Oh, the minutae


We never met, but when we do, I will recognize you by your large left hand. It will surely be the hand with which you wrote your compliment to Bill Wilkinson, on the news of his possible candidacy for supervisor of Town of East Hampton [“Early bird,” editorial, April 2].

I suppose being lost in details might be a delightful plight for any pencil-nosed editor worth his weight, and that’s surely why you’re so cocksure thriving on minutia is the sine qua non of practical political leadership and municipal governance.

But even with my own penciled peculiarities, I am not so sure. We could review the reams of evidence to the contrary—of those who used details to obfuscate the mismanagement and theft of public goods, trust and services. Details have a long history of making camouflage.

History is a poor subject for me, so I strain to recall King David’s detailed calculations for the “hand” of Bathsheba, and the unkind cut for her husband Uriah. It’s a good thing he could throw a stone. Or how King Xerxes, son of Darius, scion of Persia got lost in the details of Thermopylae and forgot 300 Spartans—it was the beginning of the end for Persia. While we can thank a pencil-nosed scribe, Heroditus or was it Thucydides, for the play-by-play, we strain with the power of prayer to point to any good the devotion to detail did for the leadership. Save the lesson learned.

More recent history could do ?no better in finding details’ champions. Hoover, Carter, Clinton, probably ?our most detail-oriented politicians, got us and/or themselves in a heap ?of trouble. Whereas Washington, ?Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan didn’t know a detail from a donut hole, yet managed to lay claim to the mantle of history.

In short, I fear East Hampton’s suffering is only beginning. Taxes will rise to hurtful levels and services will be cut—just at a time when government is supposed to provide for a “rainy day.” It results from a long lost, yet still romanticized parochialism and a useless partisanship that oddly prides itself on preserving a supply of buried bodies and a special rhetoric of minutia capable of breaking even the most hopeful heart.

Oh, the minutiae; what would we do without it? There would be nothing to conceal the true colors of our municipal life. We would be left with the flimsy internal architecture of a place with no honest vision, little underlying philosophy and no proven tools of administration.

We would have, unfortunately, a full compliment of details.

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