Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ozymandias’ and The Shoe

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Ozymandias, by Percy B. Shelley, is one of my favorite poems. I can’t help think of it while reading The Limits of Power, by Andrew J. Bacevich. Shelley summarizes Bacevich’s book in fourteen lines, but I still recommend the book. It took several thousand years of decay to show how futile was the narcissistic and vainglorious gloating of Ramesses the Great. It took only eight years of Bush to show how narcissistic and vain is twenty to thirty years of American hubris. Now, in his last days in office, Bush is attempting to rewrite his place in history through a series of interviews. How appropriate it is that a shoe will be its exclamation point!

It's too bad that The Shoe is also an accurate statement on America's behavior. But, that won't matter; we will miss the point anyway.

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