Sometimes a thousand twangling instrumentsGeorge W. Bush enjoys the support of only one American in four, the lowest presidential approval rating in a generation. It is no coincidence that leading Dems beat every major '08 Republican.
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches Ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again.
--William Shakespeare, The Tempest (Caliban), Act 3, Scene 2
What is not clear from the polls is whether or not Americans really get it! Simplistic polls cannot measure the degree to which this "President" has waged war upon the US Constitution and, indeed, every principle that impelled the American separation from England. Have Americans, at last, grasped the subversive nature of this radical, reactionary, rogue administration? If not, Gore Vidal has a reminder.
This is an unpatriotic government. This is a government that deals openly in illegalities, whether it is attacking a country which has done us no harm, two countries--Iraq and Afghanistan--because we now believe, not in declaring war through Congress as the Constitution requires, but through the President. 'Well, I think there are some terrorists over there, and I think we got to bomb them, huh? We'll bomb them.' Now, we've had idiots as presidents before. He's not unique. But he's certainly the most active idiot that we have ever had.Vidal recently retold a story about the Roman Emperor Tiberius whose reputation Vidal thinks suffers because his history was written by the enemies of his regime, most notably Tacitus.
The Senate of Rome sent him congratulations with the comment, "Any law that you want us to pass, we shall do so automatically." And he sent a message back. He said, "This is outrageous! Suppose I go mad. Suppose I don't know what I'm doing. Suppose I'm dead and somebody is pretending to be me. Never do that! Never accept something like preemptive war," which luckily the Senate did not propose preemptive wars against places they didn't like. But Mr. Bush has done that.Scholars assure us that when Jesus Christ said "Render unto Caesar", the Caesar he referred to was Tiberius. Americans will remember Tiberius as portrayed by George Baker in the BBC series of I, Claudius of 1976 (Britain) and 1977 (US). The series was based upon Robert Graves' "I, Claudius" and relied heavily on Tacitus. It reinforced the image of Tiberius as a rake, retiring to Capri where he buggered anything that moved and had an orifice. Tacitus himself says this of his own objectivity.
But the successes and reverses of the old Roman people have been recorded by famous historians; and fine intellects were not wanting to describe the times of Augustus, till growing sycophancy scared them away. The histories of Tiberius, Caius, Claudius, and Nero, while they were in power, were falsified through terror, and after their death were written under the irritation of a recent hatred.In defense of Tiberius, Vidal reminds us that Tiberius was, at least, wiser than Bush who more nearly resembles Claudius, considered by his own family to have been an idiot, a stammerer, a failure, a "least consequential twig".
A member of a ruthless and murderous imperial family, he survives because he seems to all around him the least consequential twig of the family tree. But Claudius bears enduring witness to a moment when the virtues of the Roman republic, which has already been disposed of by the time he begins his tale, are being lost to the bloodlusts and hubris of the Roman empire.While scholars may quibble about the accuracy of Tacitus, the accuracy of Robert Graves, there is Gibbon who described in a comprehensive nine volume history of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire fell, he claimed, due to "a loss of civic virtue", a lazy citizenry who just didn't get it.
--A Review of I, Claudius
Other reasons for the fall of Rome may be just as credible and equally modern souding. Like the US under Bush, Rome lacked adequate budgetary controls, resources were wasted, defense was outsourced. Like the present day US, Roman rule had become a kind of Ponzi scheme premised on ever newer conquest and plunder. Wealth trickled up, not down. A "Roman dole" never paid its own way and poorer farmers got poorer and lost their lands to a landed elite who often escaped taxation altogether.
Bush has assumed an imperial "Presidency", in fact, a dictatorship. He claims the power and authority to rewrite the laws and interpret the Constitution. He has said that he will deprive Americans of every right affirmed in the Bill of Rights. Bush has said that he alone will define "terrorism" and to make the point, he has flouted American treaty obligations. Unless Bush is checked, unless his corrupt administration is overthrown or otherwise brought down and utterly repudiated, his decrees will stand and Bush will have deprived every citizen will have become a subject of a dictatorial regime, a rogue state that robs its citizens of the rule of law as it bullies the rest of the world with nukes. This simply must not be tolerated. Any American regime effecting such an outcome is, by definition, illegitimate. The people are now and always sovereign.
I despair that my government has abandoned the democratic ideals of millions of Americans who must now bear the shame that Bush has brought upon them. Once a beacon of hope and freedom, the US now stands for atrocity and repression..
American "radicals" might never have posed a threat to an establishment that, at least, mouthed the ideals of our founding. Rather, radicals in America, settled into a role: that of a nagging conscience. Many of us eased into the role of merely making uncomfortable a corrupt establishment that had already begun undoing the work of Washington, Jefferson and Madison.
America was not always the reactionary right wing state that it is today. Throughout our history, American radicals, like latter day Calibans, lurked about the edges of our collective political consciousness. We often hear, like "a thousand twanging instruments" the dream that had been our founders' dream and, later, Martin Luther King's dream.
In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
--Martin Luther King, Jr
You know, it's at a time when people say, 'Well, it makes no difference what we do, you know, if we march and we make speeches, and this and that.' It makes a lot of difference if millions of Americans just say, "We are fed up! We don't like you. We don't like what you're doing to the country and what you have done to the country. We don't like to live in a lawless land, where the rule of law has just been bypassed and hacks are appointed to the federal bench, who will carry on and carry on and carry on all of the illegalities which are so desperately needed by our military-industrial corporate masters."In waking from a "Caliban's" dream, we find ourselves ruled by the likes of Nixon, Reagan, Bush. When we should be roused to rebellion, we are, like Caliban, tempted merely to re-capture in sleep a sweet dream of freedom, equality and peace. But we must not doze. We must awaken and act!
--Vidal, op cit
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