Rhode Island is a temporal vacuum. A large portion of the female population either feather or perm their hair. Most male clothing stores still sell Sansabelt slacks. As of Saturday, September 18, 2010, the top Netflix, Local Favorite selection for Providence, Rhode Island is the 1939 classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington starring James Stewart. To this day, some Rhode Island residents inject themselves with polio just for old time’s sake.
During recession years, Time rewinds in Rhode Island. The Ocean State recedes. It regresses morally and therefore socially. Republican senator Lincoln Chafee—the state’s most bi-partisan politician in recent history—was ousted during the 2005 elections as a result of George Bush’s disastrous presidency. Change for the sake of change rarely fosters progress. In Rhode Island it typically achieves the opposite. The perfect metaphor being my armory district neighborhood where the corbels and gables of every other Victorian might be refurbished, but ignorance and poverty still abound.
Rhode Island is the all-American contradiction. Jay Gatsby resides here. The International Tennis Hall of Fame. World Cup sailing. Slave ships. Cosa Nostra. Victory over Japan Day. And let’s not forget Alan Shawn Feinstein. Feinstein is an alleged philanthropist who only gives money to institutions willing to rename themselves after him or one of his family members. Rhode Island’s a hard-up state so his name is everywhere, as is his ridiculous motto:
“Helping to better the lives of others is the greatest of all achievements.”
Aside from its clunky wording, this motto sucks. It doesn’t make sense. Bettering the lives of others is not an achievement. Maybe it’s a virtue. Maybe it’s a moral act. Maybe it will get you into heaven, but it is not an accomplishment. Managing a profitable racketeering ring for three decades is an achievement. Sailing past the Royal Perth Yacht Club amongst the choppy waters of Narragansett Bay is an achievement. Conducting twenty-six successful slave voyages is also an achievement. None of these will get you into heaven, but they’re accomplishments nonetheless.
Feinstein wants to end hunger in the state of Rhode Island. I suppose that would be an achievement, but what’s taking him so long? How many starving people can there be in a state of just over one million people? Thirty-thousand is a generous estimate. Feinstein has built athletic and academic facilities at Brown, Providence College, Roger Williams University, RIC, URI, and Johnson & Wales. He donated money to help build the IMAX. How does this help to feed Rhode Island’s hungry? It seems like some of that money would be better spent building food pantries. It seems like he’s not even close to achieving his goal. An achievement is something accomplished successfully, especially by means of exertion, skill, practice, or perseverance. Feinstein is exerting and persevering, but mostly towards his own goal of achieving immortality. Why else would he advertise his own donations on local television commercials? Why else would he put his name on every good deed?
In labeling charity an accomplishment, Mr. Feinstein treats it as something to put on a résumé, a big cock to unfurl at a urinal. Charity is not a prosthetic penis. Charity is not an accomplishment. It’s our duty. We’re all obligated to help the less fortunate, especially the well endowed.
I’m pretty sure that Mr. Feinstein is not a scholar of Kantian ethics. Moral actions should be judged by their intentions not consequences. Mr. Feinstein wants to live forever. He wants to go down in history as the state’s leading altruist. He must rethink his intent and marketing strategies or he’ll always be runner-up to Rhode Island’s most beloved and celebrated humanitarian, Mr. Potato Head.