In the year 64, the fifth emperor of the Roman Empire, Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, played his fiddle while most of Rome burned to the ground. It seems he had nothing better to do, because, historians surmise, Nero started the fire to clear the way for the palaces, amphitheaters and sports arenas he wanted to build. Fiddling around was Nero’s way of celebrating the conflagration.
At least that’s the way the story goes. It’s hard to separate fact from fiction, especially when it comes to Nero and his fiddle, because Nero, it is said, was nuts. That old canard reminds me so much of today’s Republican candidates for president. All around us history-changing events are happening while Republicans fiddle around with silly issues. Iranian hoodlums invade and burn the British embassy and the Brits banish all Iranians from London. Iran continues to isolate itself from the rest of the world and presents security and economic challenges for the future. Pakistanis threaten to use their nuclear weapons on India and other neighbors unless the U.S. continues foreign aid to them. This is bribery of the first order; give us money or we’ll nuke the Middle East. People occupy cities across the country bringing attention to the “banksters” on Wall Street and asking why these guys aren’t in jail. Maybe we should Occupy the Republicans for the answer.
The U.S. Defense Department says it lost a multimillion-dollar stealth drone, and Pakistan says it shot it down. Which means the Pakistanis may now have the stealth technology and could use it against us. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits Burma, also known as Myanmar, the first U.S. diplomat to do so in 50 years, as the country moves toward peaceful reforms. Clinton is quoted as saying last week, “While the measures already taken may be unprecedented and welcomed, they are just a beginning.” It is said that Governor Rick Perry thinks Burma is a shaving cream. All of Europe staggers under slowing economic growth as the future of the euro is questioned. The European problems slam Wall Street as Germany is the only knight in shining armor to come forth, and the Germans reject the idea. German Chancellor Angela Merkel may be President Obama’s top choice for VP. Meanwhile, back on the campaign trail, the Republican candidates keep fiddling around while the world collapses around them. In reality, most of the GOP presidential wannabes have little idea what is going on in the world. What they want to debate and what they want to try to convince us about are topics that in the long run—or as they say today, “at the end of the day”—will make little difference.
Republicans avoid the big issues by debating topics such as:
Do you really trust a Mormon to be president of the United States? After all, they aren’t Christian, are they?
A marriage should be one man and one woman. Haven’t we discussed this for a couple of decades? Didn’t we just abolish “don’t ask, don’t tell?” Republicans put gays and Mormons on the fringe of society.
When does life begin? At conception? At birth? At six months? When couples are just thinking about having a baby? Isn’t there a Supreme Court ruling on this subject? What the hell are the Republicans talking about?
Global warming is a Democratic plot to scare citizens into voting for them, the GOP says. Global warming is not an issue. It’s not even a theory. The GOP says we can’t believe in global warming because it will harm big business. How long did it take God to create the universe? Wasn’t it just six days? (He took one day off, you’ll remember.) And those dinosaur bones are about 50,000 years old, about the same age as early man. Let’s make sure we tell our fourth-graders the truth about that. And let’s rewrite history. The next topic for the Republicans: How many angels can fit on the head of a pin?
And so it goes: The Republican candidates for president fiddle with their foolish, out-dated arguments while the world burns down around them.
Nero would be proud.