Jimmy Breslin Pounds a UU

February 15th, 2008 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

On Point on WBUR is not normally a yuck-fest. Today, though, I caught the Jimmy Bresllin segment while driving. It’s worth listening to for the first caller, a UU minister.

This show will be online shortly here. This entry is cross-posted at Marry in Massachusetts.

As a disclaimer, I admit that I’m a long-term UU. I even drive the cult car, a Volvo sedan. Also, I am a former journalist and as someone whose high-school tenure was exactly the same as Breslin’s three years writing columns for the New York Herald Tribune. We got the local paper, the NY Times and the Trib daily. I”d start with the Breslin column any day it ran. So, I can identify with both self-righteous UUs and newspaper writers, and of course, Breslin in particular.

I nestled in when I heard that he’d be on talking about his latest collection of Mob Tales, The Good Rat: A True Story, and taking listener calls. I got an extra charge when Tom Ashbrook rushed the introduction to start taking calls and the first caller was someone I’d met.

That would be Rev. Aaron Payson. His a big guy who dresses colorfully. He’s the minister at the UU Church of Worcester. He’s the other type of UU minister.

About half of them are slight and wiry with close cropped gray beards. Payson is the other kind — tall and chunky, smiling with dreadful sincerity.

We met in Worcester in court at the Larry Cirignano trial last fall. Payson was a witness for the prosecution, as well as a friend of the victim. He attended the whole trial and we chatted on occasion in the chamber and outside. We’re not buddies.

I do have a full enough sense of him to see my lefty politics racing behind his eyes, eager to assert themselves in conversation. That he did with Breslin…failing miserably several times.

Payson started with a longish assertion disguised as a question. It tangentially keyed off Breslin’s long journalistic and fictive association with the Mafia. Payson’s routine had two points:

  • Does writing about the Mob, treating them as entertainment, do society a disservice?
  • If the Mafia killings and such are somehow justified and humanized, does that lead to excusing the bloodshed of such adventurism as the current Iraq war?

Breslin was born in 1930 and has seen and done a lot. As far as I know, gangsters threatened him many times for his coverage, but only beat him severely once. As well as well writing, he’s extremely well read and is very thoughtful. He’d have none of Payson’s UU syllogisms.

I have no doubt that Payson rides those violence horses around his nave and in his living room. As a UU of more than 20 years, I am puffy and pedantic like that often as well.

Breslin noted that not only is violence one of the few mainstays of our entertainment, that has long been true. He said something to the effect that William Shakespeare had the stage littered with bodies before the end of many of his first acts.

Payson kept coming back. Breslin kept pushing back. He found it outrageous that someone would see a causality from writing about gangsters to thinking it’s okay to murder folk in foreign lands.

It’s a hoot and I hope I think of it the next time some right winger edges me into a debate. We lefties, particularly Unitarian ones, have to guard against such silliness.

By the bye, that BUR link has its sub-link to a selection from Breslin’s book.

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One Response

  1. Aaron Payson says:

    Not at bad summation of a frustrating conversation! 🙂 Aaron

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