A Shakespearean Glance at the People and Issues of the Day.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

King John Visits Aruba


This past summer a group of high school graduates from Alabama, including one spirited blonde named Natalee Holloway, went to Aruba for their vacation. Natalee never came back. While the evidence is patchy, a likely explanation is that she was gang-raped and murdered by a group of young men native to the Dutch colony, one of the possible perpetrators being the son of a local judge. Her parents have visited the island numerous times, Holland has contributed additional investigatory resources, and American news organizations have swamped the island to piece together what might be known.

But Natalee's body, much like Lacy Peterson's for months, though not forever, has remained stubbornly undiscovered. And even if it were to be found at this late date, what America has learned in the interim about Dutch justice has not been reassuring.

In King John, The French King Phillip II champions the claim of King John's child nephew Arthur to the English throne. Arthur and his mother are feted in France, and Arthur makes a charming speech, forgiving the Duke of Austria for killing Richard the Lion-Hearted and saying he can make up for it by championing Arthur himself (their right means my royal claim):

"God shall forgive you Coeur de Lion's death
The rather that you give his offspring life,
Shadowing their right under your wings of war.
I give you welcome with a powerless hand,
But with a heart full of unstained love."

Arthur's flirtation with European administration ends as badly as Natalee's did. King John defeats a French attack that used Arthur's royal claim as a pretext for invasion (much as Europe today uses the UN and the Kyoto Treaty as pretexts to install European forms into American society). Plus ca change, plus la meme chose. The more things change, the more they remain the same. Seeking to solidify his hold on the throne, John takes Arthur into custody. Arthur's mother Constance knows that her son's kidnapping probably means his death, and speaks movingly for Mrs. Holloway in her current, similar plight:

"Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies on his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form;
Then, have I reason to be fond of grief?
Fare you well! Had you such a loss as I
I could give better comfort than you do."

The Holloway family bears no blame for allowing their daughter to go to Aruba. But the case remains a lesson for future parents. We tend to forgive the decaying foreign administration of these exempted Caribbean islands in exchange for sun and fun, low-priced bungalows and endless drinks. Bu the rule of law, and level of corruption - a polite word for official lawlessness - in foreign lands is not a matter we can ignore, not while our adventurous children entreat us to let them see the world.

Chacun a son gout: To each his own taste, is the opposing argument. What rights have we to interpose our standards on foreign cultures? Well, I don't see foreign cultures being shy in their opinions about America. Moreover, an island of rectitude (the US, relatively speaking, and excluding Louisiana) simply will not survive in an ocean of European, Russian, African, Latin American and Caribbean corruption. And in the absence of the transparent, non-corrupt administration of justice, how many more mothers will share in Mrs. Holloway's and Constance's lament?:

"I am not mad. This hair I tear is mine;
My name is Constance: I was Geoffrey's wife;
Young Arthur is my son; and he is lost.
I am not mad; I would to heaven I were,
For then 'tis like I should forget myself!
O, if I could, what grief should I forget?
My reasonable part produces reason
How I may be delivered of these woes,
And teaches me to kill or hang myself.
If I were mad, I should forget my son,
Or madly think a babe of clouts were he,
I am not mad. Too well too well I feel
The different plague of each calamity."

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