William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
That brilliant poem written by Yeats in 1939* [see note] came to mind after 9/11, expressing the sense of chaos and foreboding we all felt. It’s easy to forget how it appeared obvious that many attacks of similar magnitude would be forthcoming, particularly since 9/11 was followed quickly by the mysterious anthrax letters.
George W. Bush was president, and at the time—I was a Democrat, had not voted for him, and had been upset when he won in 2000—I was apprehensive about that, although I remember thinking that Al Gore as president would certainly not have been the man for the hour and that Bush was probably better suited to the situation. As the years went on, despite the setbacks in Iraq and elsewhere, things seemed to be going better than I would have expected on 9/12/2001.
Since the inauguration of Barack Obama as president they have been going steadily downhill, with an especially steep decline since November of 2014. Obama is not responsible for all of it, but I lay a great deal of it at his feet. Almost on a daily basis, I’ve been writing about the ways in which his actions have worsened things around the world. Although I’m not going to go into it in detail right now about all those ways, I think they are pretty obvious by this point to most readers here.
I will take just one example, though, and a relatively simple one compared with some of the others such as Iran: the Bo Bergdahl desertion charges. I wrote “relatively” simple, but that doesn’t mean the incident is simple at all.
The Bergdahl story actually has several layers of horribleness. The first was the prisoner exchange, which would have seemed a bad deal even if Bergdahl had been innocent of any wrongdoing—bad because it involved negotiating with terrorists, releasing captives of extreme dangerousness (five of them!), and also bad because Obama had omitted giving Congress notice although he was bound by law to do so. Then there was White House intransigence and denials in the face of mounting—and extremely compelling—evidence that Bergdahl was a deserter, which had become clear quite early on. Then there was the delay in charging Bergdahl, which was rumored to be the result of White House pressure on the military not to charge him. And maybe there will be further travesties, such as an exoneration despite convincing evidence of guilt.
But worst of all, really, was how the story dropped off the radar screen relatively quickly. That was understandable, though, because so many other terrible things were happening. That’s part of the plan, of course; to get us to play an ever-escalating game of whack-a-mole.
I realized back in 2010 (see the last paragraph of this post) that a second Obama term was to be dreaded because he would then be released from the need to answer to the electorate at all. But the electorate bears some responsibility too, as does the press and Congress. Why oh why are not more people screaming out that the emperor has been completely naked for quite some time now? And that really wouldn’t be strong enough, either, because a naked emperor may just be a fool (with foolish subjects willing to play along). This naked emperor is also malevolent.
The “why oh why” is rhetorical on my part; I suppose I know the answer. It’s certainly a question we’ve discussed before on this blog. But in a more basic way it still puzzles me, because as things become worse and worse, and Obama’s actions more extreme and more revelatory, I keep thinking there must be a tipping point, both for the press and the public as well as Congress.
But even that is probably an illusory hope. Events make me more cynical, but I don’t seem to be able to ratchet my cynicism up quickly enough to meet them.
[* NOTE: Haste makes waste—I seem to have copied the date of Yeats’ death (1939) instead of the date he wrote the poem, which was 1919. That 1919 date is actually interesting in terms of the history of the Middle East, because the end of World War I triggered the division of that region (mostly during the 20s) into something more similar to its modern, post Ottoman Empire form. World War I was a cataclysmic event with enormous repercussions, and I submit that we have never recovered from it.]