When I was a boy and the 1950s were turning into the 1960s, a person like Professor Constantine was not so unusual. People who were buying into the spirit and mores of the next decade would describe a man like him as “a square” while tracing that shape in the air with their fingertips. The world back then was full of “squares,” simple, faithful and courageous people who had brought us through the Great Depression and World War II.
In 1992, our New York State Police was in the midst of celebrating its 75th anniversary with banquets, parades and open-houses across the state when a terrible scandal came to light. There was a small group of investigators who had been falsifying evidence and telling lies while under oath in criminal trials. That is the worst thing a police officer can do. Those who did it were eventually brought to justice, but investigation into their wrong-doing took a long time and drew a lot of attention from the media.
Some in the newsmedia were very unkind to the state police and to then Superintendent Constantine. One columnist (I will only identify him as Bob) in particular made a big impression on us when he ran a series of columns attacking Tom's integrity, his personality and his management style. Tom tried to answer these screeds, but, being a “square,” he was at a disadvantage. The last of these columns was entitled: “The Nose Grows on State Police Superintendent,” a most unamusing and undignified reference to Pinocchio whose nose grew when he told a lie.
Well, that attack on our noble knight provoked my literary muse and I came up with the following response.
THE BIG PICTURE
Appalling, how you do describe
The Chieftan of our Trooper Tribe.
You say the topmost of our coppers
Is telling lies and fibs and whoppers.
That there are apples in the barrel,
Rotten, though in gray apparel,
On him you'd have affixed the blame
And bid him hang his head in shame.
That some retire, you say's indic'tive
Of the fact that he's vindictive.
And their successors, you submit,
Are bits of fluff and jugs of spit.
Poor Tom, he makes an easy mark
For journalist and network shark.
In speech, he's not a bit ironic
So you guys make him sound moronic.
The truth, he'll tell to you exactly,
Precisely, yes, and matter-of-factly.
Like Troopers all, he's quite direct
And that makes him, to you, suspect.
To Tom, by nature serious,
You say: “You bore and weary us.”
His forte's action -- deeds, not words.
I guess that don't impress you birds.
When slings and archery begin,
He'll stand and take it on the chin.
See, Tom keeps still old-fashioned ways;
The job he'll do 'fore taking pay.
Yes, Tom accepts the way it works:
Responsibilities 'fore perks.
Hey, even Atlas shrugged the sky.
Not Tom; he'll stand and hold it high.
Look around. Through all the land
Police departments undermanned.
And who is quitting in disgust?
Why every other one of us.
Notable among the losses
Are whole platoons of burned-out bosses.
Does anybody realize
The toll this job takes on us guys?
It's like we're hit with neutron bombs.
Now, would you say the fault is Tom's?
The stuff we see on streets each day
Brings ulcers and makes hair turn gray.
And things won't get no easier;
The world's grown meaner, sleazier.
The things that held it all together
Are gone like snow in Summer weather.
We feel alone. We feel like zeroes.
Didn't we used to be the heroes?
Back when you told a Trooper's story
With emphasis upon the glory?
Your calling, Bob, was quite a trade.
Through sweat were reputations made.
On top of that, it helped a bit
To have some talent, brains and wit.
And what they wrote back then was art.
What made that Muse of yours depart?
Apprenticing in college classes
Instead of down among the masses?
Or maybe you've a sheltered life
Lived far from city grit and strife
And much prefer the telephone
To plumbing lower depths alone.
No need to venture out at all;
Disgruntled whiners, sure to call,
Will tattle tales and dish the dirt --
They dressed J. Edgar in a skirt.
There's irony and cheap sarcasm.
Between the two, Bob, yawns a chasm.
The one's insightful, bites with wit;
The other -- there's no shining it.
Presumptuous and even daft
To try to teach a pro his craft.
But let me recommend, not classes,
Just go and get yourself some glasses.
'cause, Bob, your vision, it's myopic.
You've skewed perspective on this topic.
Of course that poor old Trooper's nose
Is longer than Pinocchio's;
But that's because that proud proboscis
Adorns the face of a colossus.
So next time, Bob, you go to write,
Stand back and take in all the sight.
And, Bob, I'll bet before you know it,
You'll find that you've become a poet.
Well, Professor Constantine came out on top in the end, his integrity intact. He is still a square. That means he is a simple man who sees the world in black and white and our all of our choices in life as between right and wrong. It also means that he has never become a cynical man.
Not all of us see things so simply as he. That doesn't make us unworthy people -- just more complex and subtle; as Homer described his hero Odysseus, we are of “many twists and turns/driven time and again off course.”
It's good to have someone in one's life who guides you back to the right path when your complexities and subtleties and twists and turns drive you time and again off course.
Tom speaks out
Law Enforcement News interviews Tom
Tom takes on Murphy Brown
Tom speaks out on assisted suicide
Tom on "Heroin Chic"
Tom on legalizing drugs
Tom on the threat to Mexican financial institutions
Tom tells it like it is to the U. S. Congress
Tom gets turned a deaf ear
The famous disappearing Constantine/Freeh memo to Clinton
Clinton Administration works to oppose Tom's appointment as Oversight Commissioner
Tom Takes on the Richest Man in the World
"They shoot out their lips and laugh him to scorn."
And then some!
E Pluribus Unum
Eirim chun a ghniomh a chriochnu -- I arise to complete his task.
Terry Picks Up the Message
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