Every city has them. A small, small number of eccentrics who perform the role of "gadfly" in the community. To anyone who pays the least attention to matters political or social, the mention of the gadfly's name is usually good for a chuckle, if not a hearty laugh followed by the retelling of an anecdote involving the gadfly. We might not respect this eccentric, but we are entertained by them, even as we cringe our way through one of their obscure and obtuse criticisms of how the city/state/nation/world/solar system/galaxy/universe is run.
Take Geraldine Amato, for instance, Albuquerque gadfly extraordinaire.
It's unfortunate and probably because of an "international bankers conspiracy", but there isn't a Wikipedia entry yet for Geraldine Amato. Googling the terms "Geraldine Amato Biography" leads nowhere, except for the happy and then very sad recollection of Geraldine Ferraro, former Vice-Presidential candidate. If I ever repent significantly from my dedicated life of sloth, I promise that my very first Wikipedia authorship will be on Geraldine Amato.
Why is Ms Amato worthy of effort? Well, if you had ever seen an Amato performance at a ABQ City Council meeting, public access rant, Sheriff candidates forum, or any of the myriad places she's spoken, rambled, mumbled and spoken some more you wouldn't be asking that question. She is political eccentrism personified. She is every bit a political performance artist, a gadfly in the truest Platonic sense rousing the complacent who control our fair city. Or maybe she's just entirely off the deep-end and I'm missing the boat, so to speak.
I bring up Ms. Amato today in response to a story in today's ABQ Tribune. It seems that the City Council is considering ways to limit public comment during its meetings, citing that current rules allow for the "public" to speak not only for two minutes during the oft-hilarious and cringe-worthy "public comments" segment at the beginning of meetings, but also for up to two minutes on any three issues considered by the Council at a session. That's eight possible total minutes per ABQ gadfly, and Councilors are getting tired of five hour weekly sessions that still don't fully cover agendas.
Now Ms. Amato is not the only frequent-to-the-point-of-ubiquitous speaker at these meetings, but after her years of gadfly performances one wishes the Council could somehow package the new comment rules into an ordinance, and call this legislation: The Geraldine Amato Public Comment Ordinance (or GAPCO). It would be an utterly fitting honor to bestow on an ABQ/Bernalillo County public figure who has set an Olympically-high obscure and obtuse standard for other gadflies to compete against.
A full recounting of Ms. Amato's positions would not only exceed the recommended word count for blog entries (by several fold), but would also lead to the need for innumerable references and cross-references on subjects as diverse as the Metropolitan Jail, the Border Patrol, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, the Carlyle Group, and ABQ City Councilor Michael Cadigan. Then there's the fact that only Ms. Amato could perform such a linkage; this humble blogger can only feebly ladle at the surface of the ocean that is Ms. Amato's world view.
To get a real idea of what's she talking about (or as real as is possible given the circumstances), you gotta check out a cowgirl-hatted, hair-braided Amato speaking live. Go to a City Council meeting or at least watch it on cable channel 16. Flip past the public access channel and see if the bizarrely sexist "Chicano TV" is over and you might see Ms. Amato speaking before that 100,000th rerun of Don Schrader and the "Naked Man" show. And yes, we can't let an ABQ gadfly post go by without a Don Schrader mention, and we'll get to him in more detail some day soon.
And lest the reader think this post is just a big 'ol laugh at Geraldine Amato's expense, what makes her a real gadfly instead of merely a kook is that many people AGREE with her on several positions. She rails against government, international corporations, the military, and a disregard for common people. It would take a pretty big tent to cover all the folks who oppose those entities and ideas. But Amato doesn't stop there. Her peformance art twist is to take those fairly popular sentiments and imbue them with a long-winded grandiosity that starts with Orwell and ends with Emily Littela.
I'd love to have some video/audio examples of Ms. Amato in action, but, uh, I don't. I don't tape City Council meetings. I guess my politi-dorkiness hasn't quite reached that point yet. Still, all is not lost. Amazing written records of Ms. Amato's views can be found in those little Q&A pieces done by the local newspapers. For instance, in her last race for County Sheriff (an office she has run for, unsuccessfully, many times) she responded to the question " Please list experiences you have related to the position you are seeking" by answering "Being victimized by agents of the current legal regime's unlawful government". She goes on to answer the question " What new initiatives should be taken to combat crime related to methamphetamine use?" with the answer that "Isn't this the drug fed the troops by the Pentagon brotherhood over the years? That's who introduced it to our society, and that's who needs to be stopped." She closes by answering the paper's rather more pointed final question, namely, "In the past you have run unsuccessfully for offices including sheriff, district attorney and mayor. What makes this run more likely to be successful?" by pithily responding "Nothing personal, but you're an idiot."
And that was my single favorite quote from this year's primary cycle. In fact, I think it's in my top five, all time. Which get me longwindedly back to the City Council trying to change the rules for public comment at its meetings. Having been at a few Council meetings, and having watched parts of many more at home, I can understand the Councilors attempt to reduce the amount of "public" input. Yes, a few speakers (Geraldine Amato prime among them) do seem to rant on every subject. Yes, at least ten times during "public comments" I have to frantically change the channel away from a particularly wacky speaker going on about the Volcano Heights Sector Plan being the work of Satan or something. Still, I defend the right for the "public" to speak, and speak frequently at the Council meetings.
I could say that my desire to maintain the level of public input at these meetings in based on a First Amendment basis, or some Thomas Paine-influnced belief in the common man, but, to be honest, my interest in saving the Geraldine Amato's of Albuquerque at these meetings is that the performances are, with fair regularity, so darn interesting. Embarrassing, over-the-top, lacking in direct evidence, often completely unrelated to the issue at hand, but interesting. That's especially important in the media-savvy environment we live in now, with everything political so smoothly packaged, so sound-bite friendly. Gadflies like Geraldine Amato are anything but smooth, and I take their rough, chunky rants as a sign this country hasn't totally lost its principle of freedom of speech or its at-times kinky desire to view and enjoy eccentrics in our midst.