Monday, January 11, 2010

Rahm Emanuel - Sejanus ducitur unco: The Stuff of Satire

Good Lord, only two weeks ago, Rahm Emanuel was poised to usurp Daley as Mayor of Chicago; run for the U.S. Senate; Replace Jay Leno; Double Bill with Lady GaGa.

Today, is waxing up his funeral board.

Rahm Emanuel is the new kind of king maker - flashy, foul-mouthed, fast and fierce.

I like the Old Timey Kingmakers - Avunucular and Anonymous. They are the guys only whispered about in the corridors of power - the elevators of Chicago City Hall and Cook County Building by awed suppliants - generally without actually moving their mouths so as no one could say that their lips were moving - "My guy says to call Mr. C- - - - - at 35 East Wacker on Friday at exactly 9 A.M. - I don't get ito work until 10 -you think I got problems, Mickey?"

That's a Kingmaker. Rahm Emanuel makes nice parlor game politics - (Mo Dowd, Daily Kos, MSNBC variety), but if you want signs up in your neighbors' yards without too much vandalism, call Mr. C- - - - - at exactly 9 A.M. on Friday - or whenever - if you don't want the signs up or to get elected.

Rahm is edgy, like the Goof on Entourage or whatever. Rahm Emanuel is smart. He is tough. So is a Bear lineman.

So was Sejanus. Sejanus" — commander of the imperial bodyguards under Tiberius (who was emperor a.d. 14-37). Tiberius withdrew from active government in a.d. 26, and for the next five years Sejanus gathered dictatorial power to himself, conducting a reign of terror in the last three of those years. For reasons unknown, Tiberius turned against him, had him arrested by a trick in October a.d. 31, and Sejanus was immediately executed. He is a figure for satire.

In Part III of Juvenal's Sixth Satire, which later was to become Samuel Johnson's Vanity of Human Wishes - the thirst for absolute power in politics is ridiculed:

quosdam praecipitat subiecta potentia magnae
invidiae, mergit longa atque insignis honorum
pagina. descendunt statuae restemque sequuntur,
ipsas deinde rotas bigarum inpacta securis
caedit et inmeritis franguntur crura caballis;
iam strident ignes, iam follibus atque caminis
ardet adoratum populo caput et crepat ingens
Seianus, deinde ex facie toto orbe secunda
fiunt urceoli pelves sartago matellae.
pone domi laurus, duc in Capitolia magnum
cretatumque bovem! Seianus ducitur unco
spectandus, gaudent omnes: "quae labra, quis illi
vultus erat!numquam, si quid mihi credis, amavi
hunc hominem. sed quo cecidit sub crimine? quisnam
delator? quibus indicibus, quo teste probavit?"
"nil horum; verbosa et grandis epistula venit
a Capreis." "bene habet, nil plus interrogo." sed quid


Some men are hurled headlong by over-great power and the envy to which it exposes them; they are wrecked by the long and illustrious roll of their honours: down come their statues, obedient to the rope; the axe hews in pieces their chariot wheels and the legs of the unoffending nags. And now the flames are hissing, and amid the roar of furnace and of bellows the head of the mighty Sejanus, the darling of the mob, is burning and crackling, and from that face, which was but lately second in the entire world, are being fashioned pipkins, basins, frying-pans and slop-pails! Up with the laurel-wreaths over your doors! Lead forth a grand chalked bull to the Capitol! Sejanus is being dragged along by a hook, as a show and joy to all! "What a lip the fellow had! What a face!" — "Believe me, I never liked the man!" — "But on what charge was he condemned? Who informed against him? What was the evidence, who the witnesses, who made good the case?" — "Nothing of the sort; a great and wordy letter came from Capri." — "Good; I ask no more."

Satire is poetry that points out the choice of folly over virtue. Satire is not the stuff that HBO or Comedy Central pass off. That stuff is called Satire. Satire makes fun of the powerful - Bill Maher makes fun of the devout, the patriotic and the sincere. Kingmakers are most often virtuous Women and Men. Big Shots are generally flashy, foul-mouthed, fast and fierce. They hold sway for a while - while they are useful.

Kingmakers (and I have met a very few) are often very quiet and almost invisible to the public; they tend to be courteous, caring and careful. Kingmakers are useful - as long as you follow what they tell you - that is, after all, why you reached out to them.

It appears that Rahm Emanuel is getting to be useless to the Obama White House. WHo knows? Click my post title for the Politico Obituary Early Edition of Rahm Emmanual - Sejanus Ducitur Unco!

1 comment:

Max Weismann said...

I heard he may be grooming to take over Jay Leno's spot.