Friday, January 6, 2012

Reflections on an Icy Pond

Two days ago there was a hard freeze in Atlanta.  It was the first freeze of the season.  The bubbling fountain on my patio froze solid, threatening the survival of the clay pot that holds its water.  The robins came by, as usual, looking for a drink or a bath, but stood pecking at the surface of the ice, to no avail.
The pond in the local park was deserted by the water fowl.  Lucy the Neighborhood Goose squatted on the shore, wrapped in her own down, head tucked snugly under one wing.  The ducks were nowhere to be seen.  Thin and crystalline shards of ice floated on the surface of the placid pond, too sparse to form a solid surface.

Today the sun is warm, the air is 63 degrees Fahrenheit, the sky clear and bluer than Muddy Waters' sounds.   The contrast in the two days' presentations reminds me of "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

My week was spent watching all 38 episodes of the Showtime series The Tudors.  No one ever swore on the historical accuracy of this work by Michael Hirst.  License was taken.  I video-streamed the four seasons since 2007 via Netflix because I don't get Showtime on my cable service.  I'm too cheap.
Not since I read James Clavell's Shogun have I been so riveted by anything, written or filmed.  Period pieces do entertain me tremendously.  I love the pageantry, the luscious frocks and jewels.  I feast on the foibles of royalty. The story was close enough to true and the major elements stayed intact.

King Henry VIII was a spoiled latter-day trust-fund kid.  His dad, Henry VII, was the last King of England to win his throne on the battlefield.  Henry VIII's only qualification for the kingship was an accident of birth.

The king was a handsome, athletic and charming individual, especially as played by Jonathon Rhys-Meyers.  He loved his food and drink, romping on horseback through the English countryside with his buddies, and bedding his wives' ladies in waiting.

His habit of wooing, wedding and ultimately dispatching his six queens would be funny if it weren't true.  His idea of showing his discarded spouses mercy was to have them beheaded instead of hung, drawn and quartered.  Nice guy, Hank.

If I hadn't struggled to stay awake through my Modern European History classes in college, I might have learned more about the power struggles between our mother-country's randy king and the Catholic Church.  Episcopalians probably know far more than I, since their church was the product of those struggles.  Henry didn't like it that the Pope and his minions thought they could dictate policy to the English throne. so he found a loophole in the law he rationalized to justify giving himself absolute power in his realm as head of the Church of England.

Throughout this truly entertaining series, I couldn't help but see the parallels between the shenanigans in Henry's court and what goes on in Washington, D.C. today.  Power mad?  Check.  Womanizing?  Check.  Lying? Check.  

The nobility of the 16th century didn't believe in equality among people.  They used terms like  "betters" and "riff-raff."  They could walk by beggars and the handicapped as if they weren't even there.  Once a week or so somebody in a crown might step outside and tuck a coin into the hands of a few "lessers."  That allowed them to live with their consciences, if they happened to have one.  Amassing more money and power was job one.

Sound familiar?  The biggest difference between our far-right conservative politicians and the ones in King Henry VII's court is the costuming. 

The 17th century Plymouth Pilgrims  fled England to free themselves of religious persecution, but they brought with them the sensibilities of England's noble classes.   Rich versus poor.  Class versus classless.  Haves versus have-nots. Christians versus Muslims.  Mormons versus Baptists.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Photo by L

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