WHY DO WE NOW ACCEPT MERE politicians when we once yearned for an immaculate statesman?
Cincinnatus was regarded by the Romans as one of the heroes of early Rome and as a model of Roman virtue and simplicity. A persistent opponent of the plebeians, he was forced to live in humble circumstances, working on his own small farm, until he was called to serve Rome as dictator, an office which he immediately resigned after completing his task of defeating the Aequians. His immediate resignation of his absolute authority with the end of the crisis has often been cited as an example of good leadership, service to the public good, civic virtue, and modesty.
Interestingly, this past winter, having recently arrived to the farm only a few weeks before, I quickly dubbed the large black cat who began appearing daily for a couple of hours each day, Cincinnatus. I had no intimate knowledge of the cat, or the name I had bestowed upon him. My only connection to the name Cincinnatus was the memory of a crusty old character in a popular 1960s television series I watched as a child.
The cat showed up around his favorite hole near the barn and stables for about two weeks, in hindsight the same two weeks we were fighting our kitchen mice problems inside the house some five hundred feet away. My brother Charles took to Cincinnatus, and pried him with scraps and goodies in hopes of persuading the small but nimble enforcer to stick around for indoor duty. Over the next two weeks we trapped two mice in sticky traps, releasing them into the creek the next morning. Then, just as quickly, Cincinnatus disappeared. And so did the evidence of a night mouse...
Only today, several months later, and still no sight ever again of the old cat Cincinnatus, did I seek out the origin of our fleeting feline's name. I don't know why it occurred to me, but in this Age of Google, it did. How apropos, however. Now that our dear president has carefully steered America through her greatest crisis since the election (pick anything, flailing banks, stimulus, pirates, and Iran, the Saudi bow, rejecting Bibi, right-wing radicals, and embracing Chavez), perhaps we can hope that His Illustriousness and his South Chicago Gang will now step down and leave the running of this ship of state to mere sea captains.
On the other hand, back in the days of Rome, those cynical plebeians were no less likely to stage a tax revolt than they are today.