Forbid Them Not, p. 354-373
And, we’re back! Last week, Cooper proposed to Laura. This week, he’s off to LA to go on a TV show. First, though:
Laura’s father didn’t want to give Cooper an answer over the phone. In fact, he wanted him to spend several days, perhaps a week, with the family to have some conversations and get to know each other better.
Asking her father does not appear to be a formality. This is not framed as a “welcome to the family, I can’t wait to get to know you better” visit. Although I suppose we’ll see, when he actually gets there!
Which is not ye:
Unfortunately, Cooper had agreed to appear on Politics and Hollywood, and the trip to Florida would have to wait. He intended on flying to Tampa straight from Los Angeles.
I guess it’s a good thing Cooper does not (or so it would appear) have any other cases. It makes it easy for him to arrange his schedule with such rapidity.
Once on the ground in LA, Cooper went to the hotel. He had three hours to burn, so he went to the pool. Guess who showed up at the pool in a “red and white striped bikini”? Jody, of course! She’s going to be on Politics and Hollywood too, and they put her up in the same hotel. How convenient!
“Listen, Cooper,” she said quietly. “I need to talk to you”
Jody tells Cooper that they are being watched. She points out a man watching from the hotel restaurant, which can be seen from the pool area.
“He’s my assigned guide from the UN. Supposed to protect me from intruders and strangers. But he repots to Kadar.”
Does the UN actually assign body guards, rather than the country an ambassador originates from? Oh wait, I’m not the only one wondering about that:
“Since when does the UN assign you a guard?”
“Ever since Kadar and I have gotten crossways on the committee.”
Does Jody have no one from the U.S. government that she can go to about this? She’s an ambassador for the United States. She doesn’t have to just let this happen! (Also, just in general, playing fast and loose with other people’s ambassadors is typically frowned on.)
As they’re discussing the bodyguard situation, Cooper gets a phone call from a reporter asking him to comment on “your victory in the Virginia Supreme Court.” This is news to Cooper. While he takes this call, Jody gets a call from a Corina Driana in Dr. Kadar’s office in Geneva alerting her of their loss.
This is of course all supposed to be terribly funny.
“Yes,” the reporter answered. “There’s a lot of discussion about standing. Would you like to comment?”
“Um-hm,” Jody replied to Miss Driana. She turned, tapped Cooper on the shoulder, smiled, and mouthed the word “Congratulations,” as she continued to listen to Kadar’s assistant on her cell phone.
“Wow! I wasn’t expecting it this quickly, but they did say that they would try to expedite the decision as fast as they could. But, my first comment is that we are excited and pleased with the decision.”
“In fact, Dr. Kadar doesn’t believe that it is best for you to go on the show tonight. She thinks that the decision will be all about the legalities in light of the decision. Dr. Kadar is trying to arrange a law professor from UCLA that she knows to take your place,” Driana continued.
Cooper was having a hard time thinking, trying to sound intelligent with the reporter yet straining to hear and understand everything that Jody was saying on the phone.
What “everything”? Thus far, all Jody has said is “Yes, Miss Driana,” and “Um-hm.” Anyway, this goes on for four solid pages. And yes—it’s confusing. It switches back and forth between each conversation, interspersing them paragraph by paragraph, sometimes without any explanation as to who is saying what.
The takeaway is that Cooper tells the reporter that he’s about his victory and refuses to say he’s off the case (while admitting that finances are an issue), and that Kadar wants Jody off the evening’s TV show.
“Dr. Kadar seems to think that this is best,” Corina Driana said flatly.
“So,” the reporter continued, “will you be handling the case on appeal to the Supreme Court?”
“But I disagree with Dr. Kadar,” Jody answered.
“I have every intention of arguing the case in the Supreme Court as things sit today,” Cooper answered.
“I will let her know,” Miss Driana continued,” but she has informed me that she wants someone more in tune with the international agenda rather than nationalist views on this particular program.”
“That sounds a little uncertain,” the reporter talking to Cooper noted. “What’s the contingency?”
Jody’s face was turning red with anger. “You tell Dr. Kadar that I am an ambassador of the United States of America, the most powerful nation on earth.”
Here, Jody toots her horn as ambassador of “the most powerful nation on earth”y (I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t actually use these words). But why doesn’t Jody do the same in other areas—say, in the issue of the bodyguard?
After they each get off the phone, Jody tells Peter that Kadar wants her off the show.
“I used to think that the international forum was the best way to achieve our agenda for the children. But, I seem to be the only one in Geneva who cares about anything other than power.”
Jody says she wants to go on the show. There’s just the issue of the bodyguard.
“My guard is getting a call from Kadar’s assistant. … They want me off the show tonight, and right now he is being told to keep me off. That’s the way they do business.”
“Will they hurt you?” Cooper asked.
“Only if they find it necessary or helpful,” Jody replied, with a cold surrender that made Cooper’s stomach tighten reflexively.
“Listen, Cooper, it is essential that I get on that show tonight. It is essential for you and me and…” It seemed strange to her to be saying it, but after a pause she said it anyway. “And for America. But I need your help.”
This is so weird.
She’s a liberal and liberals don’t care about America, see. She’s an internationalist. Saying “America” is that weird to her. Only conservatives are patriotic. Or something.
So the plan is, Jody walks out of the pool area and straight out of the hotel, and calls a cab to the studio. Her bodyguard, who is sitting in the hotel restaurant, won’t be expecting that, because Jody is wearing nothing but her bikini, and she surely wouldn’t walk off without getting her clothes. Cooper waits a while, then uses Jody’s key to get her suitcase out of her hotel room and takes a cab to the studio.
The studio assistant meets him.
“Are these clothes for Ambassador Easley?”
“Yes, this is her suitcase.”
“Well, she has been anxious for you to arrive with the suitcase. But our host who met her as she is dressed now has bene hopeful that you might forget it.”
As they wait, Cooper lets slip that he’s going to Florida to meet Laura’s family.
“That’s serious,” Jody commented.
“Yeah, I hope it is very serious,” Cooper replied.
“Well, it looks like I need to congratulate you for the second time in one day.” There was a touch of envy in the tone of her voice.
Sure. Sure there was.
Oh lovely. Jody’s guard shows up before they go on the show. Cooper tries to convince the staff to get rid of him, but he has credentials. So Jody suggests they put him in the studio audience.
“He is from the Czech Republic, and I am sure has never been in an American television program before.”
And then we get this:
Farris has a thing with Eastern Europe. It’s likely related to his membership in a virulently anti-communist Right during the Cold War. That war was over for over a decade before Farris wrote this book, but he seems to be channelling anticommunist stereotypes of Eastern Europeans nonetheless.
“But … uh …,” he stammered, struggling not only with a limited English proficiency but with the delicacy of the situation.
The show they’re going to be on is called Politics and Hollywood. The host, Greg Maris, brings on both political figures and Hollywood celebrities to comment on various issues. This week, they have Jason Baldwin, a TV star, and Marina Mansfield, a singer—and Cooper and Jody, of course.
I’m somewhat surprised Cooper agreed to be on this show. The addition of Hollywood figures makes it feel somewhat less serious than otherwise. Why go on this show? This section does not read at all realistically.
“Well, Mr. Stone,” Maris said the second he was seated, “I guess you believe that children belong to the parents like a piece of chattel property—just like in Elizabethan England.”
Mild snickers of agreement rippled through the audience dominated by young people. Cooper paused half a beat. “Well, I do think that children need a sense of belonging to something, like belonging to a team. In that sense, I do believe that children belong to their family and their parents. Children certainly do not belong either to the government of this country or to the UN.”
No one thinks children belong to the government. Cooper is arguing with a straw man. And because Farris is writing this book, Maris, the host, has no idea how to respond.
Maris, the host, turns to Jody.
“Well, we haven’t heard from our distinguished ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, the very lovely Jody Easler. I am sure Madeleine Albright never stirred the crowd in the UN the way you stirred my staff in the costume in which you arrived here today. You want to tell us about that?”
Jody winced very slightly, but no one could tell from the sake of the head and the confident smile which followed. “Oh, Greg, I just try to explore native customs including costumes and forms of dress, and I was here in southern California and thought I would dress like the locals.”
Yes, he went there. Poor Jody.
Maris asks Jody if she thinks “her side” will ultimately win the case. She says “I hope not.” This is the point where she airs her changes in view, and it’s as dramatic as hoped. Maris is quite confused—he looks at his notes to make sure he hasn’t gotten her position and role wrong. Everyone, Farris says, was riveted—including Cooper.
“I don’t want to be misrepresented in what I am about to say—I still strongly favor children’s rights. But, I have come to believe that international law is not a proper tool to control the policies and laws of the United States.”
Jody tells Maris all about the whole New York City hotel set-up. She says it was orchestrated by Kadar, “the appointed Hungarian who heads the UN committee.” She explains that the committee is only after power.
(Sidenote: coming out in front of Kadar on this one is good, as Kadar’s assistant earlier told her on the phone that they were planning to release the photos in time for the next day’s paper run.)
“Are you resigning as UN ambassador?” Maris asked, goading Jody to keep going.
“Now that you mention it, Greg, I guess I am.”
Jody tells the audience that “that man over there in the second row” is “a guard sent here by Dr. Kadar to keep me under her thumb,” and mayhem erupts. The segment ends, and Jody and Cooper are ushered off the stage. Maris is elated at the pandemonium and the ratings.
Cooper looked at Jody with admiration. “That is the bravest thing I think I have ever seen,” he whispered as soon as the production assistant had yelled “clear.”
“Or the stupidest,” Jody admitted.
“No way,” Cooper said. “You were incredible.”
“Well, I am dead one way or the other. Either my career is dead, or maybe Kadar will just kill me.”
Okay, two things.
First, none of this makes any sense. Let’s say Jody did conclude that the international forum was no the best forum for promoting children’s rights. It makes no sense that she would jump from there to being chummy with Cooper, who wants to undo state and national children’s rights legislation, not just international children’s rights agreements.
Take corporal punishment, for one. Cooper is an ardent defender of the practice. Jody believes it is abusive and should be banned. There’s a sort of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” concept going on here that makes no actual sense. Jody says she still believes in the cause of children’s rights—but she’s certainly not acting like it.
Second, none of this is actually scary. As readers pointed out when I reviewed Farris’ first novel, that book would have been far scarier if it were about well-meaning people gone awry—about policies set up to do good that end up hurting people—rather than being about people falsifying documents, changing computer records, and then blowing servers up with dynamite. The same is true here.
The bad guy, in this book, isn’t children’s rights. The bad guy is Kadar, who uses blackmail, has people followed, hacks into people’s email, and so forth. Just as the problem in Farris’ first book was Donna, not child welfare laws, the problem here is Kadar, not children’s rights.
Jody tells Cooper that she eliminated Kadar’s ability to blackmail her on purpose: “I remembered a Bible verse I heard as a child. You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”
“Jody, I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of you,” Cooper said, placing his hand on her shoulder.
This is just way too much. It’s starting to feel really patronizing—especially when you remember that this is the guy who is advocating for parents being able to hit children (i.e. corporal punishment), something Jody almost certainly views as child abuse. If I had to turn in my own organization or members of my own cause for fraud or legal hijinks or something, I wouldn’t want my cause’s opposition patting me on the back for it. I mean, seriously??
Now, maybe Jody has changed her mind on corporal punishment. Maybe she changed her mind on other children’s rights issues too. Maybe she’s done a Rosaria Butterfield. At this point, though, we’ve been told that she still believes in the children’s rights cause, she just thinks it is best carried out domestically rather than internationally.
Ergo, none of this makes sense.
Perhaps weirdest of all is this bit:
As the program ended, Phil Williams, the executive producer of the program, was waiting for Jody at the edge of the set. He introduced himself, shook her hand, and thanked her for the best program in the history of the show..
“Thanks, I guess,” she said. “I really don’t have an encore.”
“I was actually hoping you would do not just one encore but a whole bunch. We have been looking for a female cohost for the program, and I think we have found her. Want to go to dinner and talk about it?”
Jody looked at Cooper as if she were abandoning a good friend. “Go ahead,” Cooper said encouragingly. “I need to get going early in the morning to fly to Florida.”
“Bye, Cooper,” she said.
“Bye, Jody. I’ll keep praying for you.”
“Please do, Cooper. I’d like that.”
Jody takes the job. No, really—she goes from U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., with a Ph.D. in psychology and a background in children’s rights activism and testifying before the Senate, to being co-host of Politics and Hollywood, whose offices she first entered in a bikini, much to the appreciation of her now co-host, Maris.
None of this makes sense. This is not how real people act, or operate. And as readers pointed out last week, nothing in this book has consequences. Cooper lied and hid things from his clients, but they forgave him right away. Deanna spanked Layton, but no one seems to have found out. There are no stakes.
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