10 October 2003

really, it's all about doing things we can't fix.

the other day, i was thinking about the poll numbers showing w at a post-9/11 low, and wondering why i didn't feel all glowy and self-satisfied. it should have been more, "finally! vindication!" and less "well, duh." a few minutes on, my mind for some reason turned to hamlet and the "a palpable hit!" line from the duel in the last act.

...and now, because i spend far too much time thinking about these things, i have decided why the connection exists. it's this: bush's sucky polling numbers are exactly the same sort of "palpable hit" hamlet and laertes were dealing in that duel, namely, the hideously ironic sort. how significant can this win be if we're pretty sure that every opportunity to avert disaster is long-gone?

the wonder of shakespeare is that that duel manages to be awfully exciting even though we're pretty sure from the outset that essentially no one in the room is going to survive the show. hamlet and friends have been headed for this for four acts, what with the murder and the damned incest and the fact that no one's ever going to believe hamlet in a million years. fixing the current, murkily parallel, situation, would require something akin to claudius inviting hamlet to a meeting wherein he, claudius, admitted to murder, demonstrated respect for spectral revelations, wrote a letter to gertrude admitting his faults, and humbly asked both hamlet and...let's see here....fortinbras, i guess, for help rectifying the situation.

it's a good thing the parallels are murky. i don't think the american anti-war left rises (sinks?) to the level of tragic hero -- thank goodness. but it certainly seems that, with respect to almost everything people think is important about life in the world, american powers that be have (through conscious dissembling, i might add) set us on a necessarily disastrous course, both at home and abroad. really, it just doesn't strike me as a good idea to convince large segments of the world that americans are nothing but decadent, greedy, oppressive colonialists. it sure hasn't been good for the hundreds of americans killed in iraqi uprisings. it hasn't been good for the budget at home, either.

and (back to the tragic parallel) these aren't things that can be fixed quickly. if howard dean were elected president tomorrow, and somehow skipped the usual transition period, and congress miraculously decided instantaneously to follow the advice of a bunch of liberal academics, and all the governments we have offended in the last two years agreed to forgive and forget instantly, it still wouldn't be fixed quickly.

hence the lack of jubilation.