Monday, November 18, 2013

* Sophocles on the Potomac

General De Gaulle and Emperor Haile Selassie
salute the coffin of America's fallen leader

The widow, the children, the brothers.
Oedipus the King

Not only were the  American generals in the parade of mourners walking on foot out of respect , but the colossus DeGaulle and the last remaining Emperor in the world, Haile Selassie, and the children--babies really---and the widow in veil (something so Old World you never see it anymore) and the brothers.

The spectacle was Lincolnian; no, Sophoclean. 

The catharsis was a national catharsis.


ZAKARIA:  What do you think explains both the conspiracy theories and the sense of why has this assassination loom so large in American imagination?
CARO:  Well, you know, it's almost like myth, Homeric myth – young, handsome, the athlete, you know, dying young, at the height of his glory, you know? You say, uh, beautiful - a beautiful man, really, uh, charming, handsome, idealistic.  Murder, blood, violence, horror.  You know, it's - you say here has this crack of this gunshot.  And in this - in an instant, there - this man is lying across his wife's, uh, lap, basically, in the back seat of a car with his head blown apart, blood all over her, you know. You say, uh, for that reason alone, it has all the qualities of a mythic drama on - in the highest terms. Then you also say, you know, there is the whole thing that happened that - you may be too young to remember.

The four days of television that were every - you know, all the networks, there's only one broadcast.  The - so there's a pool broadcast. The Nielsen - the Nielsen ratings showed that for those four days, the television set in the average American home was on for 31.6 hours.  That's eight hours a day that every - virtually - that America is watching the same words said by the same people.  And you say, I wrote in my book, you know, the funeral procession, you - we think of the triumphs of Rome, the triumphal processions of Rome.  This is the closest that a republic ever came to it. A procession marching up, uh, to the Capitol, with the great dome of the Capitol, columns atop columns in the sky, marching toward it first, you have the generals, the joint chiefs of staff, the priests in their flowing robes.  And then you have the matched gray horses, the caisson.  Behind it, you know, a sailor, a single sailor holding a flag.   Of course, because Kennedy had been a naval hero, a navy lieutenant.  That's the president's personal flag, the great black horse prancing there. You say where has it - you just said forget politics, forget tragedy, this is a drama such as you have very few elena - you have very few comparisons to this in all of history.  And drumming it into history and drumming it into the American people is television.  Everybody is watching it.  The nation is united in a way, united and watching this in a way it - you say, when did this ever happen?

No comments: