The Mess We’re In

Only in our currently defiled situation could an unpaid intern have the gall and patience to assert moral power…

This month’s Foreign Service Journal features an incisive review of Patchworks by author and retired Foreign Service Officer Dan Whitman. Generous praise from a great writer. Dan served as French interpreter for the  State Department’s International Visitors Program (1969-1984). From 1985 to 2009, he served in public diplomacy posts in Africa, Europe and Haiti. His recent book, Answer Coming Soon (New Academia Publishing, 2017), offers thoughts on policy, the arts and ‎primary source history. He teaches at American University.


The institutional setting is the ‘Bureau of Government Intelligence and Execution,’ aka BOGIE. Red cape to bull, East taunts us with the acronym, which evokes…boogie, Bogie (Bogard), bugger, booger, bookie, bogus.

The reference comes up dozens of times, reminding us of classical bureaucratic silliness (viz. Nikolai Gogol) and the decent intentions of the humblest among us.

The classic American motif: the loneliness of good, versus hucksters on steroids. ‘High Noon,’ with the straightforward motives of those seeking only to do their jobs, guided by decency and brains in gear. This remains America’s hope, even in dire times.

East parodies the news, but not by much. In his only slightly dislocated bureaucracy, ‘sequester,’ ‘lockdown’ ‘forms,’ ‘furlough,’ ‘budget,’ ‘shelter in place’ become bugbears that leap from familiar daily routines to finely crafted howlers. How better to deal with The Mess we’re in, than to laugh it off while we still can?

Full Review


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