In the Colosseum
There's no cause to taint the sweetest taste of blood
And greetings from the nation
As we shake the hands of time they're taking their ovations - Tom Waits
I haven't wanted to think about John Kerry - like, ever again - but his flat denial last Friday of having admitted the election was stolen is now stuck in my head like that image above of Poppy Bush and his amazing technocratic dreamcoat. (And just so you know, I did paste Kerry's head in the picture, but I didn't do a thing to the jacket.)
Kerry's sister Peggy invited author Mark Crispin Miller to a fundraiser for the expressed purpose of pressing a copy of Fooled Again into the hands of the Janus-faced Bonesman. "You were robbed, Senator," said Miller, and Kerry replied he knew it, and with a "gesture of extreme frustration" described how the issue wasn't finding traction with colleagues on the Hill. (He said he'd recently argued with Chris Dodd about electronic voting, who held "there's nothing there.") The likelihood of his spearheading a Senate investigation into 2004 was doubtful, said Kerry, because of the "sour grapes" factor. Then, I expect, Kerry took his glad hand elsewhere, and didn't give his remarks another thought until his office needed to retract them:
I know Mr. Miller is trying to sell his book and he feels passionately about his thesis but his recent statements about his conversation with Senator Kerry are simply not true.... Make no mistake, after pouring his heart and soul into the campaign and seeing George Bush continue the mess he created, if the election had been stolen John Kerry would be fighting them today to reverse the outcome.
I don't know if Miller really expected Kerry to publicly stand by his private words, though I'm sure Kerry never expected to be called on them. Miller isn't a fabulist; the conversation happened, and good for him to stand against the slander of Kerry's people to report it. (By the way, who can imagine Kerry fighting quixotically and supra-constitutionally today to reverse the outcome, when he capitulated before the outcome of the tainted election was even known?)
But of course, what could Kerry say? If he knows the general election was stolen, then he should also know his peculiar ascension in the primaries cannot be attributed to charisma and dumb luck. He should, but he probably doesn't, because without the ego that could blind him to such a self-evident truth he would never have risen to such a place of utility within America's equestrian class.
You know, it's often fun, and sometimes even appropriate, to try on historical periods, and see how they fit our weird times. And there's more than just the Is it 1939 yet? Nazi comparisons. The Roman Empire is an old favourite for students of America, and it's a good one, too. After all, history repeats, but not necessarily in chronological order.
Roman senators in the early empire still conducted business as though they were governing a republic. The emperors indulged them. Following Augustus, who remembered what the Senate did to the dictator Caesar, the emperor affected humility, and called himself Princeps: "First Citizen."
American presidents will always be presidents, even now, after Americans have stopped electing them. And Americans will still be told anyone can grow up to be one, when even those who win the office are not allowed to take it.
Senators have their fictions, too. Senators, Roman and American, serve at the pleasure of the imperial machine, but to exercise their power within its limits they have to act as though the machinery doesn't exist. Americans of all privileged classes - and these days, let's call that anyone with shelter and food - participate in the fraud by exercising their right of disbelief.
Judging by reactions when the pre-retraction story broke last Friday on Democratic boards, it appears a lot of people are still waiting for Kerry. Waiting for somebody. When they don't come - when they say they're on their way, and never arrive - what happens next? John Lennon sang, "There ain't no Jesus gonna come from the sky / Now that I found out I know I can cry."
Many people have done much crying for America. But I'm just wondering, what comes after after that?