“Revenge is a confession of pain.” – Latin proverb
“Revenge is an act of passion; vengeance of justice. Injuries are revenged; crimes are avenged.” -Samuel Johnson
“Revenge is sweeter than life itself. So think fools. [Lat., At vindicta bonum vita jucundius ipsa nempe hoc indocti.]” – Decimus Junius Juvenal
“Revenge is always the weak pleasure of a little and narrow mind. [Lat., Semper et infirmi est animi exiguique voluptas Ultio.]” – Decimus Junius Jivenal
“By taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing over it, he is superior.” – Unknown
Just when I think that he can’t debase the office any further, President Obama manages to get another stain on the image of the Presidency. In a speech to followers in New Hampshire, the President stated “No, no, no — don’t boo, vote. Vote! Voting is the best revenge.”
Since then, I have watched the Obama faithful attempt to spin this into another erudite utterance from the 21st Century’s First “Smart Like Spock” President, including this claim that it was actually a brilliant allusion that the doddering idiot Mitt Romney was just too thick to understand. Having observed the President for four long years now, I find this claim dubious at best, if only because I have a tough time swallowing the idea that a man with such strong anti-colonialist tendencies is such an astute student of English poets. (Although something in the back of my head says “Maybe, but drawing a mental parallel between “lying” and “voting” doesn’t seem like such a leap for him.”)
Instead, I find it more in keeping with the kind of imagery that he has generally used throughout his career…imagery that invokes violent images, and that reveals a base contempt not just for his opponents, but what it means to be American.
Admittedly, he has occasionally hit the right note in his rhetoric, and this has been enough to influence those who were not already paying attention, or those who chose to see only what they wanted to. For those people, words like these offered inspiration, and the illusion that the President was a figure of reconciliation in a country with some divisions. Words like :
But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”>”But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”
I can admit that this was the speech that would have DEFINED other Presidents. The problem is that it was spoken by someone who had already “damaged his witness” with things said in moments when he didn’t believe that everyone would hear him, or when he was not scripted, and spoke from the heart. They were spoken by a man who had already expressed his disappointment with people who embraced the First and Second Amendments, and were thus “Bitter clingers, clinging to their guns and their religion”. They were words spoken by a man who spoke of “getting in people’s faces”, and “bringing a gun to a knife fight”. They were the words spoken by a man who refused to listen to other ideas, because “Elections have consequences” and ” I won”.
The great miracle of American politics has always been the acceptance of the decision of the electorate by those who would lead them. Power is a the strongest combination aphrodisiac and narcotic that there is, and it takes a strong man to walk away from it, with the greatest portion of that strength being the knowledge and complete belief that the Republic can only continue if the choice its people makes is accepted with humility, and the good grace to turn the reins over and walk away if told to do so by the voters. This trait seems to be lacking more and more in the President’s party, and if his rhetoric is any indication, in him himself. From Gore v. Bush, to the constant admonitions about people “voting against their interests” because the reject the notion that they have to be represented by identities rooted in sex organs, skin colors, ethnicities, and income status, to a rhetorically violent demonization of their opponents, the Democrats seem to be willing to divide, and play the part of Janus, with the words of derision flowing freely from one mouth, and a song of reconciliation flowing from the other. And the more they talk, the more they reveal.
It really doesn’t matter if the President was trying to use a literary device, or if he really was nursing a grudge against a campaign that offers something he can’t. Revenge is a word that has no place in American politics, because it fosters a division in the country’s soul that cannot be overcome by competent leadership alone. This is something understood by another President that Mr. Obama would love to be compared with.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
Of course, the assassination of Lincoln put the government on a much different course, and as a result, after a brief respite, the blessing of liberty were denied to the people for whom so much blood was shed to bring to them for nearly another 100 years. That is something for the President to consider as he faces the prospect of a resounding loss on Tuesday next.