Monday, July 14, 2008


"Lector, si monumentum requiris, circumspice."

— Epitaph for Christopher Wren at Saint Paul's Cathedral in London, which he designed.

Reader, if you want a monument, look around you.

One thing that creeps me out about Americans is how many regard the President as a symbol of the country. Just like Britons regard the Queen as the symbol of everything British. I don't know how that lady feels about being the symbol of fish and chips, but America deserves better than the democratically elected village idiot.

It's been a long and steep way down from the last semi-decent President, Ronald Reagan. He was followed by a religious fanatic who wanted to strip atheists of their citizenship, a liberal power luster whose only objectives were staying in office and getting blowjobs, and George II — whose coming H. L. Mencken predicted thus in The Baltimore Evening Sun, on July 26, 1920:

…all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

The presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

Not that Comrade Al would have been any better.

One should think that a country that fought a war to get rid of one George should know better than to worship a "leader." But maybe two hundred odd years is enough to induce amnesia — or maybe dementia?

Well, at least we're out of the dark ages of Camelot, when the common (wo)man was dying to feel the joys of being a feudal serf on their own hide. There's only one good thing about the Kennedy years, and that's that they're over.

As Mencken had it ,

Even the most precious functions of government — say, collecting taxes or hanging men — would be better done if the doing of them were farmed out to Ford.

What a free country needs isn't politicians, but CEOs. And even they shouldn't be symbols, but administrators and maybe role models. But in that respect, neither Sheikh Hussein nor John "I Hate Capitalism" McCain qualifies.

If you absolutely need some concretization, let's look at the abstract values that set America apart from all other countries. It's these words, and the fact that the country was founded on them:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

From that, everything else follows. If you're looking for a symbol of America, look at the Statue of Liberty, or the Manhattan skyline, or the auto plants of Detroit, or the oilfields of Texas, or the copper mines of Arizona, or Silicon Valley.

But a mere human, and one elected by popular vote at that — forget about it.

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