It wasn’t long ago when the phrase “going postal” — inspired by a number of post office massacres — was widely used to describe people driven to violent crime by work conditions. I remember remarking to my students around that time that it was a wonder that you never heard the phrase “going professorial.”

My affected puzzlement was always a prelude to a vivid description of how professors suffered from reading their sloppy, ignorant, thoughtless, ill-written papers and examinations.

I garnished these short, sharp digressions with an expression of brooding menace, hoping that fear might incite some actual work among the laggards. Nevertheless, it puzzled me in truth that no professors ever seemed to snap and run amok, slaughtering whole classrooms full of students. The provocations were severe and numerous. The consequences, although tragic, might have proven beneficial.

In connection with these observations we must consider the strange case of Dianne Reidy, an official reporter with the Office of the Clerk of the United States House of Representatives.

On Wednesday, during the vote on the compromise that raised the debt limit, ended our government’s shutdown and liberated Mount Rushmore, Reidy seized the microphone and launched into a tirade while the presiding officer hammered frantically with her gavel. Two members of the security staff ended her rant after about 30 seconds and hauled her off to the local looney bin for “evaluation.”

No one disputes that her behavior was inappropriate, but we must remember that this poor woman held a position that obliged her to keep a verbatim record of the proceedings of the House. In brief and brutal terms, she had to spend endless hours recording the ignorant, sloppy, ill-considered, clumsy, ungrammatical blatherings of the 435 pests inflicted on her by America’s cruel and thoughtless voters.

My experience as secretary of numerous academic committees has given me some idea of Reidy’s pain, and I had to deal with meetings that rarely exceeded a dozen people.

I have never been present for a session of the national House of Representatives, but I’ve listened, or half-listened, to dozens of speeches and oratorical fragments and have long since realized that 21st-century American standards of political rhetoric are lower than snake spit.

It’s painful enough to listen to them; imagine the endless dull pain of recording the speeches line by line and word by word.

Reidy’s delirium produced 30 seconds of oratory at least equal to some of the codswallop she was forced to record. According to one source, she announced, “This is not one nation under God. It never was. The greatest deception here is this is not one nation under God! It never was. Had it been, it would not have been! The Constitution would not have been written by Freemasons!”

Her brief remarks move our discussion from consideration of “going stenographical” to an examination of paranoia and politics. There’s a long and involved history behind Reidy’s Freemasonicphobia. It has preoccupied fevered minds since the 19th century.

I discovered four devout believers in Masonic conspiracies in my classes over the years: one was Syrian, two were Serbs and one was a Macedonian. The Syrian was convinced that the Masons were fronting for the Jews (or maybe it was the Jews fronting for the Masons; either his explanations were unclear or my understanding deficient).

The Serbs and the Macedonian all agreed that the Masons were using Albanians for their vile and devious ends. All four agreed that the CIA was an instrument of the Masonic conspiracy.

Next month brings the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination and this will surely renew claims about how the Masons organized the whole thing. And, in case you were wondering, the Ku Klux Klan also was founded by the Masons, or perhaps you had not heard that its founder, Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, was a member of the order?

My theory is that Dianne Reidy was so bewildered from listening to the ninnies whose words she was hired to record that she found it impossible to believe that her country was really under their control. Driven off balance, she found a kind of desperate consolation in the belief that our nation’s affairs are directed by a secret conspiracy. It may be diabolical, but at least it’s intelligent.

John Frary, of Farmington, is a former congressional candidate and retired history professor, a board member of Maine Taxpayers United and publisher of Email to [email protected]

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