Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Have We Found Angels In The Forms Of Kings?

Tomorrow we shall all be witness to the coronation of King George II in a ceremony we once referred to as the Inauguration of the President of the United States. Mr. Bush with the generous help of his corporate sponsors and cronies will unleash one of the most lavish and decadent spectacles this side of Hollywood, displaying all the subtleties of taste and decorum one would expect from a trailer park superintendent who has just won the Powerball Lotto. The pomp and circumstance carries a price tag of a mere forty million dollars – a small price indeed for the moguls who have been the beneficiaries of Mr. Bush’s largesse in the form of tax cuts and war profiteering.

Contrast this, if you will, with an article I read in this morning’s paper concerning a local school district that finds itself scrambling to find ways to get children to school after bus service was discontinued because of a failed levy. How many young scholars could be ferried to classes with forty million dollars? Perhaps the money could be better spent on the armor our troops require in Iraq and Mr. Rumsfeld found so difficult explain away. Are there not a few phrases in the preamble of the very Constitution Mr. Bush is going to swear to uphold tomorrow that address the issues of to “provide for a common defense” and “promote the general welfare”? Is this garish extravaganza what our country needs in such troubled times? Or, more importantly, does it cause us to pause and contemplate that august document that serves as our foundation?

But, more than all this, is that this ostentatious pageantry of plutocratic privilege is an effrontery to the memory of our founding fathers who sought, with much peril to their persons and property, to free us of the trappings of potentates and princes. Take for example the inauguration of Thomas Jefferson, a man of rare intelligence and accomplishment – a man hardly to be confused with the current occupant of the White House.

On the morning of March 4th, 1801, the author of the Declaration of Independence and one of the principles of the American Revolution rose from his bed in a small room of a boarding house on Capitol Hill. He dressed plainly and went down to the dining room for his breakfast. Refusing a place of honor at the table he took his usual seat. Shortly before his swearing in, he walked through the muddy streets of Washington to the Capitol were he was quietly sworn in as the third president of the United States.

He then eloquently delivered his brief (a mere 1,724 words and masterpiece of conciseness) inaugural address affirming his belief in “Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none; the support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against anti-republican tendencies; the preservation of the General Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad; a jealous care of the right of election by the people…”

He went on to pose the question: “Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.”

He then walked back to the boarding house to take his dinner, again refusing to take a place of honor. How unlike our current administration – Jefferson realized that he was not a ruler, but a servant of the people.

Barney F. McClelland


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