Monday, February 20, 2006

A Connecticut Senator in King Arthur's Court

I have found myself reading Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, mostly because it was a free to download it to my SmartPhone which gives me something to read while on the treadmill – though I have hardly regretted my choice.

Anyway, it strikes me how similar Twain’s characterizations of royalty are to our modern politicians.

And the people! They were the quaintest and simplest and trustingest race; why, they were nothing but rabbits. It was pitiful for a person born in a wholesome free atmosphere to listen to their humble and hearty outpourings of loyalty toward their king and Church and nobility; as if they had any more occasion to love and honor king and Church and noble than a slave has to love and honor the lash, or a dog has to love and honor the stranger that kicks him! Why, dear me, ANY kind of royalty, howsoever modified, ANY kind of aristocracy, howsoever pruned, is rightly an insult; but if you are born and brought up under that sort of arrangement you probably never find it out for yourself, and don't believe it when somebody else tells you. It is enough to make a body ashamed of his race to think of the sort of froth that has always occupied its thrones without shadow of right or reason, and the seventh-rate people that have always figured as its aristocracies -- a company of monarchs and nobles who, as a rule, would have achieved only poverty and obscurity if left, like their betters, to their own exertions.

It is almost as if Twain is peering through the mists of time into the Halls of Congress where hack politician after self-important bureaucrat passing judgment on the masses; imposing upon themselves the difficult decisions of health and wealth that we – the unwashed masses – are incapable of making for ourselves.

And for this we thank them and gleefully pay our due, our hard earned wealth and ask for more regulation, more intrusions upon our liberties that were hard won by our forefathers.

They were freemen, but they could not leave the estates of their lord or their bishop without his permission; they could not prepare their own bread, but must have their corn ground and their bread baked at his mill and his bakery, and pay roundly for the same; they could not sell a piece of their own property without paying him a handsome percentage of the proceeds, nor buy a piece of somebody else's without remembering him in cash for the privilege;

These men (and women) glory in spending our money to fund their own pet projects or those of their cronies. They ponder what simple pleasure is destroying our lives so that they can take it away while we nod and thank them for the trespass – long forgotten is their oath to serve and defend the Constitution.

Take a jackass, for instance: a jackass has that kind of strength, and puts it to a useful purpose, and is valuable to this world because he is a jackass; but a nobleman politician is not valuable because he is a jackass. It is a mixture that is always ineffectual, and should never have been attempted in the first place. And yet, once you start a mistake, the trouble is done and you never know what is going to come of it.

Well said Mr. Twain.

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