• Daniel Ethan Finneran

An Encomium Of Mike Pence

January 2021

An encomium, I think, so long as it be conceived with sincerity, expressed with warmth, and articulated with an eloquence by which the memory of its subject is not only raised, but adorned, can never be thought inopportune. We’re told, and not without wisdom, that one should never hesitate to extend to his fellow man an honest, kind, and thoughtful word, nor to withhold from so exceptional a person the type of praise of which he’s so clearly deserving.

In other words, one should never be so miserly in his disbursement of praise as to wait for the time when its payment is past due, and, having ignored that burdensome “sell-by” date, that distant age after which all good things tend naturally to spoil, its inherent value is cheapened. We must act, or, as is the case, speak when, in whatever moment it finds us, we’re blessed with the divine opportunity to celebrate a distinguished name. Thus, are we discouraged to reserve in life the flowers by which the dead, once dead, and because dead, are so munificently covered. We should rather give to them, the fellows of flesh and blood beside whom we live, the people in whose bodies the soul, unseen yet undying, still vigorously spins, all of the lilies, roses, and violets with which our fertile, elegant gardens abound.

We should commend with promptitude, and praise with alacrity, those for whom an encomium is called—even if such a call finds us today. We should neglect with keenness and drop with glee the other lesser activities by which we might be diverted. We should never be reluctant to distribute those sweet, iridescent flowers with which our subject ought to be festooned, or to encircle his head with those same wreaths of laurel with which only the greatest of men have been crowned.

With that perhaps too-florid introduction out of my system and behind me, by whose humble, honeyed words, the pleasant thoughts of your winter’s day might be happily warmed and gently sweetened, I must proceed to a brief encomium of the current Vice President of the United States of America, Mike Pence.

If ever a man was deserving of the uncommon praise to which—either because of his Party affiliation, religious commitment, or the character of the boss under whom, for four years, he’s sedulously and thanklessly worked—he’s likely to have become unaccustomed, it would be Mike Pence. In his capacity as Vice President and, as such, second-in-command to a figure for whom vast swathes of America feel nothing but detestation and scorn, and in that of a pawn in the hand of the Democrat-led Congress, a collection of legislatures by whom every political gambit is being played, he’s been forced to tread a thin and frangible line.

On the one side of that line clamors President Trump, a man quickly disappearing in the solvent of the delusions beneath which he’s now fully submerged. Trump is the man, much more than the many sycophantic pundits and clever talk-radio hosts with whom he consorts, by whom Pence has been persistently urged to subvert the results of a duly-certified and irrefragable national election. In his role as president of the Senate, he’s been advised unilaterally to declare victory for President Trump—an act that would make himself a usurper, and Trump a king.

On the other side of that line, the Democrat Party—led in the Congress by California’s Nancy Pelosi—demands his participation in a politically-daring, but ultimately unconstitutional stunt. In what would be the most extraordinary final act of an administration to which our captivated nation’s yet borne witness, an ending at which the very stage of drama itself would stare in utter disbelief, Pelosi has called for Pence to put into use the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. This, you’ll recall, is the Amendment—drafted in the wake of the terrible stroke by which the ageing, over-taxed Woodrow Wilson was suddenly enfeebled—by whose invocation, an ailing president can be involuntarily removed.

Thus sat Vice President Pence: on the one side, he was lured to an unconstitutional act, and, on the other, he was enticed to do the same. With the chilling recognition of a Scylla on his left, and a Charybdis on his right, he sailed a middle passage, as once Odysseus did.

In his passage through the menacing Strait of Messina, that frightfully narrow body of water by which the island of Sicily is separated from the Italian coast, a troubled mariner is made to contend with nothing but difficult options. One the one side, he can steer closer to Charybdis, the Sicilian whirlpool by which whole ships are not infrequently swallowed. On the other, he can list toward dread Scylla, the rocky Calabrian shoals (or, in the fantastic imagination of the poets, a six-headed monster) from which, completely unscathed, no boat is given the chance to emerge.

Despite the intimations of the myth, and contrary to the similar situation of being “stuck” between a rock and a hard place, it’s not inconceivable to tread an absolutely medial line, one by which the awful positions of the two aquatic beasts are perfectly bisected. Should this be a path to which the dauntless sailor can adhere, and should the caprice of the wind prove conducive to so careful a movement, Scylla and Charybdis might, with any luck, be avoided altogether. One can then expect, having eluded their rapacious hunger and deadly embrace, calmer waters through which to sail, and friendlier shores upon which to alight.

As though a masterful navigator, guided not by the glimmering constellations above, but the unbending integrity and radiant light of a strong conscience within, Mike Pence conducted himself along this very fine line. On the one side—to his right, let’s say—he was threatened by the very man upon whom his own unexpected political ascent was dependent. This was President Trump, at first coaxing, and later demanding him to perform an unlawful and treasonous act. He wanted him to take a page from the book of the despot by which, for all time to come, his own reputation would be blackened, and the legitimacy of our government damaged. He repudiated him with a wave of the hand.

On the other—to his left—Pence was intimidated by a Congress suddenly eager to over-step the wide girth of its bounds. The Legislative Branch sought not only to suggest, but openly coerce a purely Executive action over which the Vice President alone exercises control. It wanted him to invoke an Amendment somewhat inapplicable to the peculiar time, situation, and place: to declare Trump non compos mentis and, as such, unsuitable for the further discharge of his many important duties. Deemed as having been bereft of all reason, and dispossessed of a properly-ordered and functioning mind, his office would be stripped of him, and the dubious state of his psychiatric health would forevermore be questioned. Tactfully, Pence declined to pursue this route as well.

By opting for a straight and middle path, one neither obsequious to the President of whom, through countless tempests, he’d proven himself so unwavering an ally, nor submissive to a Congress by whom he was not only challenged, but coerced, Pence was able to emerge a man uninjured by the baleful flanks of the narrow strait. For this, he deserves an encomium, a favorable place in the memory of our nation, and a safe harbor upon which to disembark. I hope to have provided him with at least two of these three desirable things.

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