08 March 2024


Our government is a national embarrassment, across the board, and beyond partisanship. This ought to be apparent to anyone with any sense of decorum or dignity who watched the State of the Union address tonight. It came across in a circus atmosphere complete with your elected officials taking selfies like tourists in the place where they supposedly work. They jostle to get into pictures with bigger fish in front of the television cameras, and walk away beaming if, say their president, deigns to momentarily chat with them. 

He in turn walks down the aisle like the highest potentate in the world, giving and withholding acknowledgements as he sees fit. You have Democratic women again behaving ridiculously in common white dress, while a few on the other side engage in “colorful” political theater as well. The President gets to the podium, having been juiced with something to make him appear sufficiently aware so as to be able to make a forceful speech, which he does with a little too much force in an effort to prove he still a virile, vigorous leader. He has accomplished that much of his goal insofar as his party acolytes and the media are reassured that he is fully in command, but coming across as a kind of angry old man to most other people, I suspect. 

What is disturbing about all of this, regardless of who is playing the role, is the fact that the scene much too closely echoes that of the collapsing Roman Republic and the rise of Caesarism. He says “I” an inordinate number of times; how “I” have given you this, “I” am going to do this, “I” am the one holding all the cards, and “I” am the one who will dispense benefits to you from my unlimited resources. The problem is that this is not, in fact, a king, not an emperor with command of vast resources, but rather a very ordinary man purporting to “give” you things that are paid for by you in the first place; in other words with your own money.

Would you not rather be able to spend your money the way you want rather than the way someone else thinks it should be spent, based upon the notion that they reflect the public interest and know better how to appropriate it?But they don’t know better. They know far less than they claim to, which is why their best efforts usually wind up making everything worse. 

But even with this imperial spectacle they have to provide a “common” touch for ordinary people, so we have the usual gallery of special guests that are pointed to in the course of the speech. I truly wish Reagan had never started this, or at least that it didn’t get picked up by less gifted people going forward as a new tradition akin to pardoning turkeys. I think it diminishes the seriousness and solemnity of purpose that ought to accompany such events. 

Yet, then again, these are not serious people.They are like children playing musical chairs and jockeying for position. The problem is that they are charged with serious matters that entail enormous power. This effects the lives of everyone else, but they are simply and chronically not very good at it. That is why things seldom work well, or worse, are totally dysfunctional. This is what happens when you assign great power without the equivalent wisdom, restraint, humility, and competence that must come with it. That is why power should be located primarily in the the most basic simple social units, beginning with the individual and family, then the community, the county or city, the state, and lastly the federal government. Not top down but bottom up, but today that pyramid has been inverted, if not perverted. 

It was not always so. This began as a deliberately modest republic, where humility and probity were prized, and where men at least formally aspired to the highest level of virtue in serving the public. They didn’t always achieve it, but they did take it so much further than their descendants that they come across almost as god-like giants followed by increasingly diminished men, eventually yielding us the mediocre midgets of today. They never presumed to legitimate vast power in the hands of a few over the many. If Washington could so gracefully surrender power, ever cognizant of its potential abuse, how can we now bestow so much on the lesser people who now occupy the city bearing his name? 

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