"A Plague O' Both Your Houses"

Adam's Apple

Senior Member
Apr 25, 2004
From a paid subscription site. This article is so in tune with the way so many of us are feeling right now about politics and politicians.

A leader like Lincoln: Wherefore art thou?
By Bob Hammel, Herald-Times
October 15, 2006

Maybe you're not quick to see John McCain and Hillary Clinton as a modern-day political Romeo and Juliet. Or to see yourself, the American voting public, as Mercutio, the friend of Romeo's who was the first to die in Shakespeare's ultimate bloodletting provoked by the two all-time symbols of young love. His life leaking away from a sword thrust, Mercutio uttered one of the most misquoted and most broadly applicable dying declarations of disgust: "A plague o' both your houses." Mercutio's anger was not toward his slayer or his friend, but to the mindless blood feud that prevailed between Romeo Montague's family and the Capulets of Juliet and her relative whose dueling sword killed Mercutio.

The blood feud comes to mind in hearing Hillary of the family Clinton react to North Korea's nuclear recklessness by criticizing the family Bush, and McCain--not the most likely of Bush defenders--rail back in criticism of the family Clinton. Each alleges failure in dealing with North Korea. Each is right, though the person with the successful way to deal with a rogue nation is yet to emerge, and surely that person is neither finger-pointing Hillary nor finger-countering McCain. "A plague o' both your houses."

Such is politics today. Such is the eagerness of the voting public to get to Nov. 8--the day after the next national vote--and be relieved of the feeling that each day's events might be tied to election advantage. We should have at least a day or so of that before maneuvering for 2008 begins being read in each day's events.

Gas prices went down? A congressman resigns in disgrace? New reports come out on an old war? Politics. They're playing politics. "They," always, means the unseen string-pullers who have come to be symbolized in today's political world by Republican mastermind Karl Rove - a singular sort of symbol, because no mind yet has emerged on the Democrat side that in any way bespeaks mastery. If there is one, it is in Bill of the family Clinton. He is a man of multiple leadership gifts, including one for polarizing unlike any politician since, oh, since the Bush known as W.

And here some of us are, aligning with one or the other, sometimes loosely, sometimes passionately--more and more often of late unenthusiastically. In between, in the great cavern of the uncommitted, unaffiliated and unimpressed, there is for the most part a feeling deep in the soul: "A plague o' both your houses."

It's a sad assessment of modern-day America, because government was something most of us grew up believing was a bedrock of our republic. We developed a passion for voting because it was the citizens' role in establishing a responsible government. We grew up thinking that the citizens of Boston had every right to chuck that British tea into Boston Harbor because it represented taxation without representation, but once we had thrown off foreign rule and we had our independence, taxation called for by duly elected representatives truly was what it was sometimes called - duty … the dues we were assessed for our luxurious ride on the Good Ship America, a wonderful, inspiring ship of state.

Our political Montagues and Capulets have cleaved us too frequently into lovers of only half a country--the half that our side rules. That's true only if "country" is synonymous with government, and unfortunately it pretty much is. Our country in international affairs, and even domestic, is pretty much whatever the incumbent government makes of it. On the same national holidays, we sing the same songs and honor the same flag, whoever's in the White House, and we revere the same past heroes and past sacrifices without much consideration for who was in the White House then. But we have learned of late to feel distant from the perpetrators of the day's governing. And for that: "A plague o' both your houses."

We'll go to the polls in a few weeks, hoping and praying that maybe, from all this malevolence and bitterness, an old-style leader will emerge. The America of the 1850s surely didn't see Lincoln coming. Lincoln of the 1850s probably didn't see Lincoln of the Ages coming.

We keep voting. And hoping. And deserving something much, much better than we've been getting. There is in the air today an unmistakable smell of rejection--throw these bums out. The bums in office have given all sorts of reason for such a rise-up.

Unfortunately, most Americans of today have little reason to think the new in office will be significantly less bum-ly. At heart, we're still an agrarian state. From time to time, we rotate the crop and hope. Sadly, but joyfully, ours is the best of all systems. For us.

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