There’s a bizarre controversy underway in France. Agence France Presse initially published an unflattering photo of Francoise Hollande, France’s President, then withdrew it — and people are wondering why.
The photo — which appears in the article linked above — was taken during Hollande’s visit to a school. In the picture, Hollande has a bug-eyed look and a goofy grin and is sitting in front of a blackboard that says “today, it’s back to school” in French. Some people aptly described the photo as making Hollande look like “the village idiot.” Then AFP withdrew the photo, and the questions began. Did Hollande’s office lobby the agency to remove the photo, and if so, did AFP buckle to presidential pressures? Still later, AFP issued a statement that said that its decision to withdraw the photo was an error, but added that its policy is “not to transmit images that gratuitously ridicule people” — such as a photo of a public figure picking his nose.
The picture of Hollande is unflattering, to be sure — but it’s also hilarious. I could understand a politician with a huge ego not wanting the picture to be published. I happen to think, however, that it doesn’t hurt to remind politicians that they aren’t god-like creatures. Capturing our leaders in human poses — silly expressions and all — helps to remind us all that they are, after all, just people, with the frailties and shortcomings of other members of the human race. Democratic societies aren’t, and shouldn’t be, places where press agencies are worrying about whether a picture portrays a leader in a sufficiently heroic light.
So, let the bug-eyed village idiot picture stand. If Hollande is smart, he’s use it for a little self-deprecating humor. If’s he too arrogant to do so . . . well, the picture will come in handy.
A few days ago our kitchen faucet started leaking at the base when the water was turned on. At first it was a trickle; eventually the leak became a gushing, fizzing torrent that we handled with a wadded-up towel.
I’m not a practical, fix-it-yourself kind of guy. I don’t know bupkis about plumbing, I don’t have the tools, and I don’t plan on learning the trade with blundering attempts on the most-used faucet in our house. So, Kish called the plumber we’ve used before. He’s happy to help us, but he told us we’d have to wait three weeks.
Three weeks! Sorry, he said, but he’s got work scheduled for the next three weeks solid before he can fit us in. And his jam-packed work schedule mirrors what we’ve heard from other craftsmen you need from time to time around the house. We’ve got a sliding door that is misbehaving; the handyman we called said he’ll be out to take a look in a month. We’ve learned that if you want to book painters, or carpenters, or brick masons, you really need to plan ahead.
The little lesson in all of this is that there is always going to be paying work for people who are good at skilled trades. We’re always going to need plumbers, electricians, painters, and the other jack-of-all-trades fix-it guys. Because our national policy for decades has been to try to push everyone toward getting a college degree, the influx of new tradesmen has dwindled, and now there’s apparently a shortage — which means you wait three weeks for a plumber.
I’m guessing that the plumber who can’t come out to take a look at our faucet for three weeks is doing pretty well in his business. I wonder if the gaggle of unemployed law school graduates who are loaded down with student loan debt ever regret that they didn’t learn how to use a wrench?