Tuesday, November 04, 2008

And the Winner is...

The polls in Greenwich will be open for another three hours, but your scribe is already looking forward to the moment when, as Kipling put it, "the tumult and the shouting dies." This has been one of the noisiest campaigns he can remember, as well as the one with the most heat and the least light.

Whoever wins, he will not inherit the country we had eight years ago. Were Edward Gibbon living and writing today, he might have been intrigued by some of the parallels with the Roman Empire about which he was scribbling so furiously away, as Lord Chesterfield put it. We've endured 9/11, an imploding economy, and a burgeoning national debt that can probably never be repaid. Even the debt clock in Times Square had to be shut down so they could add more zeroes.

On the local front, we've had to endure two unspeakable school superintendents, neither of whom was able to speak the English language; the out-of-control and still far-from-completed Hamilton Avenue School boondoggle, a downward-trending real estate market that many brokers still seem to think is a figment of someone else's imagination, declining school test scores, the loss of our local movie theatres, the slow but steady demise of Greenwich Avenue as a shopping venue for anyone but tourists and the uninformed, and so on, and so forth. Are we better off than we were eight years ago? Most people would probably say no, in your scribe's humble opinion.

Can anyone remember a period in American history - other than the Great Depression, of course - during which we've actually gone backwards over an eight-year period? With no end in sight?

Hence the references to Gibbon and Kipling. Kipling wrote his "Recessional" (the closing hymn in a church service during which the clergy recess down the aisle, the candles are put out, the organ falls silent, and darkness takes over) in the waning years of the 19th century. He was basically predicting the demise of the British Empire long before two world wars in the 20th century made that demise a reality:

"Far-called, our armies melt away,
On dune and headland sink the fire;
Lo! All our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre...."

His was not a popular poem at the time. But Gibbon would probably have agreed with him. Kipling also spent a lot of time in the United States, and wrote some of his best-known books here. What do you suppose he might write about the country we live in in Anno Domini 2008?

Well, we'll know the winner of the election in another two and a half hours. But regardless of the voting results, in your scribe's opinion we are all the losers. We are not the same nation we were eight years ago, and if present trends continue unabated, who knows if we will ever again regain all that has been whittled away since the last time a new President moved into the White House?


Blogger Leigh Russell said...

The world is a very different place. Eight years ago, China was still slumbering quietly (a certain Mrs Palin probably hadn't even heard of it) and India wasn't a player on the world stage. New gangs are appearing in the playground. Who knows where we'll all be in 2016? Things are changing so quickly, it's becoming impossible to predict even the short term future. So should we just keep our heads down and hope for the best? What else can we do? But is that the right thing to do? (Do you sense a hint of uncertainty in my response?) ???

November 05, 2008 5:47 PM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

You, Leigh, uncertain? As the French say, it is to laugh.

As I'm sure you know, we must go back to our old friend Heraclitus, who told us that we never step in the same river twice. Change, he reminds us, is the only constant.

The real question, of course, is WWCD? What would Chaucer do? And we all know the answer: he would keep plugging away at the unfinished Canterbury Tales, no doubt regaling us with such off-colo[u]r narratives as "The Politician's Tale" or "The Financier's Tale".

So pull up your socks, friend Leigh, and keep writing. Those new gangs on the playground should give your heroine plenty to do in your next novel!

November 06, 2008 10:14 AM  

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