Editorial: ‘…a single knight…’

By Frank Schier

Editor and Publisher

Editor’s note: Free speech is banned about zoning issues in the public comment period before the county board. That’s because free public comments and limited rebuttals are only allowed first at the Zoning Board of Appeals (an odd backwardly-processing name, don’t you think?), before the issue goes to the Zoning Committee and then to the board. The legal concern weakly leans on the assertion any comments spoken to the board could present new testimony the board is too dumb to discern from the admissible testimony from the appeals board, from which no appeals are allowed. In other words, we cannot dispute what was previously appealed. Understand?

I understand the high intellect of the whole board, and I know they know all about metaphors. So I decided to innocently and metaphorically appeal to them about the unappealable with literature as a technique that was technically not a direct address to the forbidden issue of windmills, or as I stood publicly corrected from the floor after my effort by one Paul Gorski (D-5), “They’re not windmills, FRANK! They’re wind turbines!”

See? They understood and acted on the metaphor; but as you will see, unfortunately, they did not mount up to reach the meaning.

Hence, the title of my Oct. 22 public comments as I gave them to be cited on the evening’s agenda was: “Literature and Public Officials’ Ethics.”

Hello, I was going through my library the other night, looking for a good piece of literature that would be a help, as fine literature can be, with a very difficult decision I had to make. A good book can be a fine friend in times of trouble; sometimes, your only real friend. The lessons of the settings, characters, plots and themes appear magically in your mind’s eye, and are always within an arm’s reach. You can hold a good book, and it will hold you.

As I was searching the shelves, I came to my mother’s set of Great Books of the Western World. I saw one author’s name on the spine of Vol. 29, and I immediately thought of you! Each and every one of you, and what challenges your ethics face with every vote you make. I thought how difficult the dilemma must be on many votes, when you must choose between special interests you know will help you get elected to continue to serve your constituents and between the actual general good of your constituents’ and the county’s future. The critical thinking and the ethics required are enough to drive anyone crazy! Believe me, I know. It’s enough to make you go mad! We all know about mad.

Probably the most complete madman in all western literature is brought to our mind’s eye and heart by the author on the spine of Vol. 29, Cervantes. That’s Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra who lived from 1547-1616. In 1605, he published the novel The History of Don Quixote De La Mancha.

See, I have another story for you. I know you love stories.

This story’s main character, of course, is a very poor, retired old man, whose real name is Alonzo Quixano, who reads so many books on romantic chivalry, it drives him, I think understandably, MAD! CRAZY!

Alonzo goes so crazy, he changes his name to Don Quixote De La Mancha and thinks he’s an actual knight. He then goes out to do battle with the world, just as we all must.

Vladmir Nabokov wrote that Don Quixote “looms so wonderfully above the skyline of literature, a gaunt giant on a lean nag, that the book lives and will live through [his] sheer vitality. … He stands for everything that is gentle, forlorn, pure, unselfish, and gallant.”

Very reluctantly, yet faithfully served by his squire Sancho Panza, Don Quixote is known for fighting a number of  what have become his most famous opponents—Windmills! You’ve all heard the saying “tilting at windmills”? Don Quixote thinks windmills are terrible giants ready to attack the countryside. Nobody else thinks windmills are ferocious giants, not even Sancho, but Don Quixote does. He thinks they’re HUGE. TERRIBLE. He loses, of course, and eventually becomes sane and renounces all of his heroics as nonsense.

But every insightful reader loves him for his craziness that really stands as a model for ethical behavior.

Novelist Milan Kundera said, “Don Quixote is practically unthinkable as a living being. And yet, in our memory, what character is more alive?”

Be more alive! Be our Don Quixotes! Charge those windmills, our Don Quixotes! Charge!

Editor’s note: The county board voted 27-1 to approve the Wind Turbine Ordinance, with only Steve Schultz (R-2) voting against the giants. As Don Quixote cried before charging the windmills: “Fly not cowards and vile beings, for it is a single knight that attacks you.”

From the October 28-November 3, 2009 issue

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