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Bill Britt: Fates of reward and Punishment

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

The phrase “ Loose Cannon,” is believed to be coined by Victor Hugo, author of such renowned novels as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and Les Miserables. In the short story, “A Fight with a Cannon,” Hugo explores carelessness and courage, reward and punishment in the context of a loose cannon’s destructive effect n a 1900 century sail vessel.

“A frightful thing had just happened. One of the carronades of the battery, a twenty-four-pounder, had, broken loose. This is perhaps the most frightful of all accidents at sea. Nothing more terrible can happen to warship on the open sea and under full sail. A cannon that breaks its moorings suddenly becomes a kind of supernatural beast. It is a machine, which transforms itself into a monster. That mass speeds on its wheels, tilts when the ship rolls, plunges when it pitches, goes, comes, stops, seems to meditate, resumes its swift movement, goes from one end of the ship to the other with the speed of an arrow, spins around, slips to one side, dashes away, rear up, spins around, slips to one side, dashes away, rears up, collides smashes, kills, exterminates.”

In Hugo’s story the cannon breaks it mooring due to the negligence of one of the ship’s best sailors. As the story progresses, it is this very sailor who risk his life to capture and halt the destruction his carelessness has unleashed. In the final pages, it is this same sailor who through daring and courage captures the cannon and stops the destruction. Of course, this is not before several lives are lost and the ship is on the brink of sinking.

Today, many of us believe we are witnessing the destruction of the ship-of-state by the willful negligence of those by the willful negligence of those in national, state and local government.

In Washington, what could have been a short-term economic emergency has collided with the country’s long-term fundamental fiscal crisis. While ignoring the ever-growing and unsustainable effects of so-called entitlements, the D.C. cabal has added to our national debt the cost of universal healthcare, corporate bailouts and the ill-conceived stimulus.

“We the peoples’ are in need of leaders who will prepare a budget of, “beans n’ taters.” Not Kobe beef and arugula. In other words, in times of crisis we need soberness and conscientiousness not audacity and change. The country can little afford the ambitious (and expensive) proposals coming out of Washington.

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The same is true of the State of Alabama, our leaders must craft a austere budget that cuts the budget while maintain the core responsibilities of government. Sadly, there are so many federally unfunded mandates that the state lawmakers find themselves between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Everyone is going to have to shoulder the burden, if they legislature is to do what is right.

The legislature has to look for real world solution to the bloated Montgomery bureaucracy.

They also must craft bills that make a positive atmosphere for economic growth. it doesn’t matter how much money we spend on education, if many of our children’s parent, don’t have jobs. If a child does not have food and does not have a food on the table it matter little how much the state budgets for education. The now dead drug addict Whitney Houston sang, “The children are our future,” that is a lie, the parents are the children’s future.

We know that the Federal Government is not going to improve for the foreseeable future. Therefore Alabama’s leader must work doubly hard to find away for our state to win the future, through hard work, imagination and determination.

In the Victor Hugo tail of a Fight with a Cannon, the sailor who captured and secured the loose cannon was awarded a medal for his valor. This was immediately followed by his being sentenced to death and hanged for his negligence. In the words of the admiral who awarded the medal and pronounced execution, “ Carelessness has compromised this vessel. At this very hour it is perhaps lost. To be at sea is to be in front of the enemy. A ship making a voyage is an army waging war. The tempest is concealed, but it is at hand. The whole sea is an ambuscade. Death is a penalty of any misdemeanor committed in the face of the enemy. No fault is reparable. Courage should be rewarded, and negligence punished.”

Those in government would do well to realize that “we the people” place the same burden on them.

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Written By

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.


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