Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Cleopatra's Royal Barge - op-ed
Lawrence Hall, HSG
Queen Cleopatra’s Royal Barge
Palace courtiers are even now ensuring that their next master will be presented with yet another Imperial Death Star upon his or her earthly apotheosis. There are already some seven or eight cars (“limousine” is a low-prole usage) in the presidential harem, but court functionaries know how important it is to keep the Grandissimus Supreme Sultan, Republican or Democrat, entertained with newer and more expensive toys and luxuries.
Just why any president should swan about in a Wal-Mart-size sled that even the sleaziest drug dealer would dismiss for its vulgarity eludes the thoughtful citizen of this republic.
The answer, known to office-gnomes throughout history, is that without expensive diversions the sultan-aspirant might have time to remember that he was elected to be the servant of the people, not their all-knowing, all-wise, all-this-and-that autocrat, and begin to wonder why he is obscured by a cloud of unctuous briefcase carriers and door openers.
The recent history of the presidency indicates clearly what a psychological god-emperor temptation the White House is. Early in every election cycle each candidate drifts into referring to himself in that pompous first-person-plural – “we” instead of “I.” Already he is / they are anticipating sitting in the big chair behind the big desk, playing with the little buttons that light up and summon the servants.
A true queen, king, bishop, prince, emperor, or other noble personage employs the first-person-plural only when speaking officially, not otherwise. The Queen says “we” when giving a speech from the throne, but at all other times remembers the “I.” The distinction is lost on the not-so-humble successors to the humble rail-splitter, Honest Abe.
No recent president has seemed to avoid confusing self with state, and none has cried “Away with this bauble!” (Oliver Cromwell was a regicide, a mass-murderer, and a genocidal maniac, but this one quotation from him is useful) when presented with fleets of giant flying palaces and show-off automobiles, and battalions of Praetorians and Streltsy (some of them sober).
No presidential candidate has promised abstinence from courtiers and palaces and toys and the arrogance of power. Not even the Socialist candidate has said he will forswear the presidential fripperies paid for by the sweat of the workers he purports to love.
In Ye Olden Days a Roman emperor on his inauguration was said to have been assigned a functionary to whisper constantly a repeated caution during the procession. The phrase might be loosely translated as “Man, you ain’t no thing; you’re just a guy who’s going to die like everyone else, so don’t get the big head.”
If that is not true, it ought to be, and it ought to be true now.
And the first thing the new president should do is get rid of all the Queen Cleopatra-ish royal barges as part of his first duty – to remain connected with humanity.