Palilogia: Repetition of the same word, with none between, for vehemence. Synonym for epizeuxis.
“No, no, no, Johnny.” I heard that all the time. I was a 12-year-old prisoner of my mother’s never-ending prohibitions. The only time I heard her say “yes” was at night, and the bed was squeaking and Dad was saying “yes” too. At least they agreed on something when they were in bed at night. In the daytime all they did was argue, argue, argue. One of the best arguments had to do with John Kennedy running for President. My mother, like a lot of mothers, loved him—he was handsome and tanned and rich and he had a “cute” Massachusetts accent. To my father, Kennedy was as evil as they came—for the reasons my mother loved him, plus (and this was the big one) he was Catholic. Mt father was certain, if Kennedy was elected, he would take orders from the Pope and the United States would lose its sovereignty, and we would become a Vatican puppet-state.
Being a boy, I took my father’s side. When I stated my position on Kennedy to my friends, I was laughed off the porch stoop. So, I headed home to make up a plan so my friends would believe that there was a conspiracy. I watched Bishop Sheen every once-in-awhile on TV, but I knew he wouldn’t reveal the Papist plot to a Protestant boy from New Jersey. Plus, he was way too important to talk to me, a sinner doomed to Hell for being Presbyterian—a member of a rebel faction of the Christian faith, that along with other factions, had torn the true universal church to pieces.
I came up with a plan, I would disguise myself as a Catholic and trick one of the local priests into telling me the truth. So, I joined CYO—Catholic Youth Organization, where I would play basketball and look Catholic. Although it had “Catholic” in its name, in all of its literature, it used “Christian” to refer to itself. I thought this was clever—like Kennedy calling himself “Christian” instead of “Catholic.” I thought I was onto something—a conspiracy of stealth and concealment. My next move was to go to confession—where you sit in a wooden hutch and tell a concealed Priest the bad things you had done since your previous confession. I would be bold. I would not begin with the usual greeting. Instead I would ask directly: “Is Kennedy a puppet of the Pope?”
I anguished for two days. It was only three days to the election. It was getting cold outside. I told my father what I was up to. He gave me a dollar and told me to get some candy for myself. That meant he was on my side. I couldn’t talk to my mother, she would just say “No, no, no, Johnny” like I was assaulting her. I took a bath, combed my hair and set off for St. Vincent’s Catholic Church—a major landmark in our community. It’s tall steeple, numerous stained glass windows and statutes of saints were awe inspiring. The cathedral was full of squeaks and echoes as I headed for the confessional. I was nervous. I had met with Father Coaly once before to try and become an undercover Altar Boy. There were no openings, so he turned me down, but I was pretty sure he’d be in the confessional this afternoon.
I was 30 minutes early, so I just went straight into the confessional. I heard a voice say: “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” That wasn’t the usual routine, as far as I knew. So, I went ahead and asked “”Is Kennedy a puppet of the Pope?” There was laughter. “I’m sorry son, but I am John Kennedy. I came to this beautiful quiet place to practice my inaugural address should I be elected on Tuesday, even though it’ll be a few months until I will deliver it. I have one last campaign event in Morristown tomorrow, that’s why I’m here. I hope you can come. And no, I am not a puppet of the Pope or anybody else.”
I didn’t believe him. What was he doing in that confessional on the Priest’s side? I had heard there were microphones that recorded everything in order to blackmail congregants and add to the church’s massive wealth and give priests spending money too. I also thought that the confessionals have a direct line to Rome. On the other hand, Kennedy seemed pretty nice. I decided later that night that Kennedy wasn’t the Pope’s puppet. I told my dad and he locked me in the garage. About 1 hour later, I heard the lock get smashed. A man in a suit with what looked like a hearing aid in his ear said, “Hi. I’m Secret Service Agent Tommy Campbell. We were assigned to shadow you after your meeting with Mr. Kennedy, and also, we have been monitoring your father because of his association with a Northern Ireland Protestant terrorist organization. I am telling you this for your own safety. The FBI has taken your father into custody. I am sorry.” I wasn’t surprised. My father was a nut, especially when it came to politics. I said to the Agent: “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” He looked at me a smiled.
Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).
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