the appropriate rewards.
The average citizen would not likely refuse to accept some inside tip which might yield significant monetary benefits, with the excuse that it wasn’t right or fair. On the contrary, most everybody is looking for a route which may lead to a fast bundle. In this sense the small businessman is no different from the corporation CEO, only the scale of the corruption is different. The smaller efforts increase the chances of being caught. Indeed, as we shall note later, there is a general principle that the grander the scheme the lower is the risk of exposure.
Why is it then that indignation rages at the revelation that some political figure has just been caught with his finger in the public till? As any decent psychiatrist can tell us, there are only two factors that lead to all aberrant behavior : insecurity and guilt. ( Imagine what would happen to psychiatric fees if they spilled the beans on that one).
How does one feel when discovering that a high officer of the state has just been exposed as a first degree corruptor in some scheme or other? The actual behavior of this person in committing the act is not under consideration, and in fact may be the subject of extensive admiration. The problem is that the individual was stupid enough to be caught. After all, how can one trust the defense and security of the nation to someone that dumb –(insecurity) And , after all, who was responsible for putting the dummy into office in the first place — (guilt). So, in order to avoid the sense of insecurity and guilt associated with the unfortunate official, the public must resort to the aberrant act of throwing the blaggard out. Hopefully he will be replaced by someone more adept at handling such activity without the consequences of exposure.
One may therefore ask why, if everything that such a person has done is acceptable to the community, should he be exposed at all? Wouldn’t it be better in these cases to merely look the other way? To understand this problem we must discuss briefly the function of the press in our society.
There has been an inordinate preoccupation among the American populace in the recent few years, with the activities of the security agencies: the F.B.I. and the CIA In fact what people do not realize is that free societies have built into their framework a super security agency – the Press. It is the primary function of the Press to expose dummies in office and therefore provide the first line of defense of the nation. Our wise founding fathers knew that a country could not be entrusted to men foolish enough to reveal their corrupt acts, and devised this mechanism to eradicate such nincompoops.
The Press has taken up the fight with resounding effect and considerable rewards (do you realize what an advertising page in the New York Times costs?) And the most successful papers are those that have the largest numbers of exposes. Investigative reporters never waste their time on the purveyors of prostitution or dope, but rather on who owns the buildings where these activities are carried on.
How is the government man to protect himself? Well the system insures that only the finest and most long standing corruptors will reach high office. These, after all, are those most capable persons who may be thoroughly trusted with the reins of government and consequently the lives of its people. Such a person must have the attributes necessary to insure a successful career — ruthlessness, deviousness, unfailing flexibility (or the ability to swim with the tide), and a total lack of any predictable code of behavior. He must, however, use every means to discourage people from believing that he is a perpetrator of corruption and so must adopt an outward appearance totally opposite to his real nature: compassion, honesty, strict adherence to a moral code of behavior, and an unswerving passion to provide a better deal for his constituents. To those who aspire to such positions of responsibility (and profit) I will outline the credo of the government man, which, of course, they all live by:
- Promise everything.
- Never put anything in writing
- Stay out of the newspapers.
The Retaliatory Effort
Joe Reede was mayor of Greenleaf, Colorado. He had been driven to seek office eight years earlier by an inordinate desire to sleep with Mollie LaRue, the waitress in Sam’s Take Out Restaurant. Apparently Mollie had been making it with a fair variety of the town’s men, but not with Joe. He figured that a prestigious title might change his luck. It didn’t.
He had won office in a run-off election with a plurality of thirty votes. The original election had ended in a one to one tie and it took an investment of four kegs of beer and free transportation to the improvised election booth to muster the thirty hardy souls necessary to insure a victory. Now he spent most of his time trying to figure out what a mayor was supposed to do.
Greenleaf, situated in the heartland of the Rockies, might have been considered ludicrously as a small town, with the downtown area consisting of Joe’s hardware store. A general store, Sam’s restaurant and an old filling station. Anyone found driving toward the downtown area was invariably heading for the spur connecting to the main highway. Joe considered, at one time, installing a A one way@ sign on that road in deference to the direction that most everyone who used it was taking. An exit sign probably would do just as well, he had thought.
Activity centered around the small outlying farms which supplied most of the food people needed, and enough work for the townspeople. Surrounded by high picturesque mountains, television reception was impossible and amusement consisted of a few scattered radio programs and the key to the upstairs room at Sam’s, occupied by Mollie.
An occasional truck lumbered into town and delivered the few necessities for day to day existence, and picked up the produce and beef to be sold for cash at the markets in towns down the highway.
It was spring, and in Colorado that meant clear, cloudless days, warming gradually under the shadows of the snow capped peaks. On such a day Joe was seated in his usual position in front of the hardware store. His eyes were half closed against the sun. He glanced sideways towards Tom Marshall, who was running toward him.
“Joe, Joe. There’s a fella over at Sam’s looking for the mayor.”
“Well for christsakes, Tom, don’t anyone know who that is? Bring him on down here.”
Joe couldn’t believe that after all these years he was going to have something official to do. Most folks didn’t call him mayor since they were concerned that the title might stimulate some activity, — and no one could predict how that might end up.
The tall stranger walked slowly up the dirt path to Joe’s store. He was in uniform and appeared stiff and portly.
“Colonel Edward Syms”, he introduced himself, ” representing the Department of Defense. Are you the mayor of Greenleaf?”
Joe concentrated on this newcomer…. Shiny shoes and buttons, heavy chest (football player?) precise movement, a real tough officer. Must be hell working in his outfit. His glance fell toward the few patches of weeds on either side of the path. Ought to plant some grass, he thought. Looks kind of worn out.
“Yes, sir,” answered Joe, who was not sure if mayors got up when they met strangers or just leaned back and waited.
“Pleasure to meet you, sir said Syms. Would it be appropriate if we met in your office?”
Joe was embarrassed. Maybe he ought to get himself an office. He saw immediately the possibility that it might do the trick to improve his relationship with Mollie.
“No, this is jes fine.” he said finally
“Go on and pull up a chair and let me know what’s on your mind.”
“Well, we wrote you some months ago, but didn’t realize the problems with postal delivery in this area.”
Joe hadn’t checked for a letter in the past six years, when it occurred to him that he didn”t know anybody outside of Greenleaf.
Syms continued. “The Department of Defense has completed a survey of the central U.S. retaliation effort and we have selected Greenleaf as the proposed site for the development of a new missile silo, which will beef up the entire U.S. defense effort. With the decreased likelihood of a major international problem we are concentrating on a few key areas for defense.”
Joe was really impressed by now, although he wasn’t sure quite why.
“Of course we will build this with all work sponsored and paid for by the U.S. government. The site selected will be five miles north of town at the base of Whittier Mountain. All due effort will be made to cause as little disruption as possible to the town.”
Joe sat open-mouth at the whole prospect. “What can I do for you, colonel?”
“Nothing. Nothing at all. Just consider this for your own information, mayor. All the property rights have been secured, of course. And one thing, since the site will be high priority and secret, it will be necessary to disguise the area. I wouldn’t want the townspeople surprised by its outward appearance.”
The following week trucks, and uniformed men, all bearing the insignia of the U.S. Corps of Engineers created a steady stream of traffic through town and northward. A bivouac area had been set up as construction began with a deep excavation, followed by steel piles, concrete and wooden frames. Gasoline sales at the filling station soared to a hundred gallons a week as each day the predominant activity consisted of driving out to the construction site and observing the progress.
Joe, however, stayed at the hardware store waiting for an official duty to appear, and got most of his information in daily reports from Tom Marshall. Soldiers seemed to mill around in the evening drinking beer and joking with the folks of the town. Joe was a bit uneasy about the fact that Mollie appeared to be losing an inordinate amount of weight and was reassured only by the fact that she smiled incessantly all through the days.
“Joe”, said Tom one day, ” I can understand the fact that they got to build that place to disguise the missiles. They’re putting in a lot of rooms, but I don’t understand something.”
“What’s that?” asked Joe.
“Well, they got a whole unit putting in plumbing and such. I know they’s gonna need that for offices and such.”
“Yes.” said Joe.
AWell, I don’ understand why each of them offices has got to have its own bath and shower.”
As the weeks rolled by the days became warmer and more pleasant. Yellow buttercups appeared and waved gently in the green meadows. Long furrows, in straight lines covered fields that had lain fallow the year before. An occasional tractor hummed across a field and disappeared behind a frame house, followed by a host of crows that dived and then shied away from the specially treated seed.
North of town the silo began to take shape with its convex windows, rustic outer appearance, and freshly sodded lawns.
Tom Marshall’s reports began to come in twice a day as the rate of progress increased.
“Joe, there must be some important brass that’s gonna be stationed here! You know they got carpets all over that place. And you ought to see the meeting room. It’s gonna be the best lit meeting room you ever saw.”
“Best lit?” asked Joe.
“Yeah. They just moved a big crate in. I thought it was a missile. I was scared till I saw the sign on the side. I thought it would be ‘danger – explosives’ but it just said ‘fragile – handle with care’. Ed Conlan’s kid pried a plank off the crate and damned if it weren’t the biggest crystal chandelier you ever seen.”
“Tom have you noticed anything like missiles being moved in? I mean they ought to be arriving by now.”
“Oh no,” said Tom, “but they put in the missile storage area. What a job. It’s all concrete sunk into the ground and surrounded by a flagstone walk. Only on strange thing, though. The floor’s crooked.”
“What?” said Joe.
“Yeah, it starts up high at one end and slants down so it’s real low on the other.”
Joe began to wonder about what was going on. “Do they have a drainage area in the center of it?”
“Yeah”, said Tom. ” I asked them about that but they said it was to protect the missiles if it rained.”
Joe was uncomfortable. Too many unanswered questions. As July approached the progress had been phenomenal.
Longer, hotter days occasionally dampened and cooled by a fine sprinkling shower failed to slow the activity at the base of Whittier Mountain. Lights began to appear at night from inside the buildings (there were three now) and worked progressed until late at night. Joe was unaware that men could work in so organized and dedicated a fashion. But he began to wonder at certain inconsistencies. Why did they need to disguise an area that everyone in town knew about? And how were they going to fire missiles from the base of a mountain? And, at whom?
It was Tuesday morning when Tom was reporting that Joe decided he’d better get out to the site and see what was going on.
“They got the strangest thing they just put in.”
“What’s that Tom?”
“Well, they put this here rope on a pulley up along the mountain. claim they’re gonna use it to haul supplies to the top. What the hell they need that for? What’re they gonna do with supplies on top of a mountain?”
The ride out was rough and Joe was filled with doubts and premonitions. Out past Don White’s farm circling toward the main road, a freshly paved crossroad had appeared leading toward Whittier. They drove through a large iron gate and onto manicured lawns. Joe faced the missile silo and was stricken by the appearance of its graceful lines, rustic contours, freshly painted windows, large walk and gardens. Tom pointed out the rope and pulleys far to the left.
“Jerk,” said Joe. “That’s a goddamn ski tow. Call some of the boys together and meet me at the store at one o’clock.”
It was nighttime at the communications network at the base of Whittier Mountain.
A voice whispered into a secure phone line: ” Hello, hello. This is Syms. Is the senator there? Yes, hello.”
The senator answered, ” Everything okay, Ed? The brochures are out. The first ones will be arriving in time for the fall skiing. Have there been any inquiries as to the location of the engineers?”
“Taken care of. The records show the units out on maneuvers for four months. We kept everything right on schedule.”
“How about the men?” asked the senator. “Will they keep quiet?”
Syms replied, “Sure, they think it’s a rest home for psychotic sergeants with T.B. They all want it, and hope they’ll never use it.”
“Great Ed,” said the senator.
“One problem senator. This guy Joe Reede may be acting up.”
“What makes you think so?”
“Well,” answered Syms ,”he went and nominated a city council, and to boot , they just sent to Denver for five books on how to pass a law.”
There was a silent period then the senator responded “Okay, okay, get hold of this Reede. Tell him he’s a partner, — in for ten percent.”