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

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Foul and Ugly Mists


Bardseye is currently palpating the oddly persistent parallels of the Henry IV plays with the events of our times.

We cast the play as follows:

Prince Hal (a youthful prince struggling to

do good but subject to temptation): America

Falstaff (a charming rogue who seeks to

mis-educate the Prince): Western Europe

(Falstaff's understudies: The UN and the New York Times)

Joining late? scroll down or use the archives from October, 06 onward.

When we left off, Prince Hal (that is, America) was alone on stage. He had spent the 1990’s ignoring his weighty responsibilities as the leader of the free world (for Hal, we translate that to England around 1400). Instead America has been cavorting with Falstaff, letting Falstaff steal money from pilgrims and traders, and then stealing the stolen money from Falstaff himself. In this, Falstaff most resembled Europe and Russia as they stole Oil-For-Food money throughout those same 1990’s, money intended for the desperately poor of Iraq, and yet stolen under the very auspices of the UN charged with the poor’s protection. Hal stole the stolen money back when he uncovered that self-same multi-billion dollar scandal in the aftermath of his invasion of France - whoops, that is, America did so following its invasion of Iraq.

Hal senses that England doesn’t take him seriously as the heir-apparent of his nation. Just as American prestige waned in the years following Vietnam, the un-avenged hostage-taking in Iran of 1979, the succession of unanswered terrorist attacks on American targets spanning the two decades following. Hal and America speak:

Hal: “Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted he may be more wondered at
By breaking through the foul and ugly mists
Of vapors that did seem to strangle him.”

Well, if we are looking for the foul and ugly mists of vapors that do seem to strangle us, we are spoiled for choices. But I’ll plump for the Kyoto Treaty, a silly little diversion intended to tie down the great Gulliver of America with a thousand little Lilliputian strings of environmental regulation. Although this was last decade’s European ruse, it’s worth noting that the signatories, who only and ever intended the treaty to curtail American growth once a liberal US administration committed to it, have all now long since failed and for the most part given up on ever meeting its carbon-reducing goals.

So, will we drown in the spillover of melting icecaps as a result? If so, we’ll drown even if we adopt Kyoto, since fully implementing its provisions would result in only the tiniest reduction in expected global warming. No, technology is the dragon we are riding. Kyoto seeks to kill the dragon. Bardseye votes to tame it for ethical and moral ends. If there is global warming, and if it turns into a problem, only technology will fix it. Kyoto will destroy the economic growth that permits technology to advance, killing the goose before it lays the golden egg.

Wheew! Let’s return to Prince Hal, channeling 21st century America:

Hal: “If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as to work.”

Are you listening, Bill Clinton?

“But when they seldom come, they wished-for come,
And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents.
So when this loose behavior I throw off
And pay the debt I never promised,
By how much better than my word I am,
By so much shall I falsify men’s hopes;
And like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My reformation, glittering o’er my fault,
Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.”

This speech I suppose presents America’s best sense of itself as seeking redemption from its own waywardness. Our arguably late entry into World War II, our half-victory, and therefore half-defeat in Korea, condemning the North to a half century of increasing horror, our abandonment of the people of South Vietnam in 1975, after the great victory of the Tet Offensive was portrayed as a massive defeat by the American media, our abandonment of the Iraqi Shia in 1991, and the list goes on. Amidst these failures of our national purpose (and, ahem, that would be the spreading of liberty), are of course a balancing, an-overbalancing scale of successes. But the world beyond our shores does indeed have cause to wonder, at those moments when we rouse ourselves to our national purpose, if we will falsify men’s hopes, or if our reformation, glittering o’er our faults, shall show more goodly and attract more eyes….

To be continued….

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