Winning an election not all it's cracked up to be . . .
A victor muses . . .
Attended an open house for recently-elected State Rep. Hoan Huynh of the district in which I live, the Illinois 13th. He is the first Asian-American elected to the Illinois state legislature.
37 years ago I managed the election campaign of the first Asian-American to run for a state office in Illinois. She was Lee Maglaya, who challenged an incumbent state representative in this same area. Best wishes for Representative Huynh, who seems an honorable person.
I'm tempted, however, to share this from Portuguese writer Eça de Queirós' 1900 novel The Illustrious House of Ramires, about a man who won his election and then pondered:
The day of triumph was coming to an end, as brief as the illuminations and fireworks. Gonçalo . . . contemplated the value of this triumph for which he had so longed, so fawned.
Deputy! Deputy for Villa-Clara....Before such an ambition, so lowly, so trivial, all his desperate, unscrupulous efforts seemed less immoral than derisive.
Deputy! What for? To have lunch at the Bragança, go up the hill in a cab to S Bento, and inside the dirty convent scribble on the state desk to his tailor; yawn over the surrounding inanity of both men and ideas, and accompany absent-mindedly, in silence or in bleating, the flock of S Bento sheep, as he had deserted the identical flock of sheep of Braz Vitorino.
Yes, perhaps one day, after base flattery and intrigue with the leader and the leader's wife, and smiles and promises in the newspaper offices, and some ardently shouted speech - he would become a minister.
And then what? There would be the same cab outside S Bento, with the messenger boy behind in his white jade, the ill-made uniform on afternoons in the theater, the fawning smiles of the clerks through the dark corridors of the Department and muck spattering him from every opposition newspaper . . . .
Ah! What a stupid, uninteresting life, by comparison with others full of supreme vitality, which pulsated so magnificently beneath the flickering of these same stars! As he huddled in his jacket, deputy for Villa-Clara, triumphant at this miserable success - thinkers completed their explanations of the Universe; artists achieved works of eternal beauty; reformers perfected social harmony; saints improved souls in saintly fashion; physiologists lessened human suffering; inventors increased the wealth of nations; magnificent explorers wrested worlds from sterility and silence . . . .
Ah, these really were men, improving and embellishing humanity with their tireless hands! If only he were like them, the superhuman!
Did such a supreme action need genius - the gift that, like the ancient flame, descended from God upon the elect?
No! Merely a clear understanding of human realities - and then a strong enough desire.
Grim realism. A pining-away. A wake-up call to a victor? As told by Portugal’s Proust. . .