Day By Day

Friday, June 06, 2008

Remembering Canute

Listening to Obama's victory speech the other night -- you know the one, it's where he said:
“generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs for the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal. This was the moment — this was the time — when we came together to remake this great nation ...”
I was reminded of the old story of King Canute.

Canute was a viking who in the eleventh century ruled a North Sea empire consisting of England, Norway, part of Sweden and various islands. So great was his power that he was considered an equal of the Holy Roman Emperor. As the story goes, courtiers flattered Canute that his power was so great that he could command the winds and tides. To show them their folly Canute ordered that he be seated on a throne at the seashore at low tide. He then commanded the tide not to advance. Of course it did, and he and the flattering courtiers were drenched in sea water.

The adulatory punditry accompanying Obama's nomination sounds a lot like the absurd pratter mouthed by Canute's flunkies. The difference is, Canute was wise enough to recognize the silliness; Obama seems to have embraced it.