Imitate The Sun

June 16, 2011

Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted, he may be more wondered at
By breaking through the foul and ugly mists
Of vapors that did seem to strangle him.

 — Henry VI, Act 1, scene 2

Yes, I used to know my Shakespeare, back when I believed such ‘fancy’ stuff like that made a lick of difference in this world. I was younger then. Bright eyed and bushy tailed. Hopelessly naïve. The real world had not yet set me on the more adult path of bitterness, despair and pitiful, pitiful acceptance of the ho-hum humdrum.

But I do remember this particular passage. Not so much the words themselves as the sentiment, the conceit. I am reminded of it often these days, watching in disbelief the antics of the low grade politicians that call themselves ‘conservatives’.

When the realization of their victory begins to sink in, whether in its inevitability running up to an election or in the hazy daze of their improbable win, we like to take comfort and soothe ourselves in the belief that, well, it won’t be so bad. They were just saying all that to get elected. Once in office, reality will set in. They’ll have to compromise. After all, we didn’t elect a king! This isn’t Russia. Is this Russia? This isn’t Russia.

It is the lowered bar of expectations. Not a question of how good they will be but how bad they won’t be. By anticipating the worst, we are, if not pleasantly surprised when that doesn’t come to pass, relieved at least that the world didn’t blow up or the institutions of governance remain functioning even at a diminished capacity. The sun still rises and the birds continue to sing.

The one big difference, however, between our modern day conservatives and the Bard’s heroic man who would be king, Hal, is that the fictional prince actually cleared the bar, spectacularly so, much to the woe of Hotspur and, ultimately, the French at Agincourt. This story shall the good man teach his son/And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by/From this day to the ending of the world/But we in it shall be remembered/We few, we happy few, we band of brothersAnd gentlemen in England now-a-bed/Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here/And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks/That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

By the time Prince Harry became King Henry, his sordid youth, his delinquent past, those low expectations served only as a counterweight, a compare and contrast to the glorious achievements he would attain once he stepped out from behind “…the base contagious clouds…” that did “…smother up his beauty from the world…” and broke “…through the foul and ugly mists/Of vapors that did seem to strangle him.” Hoo-rah! Long live the King!

Conservatives these days never intend to clear that bar. They simply bull through, knocking it off its posts and insist on lowering it ever so slightly, incrementally so, to make another anemic attempt to hoist themselves awkwardly over it. We can survive the occasional misadventure but a steady stream of deliberate failures weakens us little by little, bit by bit.

In this rigged set-up, only the politicians and leaders who aim higher and exhort us to believe in the possibility of positive, inclusive change are the ones that flame out spectacularly. We expected so much. They promised us the moon but failed to deliver. Sure, we might be better off than when we started. But you promised us the moon.

Our conservatives suffer under no such illusions of grandeur. We expect the worst and appreciate it when that doesn’t actually come to pass. Oh well, we shrug. It’s bad, sure. But it could’ve been a whole lot worse. We sink back into a funk and seem content when we’re informed that we no longer want politicians who offer up grand visions or designs.

From Hal to Homer we’ve traveled. Homer Simpson that is, not the Odyssey Homer. “Trying is the first step to failure.” It is the mantra of the conservative movement. Hey. We can’t do anything for you. Stop thinking we can. Elect me. So we do and the sad fact is, we are never disappointed.

epically submitted by Cityslikr


I’m Not Rob Ford

September 30, 2010

“I think Smitherman’s run a brilliant campaign.”

Coming from our office’s regular drug taker, I’dve normally let the statement pass without comment. Something that just pops up and out with no prodding from anyone or anything in particular save the chemical reactions bubbling and brewing inside his own head. But it struck me that the heated conversation it precipitated offered up a window into what passes as discourse around here. So consider what follows not a verbatim recreation of an All Fired Up in the Big Smoke editorial meeting so much as a spirit of the thing recounting.

“You says what now?” asks Cityslikr.

“What?”

“Did you just say that George Smitherman’s run a brilliant campaign?”

“…Yeah,” Acaphlegmic responds with no trace of defensiveness. It’s more thankful that someone in the room remembered what he’d just said.

“By what gauge do you use to measure brilliance, old timer?” Cityslikr asks in that slightly highfalutin way he has to make it seem he’s much more intelligent (and younger) than he actually is. Couldn’t he have just posed the question like, “Tell me how you think Smitherman’s campaign has been brilliant, Acaphlegmic”?

“Proof’s in the pudding, boy!” Acaphlegmic exclaims, thereby justifying the previous punctuation mark. “How else do you explain him still being in the thick of things?”

Before Cityslikr can even start to run down his list of possibilities like money, name recognition, media pimping and lack of serious competition, Acaphlegmic is off and running as often happens when he combines mild forms of hallucinogens and alcohol.

“Out of the gate, he’s the front runner, the candidate to beat. It’s his election to lose, right? Problem is, you got to maintain the pole position for an eternity. How do you do that?”

“A slow, steady roll out of innovative ideas and forward-thinking planks of your platform that galvanizes voters behind the concept of you being the best person to be our next mayor?”

There’s nothing funnier than watching one person who is high — really high — look at another person as if they are the ones who are high and talking nonsense. It happens a lot around here. Things kick back into gear after a brief pause.

“… Or… Or you could slowly not become the front runner. Make a big splashy entrance into the race and immediately start humming and hawing, and not saying much of anything until people start to wonder where the hell you are and what the hell you’re doing.”

“The Barbara Hall Strategy,” I chimed in. “From front runner to also-ran. Champ to chump.” Acaphlegmic smiled, sensing I’d plugged into his vibe. I hadn’t.

“But she lost!” Cityslikr yelled, finally. “That’s not a strategy. That’s gross incompetence.”

“Or is it?” Acaphlegmic asked cryptically. When the answer to a question is so glaringly obvious, it’s hard not to think of it as a trick, fully loaded. Just like the person who’d asked it.

“Shakespeare’s Henry the Fourth.” Acaphlegmic pronounces and bounds up onto the desk to tower over Cityslikr as he recites. “Prince Hal: Yet herein will I imitate the sun/Who doth permit the base contagious clouds/To smother up his beauty from the world/That, when he please again to be himself/Being wanted, he may be more wonder’d at/By breaking through the foul and ugly mists/Of vapours that did seem to strangle him.”

Honestly, the only thought going through my mind at that particular moment? What a shameless ham Acaphlegmic was. Cityslikr had already turned back to his computer, assuming the conversation had reached its illogical conclusion. But this was just the first act.

Acaphlegmic jumped down from the desk to the floor like a man half his age, muttering “Fucking illiterates” not very under his breath. He then turned back and let forth another burst of thought. “It’s the political equivalent of Ali’s rope-a-dope strategy. Think about it! Take a pounding. Look helpless, defenseless, out of your league. Give the impression that it’s only a matter of time before your opponent lands a knock out blow.”

“It’s easier than coming up with a substantive platform and credible candidacy,” I offer helpfully.

“Let someone else take the lead for awhile and get worn down, taking hits from all quarters. Flailing away, single-mindedly with one approach. Pound, pound, pound. Hammer, hammer, hammer. Slowly losing steam.”

“Rob Ford as Smitherman’s Falstaff!” I chime in enthusiastically. Stretching the Henry the Fourth analogy a bit thin but Acaphlegmic’s Ali-Foreman comparison was a little dubious as well. It was good enough to break down Cityslikr’s futile resistance.

“Yeah but, didn’t Hal have to eventually do something good to prove his worthiness? Like win a big battle?! St. Crispin’s Day! ‘Once more into the breach, dear friends’!”

“You’re getting ahead of yourself,” Acaphlegmic tells Cityslikr as he turns back toward the couch. “That was Henry the Fifth.” He then deftly pirouettes, performs an Elvis-like Las Vegas rock and roll kick before plopping back down on couch. His peace has been said.

Cityslikr watches him for a bit, not in the least bit convinced. I’m not ready to dismiss it just yet.

“Ford’s teetering now. He’s scorched the earth. His numbers don’t add up.”

“Neither do Smitherman’s!” Cityslikr yells, steadfastly refusing to submit.

“Yeah but, he’s number 2. No one’s focusing on him. Ford’s still the man to beat. All Smitherman has to say at this point is, ‘At Least I’m Not Rob Ford’.”

“I’m Not Rob Ford,” Acaphlegmic chants from the couch. “Nice cadence to it. I’m Not Rob Ford. Keep Hope Alive. Yes We Can. I’m Not Rob Ford. I’m Not Rob Ford.”

“He wins the election and becomes mayor, it still works for him. He cuts and hacks away, privatizes a little of this, outsources a little of that. Everyone gets pissed and all he has to say is, At Least I’m Not Rob Ford.”

“I’m Not Rob Ford. I’m Not Rob Ford. I’m Not Rob Ford,” Acaphlegmic continues.

Cityslikr shakes his head and will not join us in believing anyone, even the soulless George Smitherman, could be that calculating or would be capable of pulling off such a diabolical tactic.

“So crazy, it just might work,” I say to him as he starts typing away at the computer. He won’t respond which means that the discussion’s over but I’m free to do with it as I see fit. Here it is. You’re welcome. And the crazy old man on the couch continues to chant.

“I’m Not Rob Ford. I’m Not Rob Ford. I’m Not Rob Ford.”

insiderly submitted by Urban Sophisticat