Sunday, April 6, 2008

3 Richards

I was watching a BBC production of Richard II on DVD, Bush isn't even close to Richard II, really, there's no analog for George W Bush that I can think of when you consider the scope of the impact a President has with, say, a wanton Roman Emperor or a wayward European King or a heedless Persian Potentate.

Well, I broke out my copy of "Northrop Frye on Shakespeare" and was refreshing my mind on the play, its hard to keep the subtexts and what we should know going in when we can hardly remember which way to drive to work in the morning, you know.

But this comment from Frye struck me, talking about the ending of King John, "If England to itself do rest but true"

[W]hich in the context means partly keeping the line of succession intact. You might not find this particular issue personally very involving, but the general principle is that all ideologies sooner or later get to be circumvented by cynicism and defended by hysteria, and that principle will meet you everywhere you turn in a world driven crazy by ideologies, like ours.

Could Cheney and Rove and Rumsfeld be any more cynical, and because of that, would not their reaction to displays of decency and honest though ill-advised attempts at compromise by the left only increase their cynicism? Clearly, yes.

Frye goes on and postulates that Richard, a lawful ruler, created a power vacuum because of his weakness and/or incompetence. Where a lawful, legally in power, but ruthless and unscrupulous ruler would not do so, ala Richard Nixon, a creature like Bush does. How fortunate that the power vacuum was filled without our notice by that 3rd Richard, Big Time Richard Cheney.

That's the central theme of the play, the conflict that arises from the weakness of the king. And the result is war and turmoil and divided loyalties, much as it is today. But who is our Bolingbroke? Who is going to seize the day with humilty yet boldness? That is the question.

Would that George W Bush had the depth of character, the wisdom, the grace, to think this:

"For God's sake let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings:
How some have been depos'd, some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have depos'd,
Some poisin'd by their wives, some sleeping kill'd,
All murder'd-for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court; and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp;
To monarchize, be fear'd, and kill with looks;
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life
Were brass impregnable; and humour'd thus,
Comes at the last, and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!"

But I think not. At least the hysteria is starting to fade, as the decentralized nature of our country weakens the power centers of de jure and de facto presidents and corporate retainers. As the corps shed their jobs, they forget that they also lose their influence on the people as well. The vain conceits become tiresome and mocked, the fear of the unknown terrorists fades as the concerns of rising gas prices and job losses and bankruptcy replaces ideologies with realities.

Soon we will be rid of George W Bush and his insane masters. What we replace them with, and what we do to pick up the pieces, will tell the truth about ourselves as a people and a nation.

I hope its a good story, not a Titus Andronicus story.

No comments: