Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Shakespearean Tragedy unfolding. Story at eleven.
"I had rather be any kind o'thing than a fool,
yet I would not be thee, nuncle;
I am a fool, thou art nothing." (I. iv.)
When I was in middle school, my mother was a high school English teacher. Each year she took her classes to a play and took me - the only one of her children receptive to her culture-vulture tastes - along with them. The year I was eleven, the play was King Lear and I went to see it seven times. I remember watching it each time with queasy fascination as, over the course of the play, the old king dismantled and destroyed his life. It's the same way I feel now when I watch John McCain on TV.
When John McCain ran for president in 2000 I actually liked him. It's hard to believe now, but those were the days before the straight-talk express had veered off the road entirely. Even though I disagreed with a lot of his policies, he seemed candid and (for a politician) reasonable. So to see him now, using not only the same hateful techniques that were once used against him, but also hiring the very people who whispered and lied about him then, is both repellant and pitiful.
Lear is manipulated by his own vanity and desires into rejecting those around him who speak the truth (think Colin Powell), while those around him who want power betray each other and him and leave him to wander alone in the wastes (think of poor McCain wandering on that stage in the second debate). In the end, all Lear's children are dead and he has lost everything.
I won't belabor the similarities, but if all goes as I hope it will on election day, a once good (enough) man will have betrayed his own principles, his own experience, his own reputation, to no end but his own destruction. It's foolish of me to hope that he will realize his folly before it's completely over. But I do. And he won't.