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“A Dog’s Obeyed in Office”

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In the following passage from Shakespeare’s King Lear, the eponymous tragic hero is mad and therefore speaks more wisely than he did earlier in the play when he possessed all of his faculties. He has encountered the loyal Gloucester, who has been blinded by the bad guys.

From KING LEAR – Act IV, scene vi

O, ho, are you there with me? No eyes in your
head, nor no money in your purse? Your eyes are in
a heavy case, your purse in a light; yet you see how
this world goes.

GLOUCESTER

I see it feelingly.

KING LEAR

What, art mad? A man may see how this world goes
with no eyes. Look with thine ears: see how yond
justice rails upon yond simple thief. Hark, in
thine ear: change places; and, handy-dandy, which
is the justice, which is the thief? Thou hast seen
a farmer’s dog bark at a beggar?

GLOUCESTER

Ay, sir.

KING LEAR

And the creature run from the cur? There thou
mightst behold the great image of authority: a
dog’s obeyed in office.

Thou rascal beadle, hold thy bloody hand!
Why dost thou lash that whore? Strip thine own back;
Thou hotly lust’st to use her in that kind
For which thou whipp’st her. The usurer hangs the cozener.
Through tatter’d clothes small vices do appear;
Robes and furr’d gowns hide all. Plate sin with gold,
And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks:
Arm it in rags, a pigmy’s straw does pierce it.

I have bolded the money quote from this scene, a sentence that concisely convey’s the sense of the corrupt and hypocritical world in whichLear and Gloucester live.

The Bard might as well have been writing about the good old USA and A in this the year of our Lord 2006. Let me splain, Lucy.

First, consider this from Reuters:

A U.S. Justice Department report released on November 30 showed that a record 7 million people — or one in every 32 American adults — were behind bars, on probation or on parole at the end of last year. Of the total, 2.2 million were in prison or jail.

According to the International Center for Prison Studies at King’s College in London, more people are behind bars in the United States than in any other country. China ranks second with 1.5 million prisoners, followed by Russia with 870,000.

The U.S. incarceration rate of 737 per 100,000 people in the highest, followed by 611 in Russia and 547 for St. Kitts and Nevis. In contrast, the incarceration rates in many Western industrial nations range around 100 per 100,000 people.

I guess the good news here is that the U.S. is first at something.  We have slipped to 53rd in press freedom, the dollar is weak against the Euro, life expectancy is down and infant mortality is up. But at least we have more convicts than anybody else.

…see how yond
justice rails upon yond simple thief. Hark, in
thine ear: change places; and, handy-dandy, which
is the justice, which is the thief? 

Meanwhile in Washington, the House ethics committee has concluded its hard nosed investigation into the Foley Affairgate.

Former Rep. Mark Foley (news, bio, voting record) was described as a “ticking time bomb” for his sexual come-ons to male pages, but Republican lawmakers and aides for a decade failed to protect the teenagers vulnerable to his advances, the House ethics committee concluded Friday. Despite that finding, the panel said no rules had been broken and no one should be punished.

You see, Hastert, Reynolds, Shimkus, Pryce are all honourable persons, and even though they done wrong, it would be unfair to hold them accountable.

Through tatter’d clothes small vices do appear;
Robes and furr’d gowns hide all. Plate sin with gold,
And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks:
Arm it in rags, a pigmy’s straw does pierce it. 

And lest ye think that dog like office holders have no mandate from the people for corruption, consider that Congressman Jefferson of Louisiana has just been reelected,  despite being video taped discussing bribes and having a boatload of frozen dollars.

Shakespeare wrote King Lear in the early years of the 17th century, just before Englishmen founded Jamestown and, within a few years, introduced slavery into what would become the U.S. Somehow, the fact of slavery and Jim Crow is entwined into the obsessive need to punish America seems to suffer from,  but so is the inequality between social classes which does not exist because it is not mentioned in Constitution.

Too many of our leaders and their scribes don’t consider why a human behaves as they do. Doesn’t matter. If they are locked up they cannot offend.

It is a simple choice to be made between denial of the truth and driving a dog from office. So it is that there are no calls for the resignation of a President who has proven over and over to be mendacious, incompetent and (to be gentle) out of touch.

And the war goes on.

Written by slothropia

December 10th, 2006 at 11:16 pm