monkey’s paw impeachment moment

At the beginning of the 20th century W.W. Jacobs, a former post office clerk turned short story writer, published an anthology of his work — The Lady of the Barge. It was a collection of three types of stories: the misadventures of sailors ashore, celebrations of artful dodgers in slow-witted villages, and what were called ‘tales of the macabre’. Included in the collection was The Monkey’s Paw.

It’s the story of the White family — Mr. and Mrs. White and their son Herbert — who receive a visit from Sergeant-Major Morris, a villager who’d recently returned after 21 years spent in the British Army in India. Morris regales them with tales of “wild scenes and doughty deeds; of wars and plagues and strange peoples.” Mr. White had heard something about a mummified monkey’s paw.

“It had a spell put on it by an old fakir,” said the sergeant-major, “a very holy man. He wanted to show that fate ruled people’s lives, and that those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow. He put a spell on it so that three separate men could each have three wishes from it.”

Morris tells how he’d obtained the paw from its original owner. “I don’t know what [his] first two [wishes] were, but the third was for death.” He refuses to discuss his own wishes, but suddenly throws the paw into the White’s fireplace. Mr. White retrieves it over the Sergeant-Major’s objections. Later, Herbert encourages his father to use the paw and make a wish. Mr. White wishes for 200 pounds, the amount needed to pay of their home.

The following day Herbert goes to work at the nearby factory. The wish of the night before is forgotten. That evening a man from the factory arrives with the unfortunate news: Herbert was caught in the machinery and killed. The factory “admit no liability at all, but in consideration of your son’s services, they wish to present you with a certain sum as compensation.” It’s 200 pounds, of course.

“He has been dead ten days, and besides he – I would not tell you else, but – I could only recognize him by his clothing. If he was too terrible for you to see then, how now?”

Ten days later, after the funeral, Mrs. White insists her husband use the monkey’s paw to “wish our boy alive again.” He’s reluctant, but eventually gives in. Later that night, there’s a knock at the door. Mrs. White wants to answer it; her husband resists. She breaks away from him, he finds the monkey’s paw and “frantically breathed his third and last wish.”

The knocking stops. Mrs. White opens the door.

A cold wind rushed up the staircase, and a long loud wail of disappointment and misery from his wife gave him courage to run down to her side, and then to the gate beyond. The street lamp flickering opposite shone on a quiet and deserted road.

Why am I telling you about this 120-year-old story? Because yesterday, the House impeachment managers had a monkey’s paw moment. They wished for the power to call witnesses, and that wish was granted. But the wish came with an enormous price for interfering with fate.

I don’t believe in fate or destiny (or any other unchangeable, predetermined course of events) but I’m not innocent. I knew — we all knew — Republicans would vote to acquit Comrade Trump, the most mendacious and corrupt being ever to inhabit the White House. Evidence didn’t matter. We knew that. And most of us knew that if the Democrats used the monkey’s paw, there’d be a price to pay.

I wanted them to do it anyway. Almost everybody I know wanted them to do it anyway. When they didn’t call witnesses, most of us immediately assumed the Republicans played tough and the Democrats caved — because that’s been our experience. But in fact, we were all Mrs. White, wanting to resurrect the mutilated body of her dead son. We could have had witnesses. Maybe witnesses for weeks. Witnesses testifying to Trump’s appalling behavior. It would be so satisfying. It would be…well, profoundly stupid. No competent lawyer wants to put a hostile witness on the stand, even under oath. The risks are too great.

And now we’ve learned the Republicans threatened to filibuster Biden’s appointments and the Covid relief bill (and probably everything on the Biden agenda) if the House managers called witnesses. To call witnesses would have born out the fakir’s warning: those who interfered with [fate] did so to their sorrow. Even though I don’t belief in fate, I believe Jamie Raskin did the wise thing; he threw the monkey’s paw back into the fire.

And so things happened pretty much as we all expected. Senate Republicans did what we knew they’d do. It wasn’t fate, but it’s close enough that it makes no difference. Raskin didn’t use the monkey’s paw again; we didn’t get the 200 pounds to pay off our mortgage. But at least we didn’t end up with a ten-day-old mutilated corpse on our doorstep. So there’s that. Plus, the fact that seven Republicans showed a degree of honor and decency by refusing to follow the GOP lie is actually a sort of victory.

But lawdy, that mummified monkey’s paw is still awfully tempting.

7 thoughts on “monkey’s paw impeachment moment

  1. HV Day Greg.. I’ve been waiting for your reaction. I have to believe in Karma, burn the sage, and cleanse my own soul of all the anguish I have accumulated over the weeks months and years of this horror movie we’ve all been witnessed to. Knowing that the inflated orange spun woven bastard is gloating once again over his aquittel makes me ill. However,I know In my Valentine heart that his days and all his spawn are numbered and have to believe that Karma will prevail.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karma can take a long time, and we tend to be impatient people. But you know, let Trump gloat. It’s annoying, but let him have his moment to gloat. It won’t last long. Soon he’ll be dealing with depositions and criminal charges — and you know who’ll be gloating then? Every single lawyer he ever stiffed out of a fee.

      Trump couldn’t assemble a competent team to represent him in the repeachment, how in hell is he going to find competent counsel in a criminal case? Won’t happen. That thought cheers me up.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Only one typo! A success!

      I tend to write fast and sometimes I don’t bother to proofread. I know I should take more care…but there’s that part of me that says if I spend too much time on this blog, it’ll become like work. It’ll mean I’m taking it too seriously. So I write quickly, edit quickly, find an image or two to break up the Wall O’ Text, and his ‘publish’.

      But thanks for noticing and letting me know. I sincerely appreciate it when folks do that, even though it’s a tad embarrassing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You were talking about trump and the decisions that congress was facing because of him and his impeachment trial. Money is a bigly deal in that whole crowd, especially the senators who sold out (there it is again!) so it took a tick before I guessed you had actually done this by accident instead of in mockery of these quislings.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Money IS a bigly deal — to Comrade Trump, to the senatorial cowards who voted to acquit him, and to the characters in The Monkey’s Paw. Another argument for getting money out of politics.

        Also an argument for getting supernatural amputated primate limbs out of politics. (By the way, I managed to resist going down the tangent that monkeys actually have hands rather than paws.)

        Liked by 1 person

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