Many viewers expressed disappointment with The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, the Bill Murray / Wes Anderson follow-up to the wildly successful The Royal Tenenbaums. That I enjoyed the movie as a whole is beside the point; even if it was terrible, this made me laugh harder than any single scene from a movie made in the last decade:
For the audio-less, the Zissou crew has pilfered the workplace of his professional enemy Hennessey (Jeff Goldblum). After a series of events brings Hennessey to Zissou's ship, he spots his stolen coffee maker and demands to know why they have it. After a short pause to consider potential lies and excuses, Bond Company Stooge Bill Ubell (Bud Cort) shrugs and says "Well, uh…we fuckin' stole it, man." Despite having been robbed, even Hennessey must appreciate the straightforward nature of this response. Never before have we seen a bond company stooge stick his neck out like that.
We can all appreciate the value of honesty in tense situations. In my professional life I much prefer hearing "Uh, I slept through the exam" to some melodramatic fiction about dead relatives or life-threatening illnesses. There's rarely anything to gain from lying, primarily because lying usually is quite transparent. Good liars are rare. For most people, lying accomplishes little beyond insulting the intelligence of the listener.
This is at the forefront of my thought process as I watch Florida's latest attempt to pull ahead of Arizona in the race to see which state can get back to the 19th Century first: yet another blatant attempt at voter suppression. Despite a Federal Court injunction (Nullification! States Rights! Loud Noises!) the Secretary of State continues to send letters to registered voters demanding proof of citizenship within 30 days. Leaving aside the obvious "Huh?" of putting the burden of proving their eligibility on voters, Florida's ingenious methodology is to compare Social Security records with state drivers' license databases. Since it's, like, totally impossible for anyone to become a citizen and register to vote after getting a license, that should be foolproof and result in no false positives.
No one is surprised. I mean, voter suppression is an integral part of the modern GOP playbook. True, Florida is taking it much farther than usual – shutting down early voting locations, indiscriminately purging ex-felons, targeting Hispanics (while magically missing all of the Cubans) – but this is standard operating procedure at this point. I'll give every reader a dollar if we don't have another round of fake robocalls as Election Day approaches. The media will barely bother to mention it (try to find stories about the Florida purge outside of the state), although we'll certainly hear about it if two black guys stand in front of a single polling place in Philadelphia again.
We get it. This is how it works. It would be nice, however, if the GOP could spare the rest of us the bullshit about "voter fraud". Aside from their repeated, decade-long inability to come up with actual examples that would be prevented by their proposed changes in the law, we know they don't really care about fraud per se. If we suddenly uncovered cases of teabaggers voting twice, the GOP would trip over itself to excuse it. So the best course of action would seem to be to carry on and own up to their motives. Don't feed us the fraud story when Florida Republicans threaten the League of Women Voters out of registering college students – just say "We want fewer college students to vote." Don't make up ludicrous tales of illegal immigrants swarming the polling places – just say "We're hoping fewer Hispanics will turn out." Don't pretend that clerical errors resulted in some mildly overzealous purging of the voter rolls based on criminal records – say "We don't want black people to vote." Stop with the winking and the nudging and the grave warnings about voter fraud. We know what you're doing. It's really obvious.
An honesty-first policy won't change any outcomes, but it certainly will be refreshing.