03 October 2008

What's Past Is Prologue

And by that destiny to perform an act / whereof what's past is prologue; what to come, / in yours and my discharge.
-Antonio, The Tempest

Two truths are told, / as happy prologues to the swelling act / of the imperial theme.

""Say it ain't so, Joe, there you go again pointing backwards again. Now doggone it, let's look ahead and tell Americans what we have to plan to do for them in the future."
-Sarah Palin

Joe Biden tossed in a little bit of Shakespeare last night to counter Sarah Palin's nonsensical insistence that, all evidence to the contrary, the Democratic ticket and not her own is stuck in the past. "Past is prologue," Biden reeled off - and most of the pundits forgave him for a moment that could be considered *gasp* a little professorial.

Time is paramount in the theatre and one of the most satisfying elements of Shakespeare's writing is his attention to it. In the quotes above, Antonio and Macbeth are spurred by circumstance and their own darker natures to confuse history with destiny. To each, malfeasance in the past predicts, enables and sanctifies villainy - regicide - in the present; both commit a sort of cosmic pathetic fallacy whereby Nature, and not individual failing, is responsible for future behaviour. Neither looks to the past for lessons, only for validation. The tragedy is then as Santayana said: those who through their own shortsighted desires and rampant egocentrism fail to learn from the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.

Biden's reference was thus uncannily appropriate to the substance of Sarah Palin. She does have some - not in policy, but in "vaunting ambition." Her answer on the powers and duties of the Vice President was terrifying; like her response to Katie Couric on Dick Cheney's greatest mistake ('Worst thing I guess that would have been the duck hunting accident--where you know, that was an accident") it betrays either an obliviousness, or more likely an appreciation, for Cheney's executive power grab over the past eight years. As a person, she might be a nice, feisty lady with a wacky family. As a politician, she's an untutored monster.

Sarah Palin would have us ignore the past, both hers and that of the Bush administration, because that's just what she does. Her abuses as Mayor and Governor are legion, but I suspect she doesn't really see them. Her unsuitability for the Vice Presidency is obvious. (As an aside, imagine if Palin had been at the table of the Canadian leaders debate last night. Would she have lasted five minutes? Four? Any of the men, to say nothing of Elizabeth May, would have clobbered her. Elizabeth May would have shredded her like a pine tree in a pulp mill).

I'm not suggesting merely that Palin doesn't understand history. It's worse than that: Palin knows history - she believes what she believes and wants what she wants wants, cherry-picking the historical record from the Flood on to support her own delusions. And if her attitude towards power is any indication, her future for the American people is nothing less than bullying, small-minded and vicious - tyranny in a bob and $400 glasses.

Antonio was stopped. We know what happened to Macbeth. Let's pray that with Palin, the result is like the former. Otherwise, as Sarah might say, our reward is in heaven. Right?

1 comment:

Bronwen said...

teehee - I also read a long boring article on archival theory this week with the same title as this post . . .