August 21, 2009
Loopholes in the law (and double standards for enforcement) are as old as Henry VIII.
In what I assumed was a form of political escapism, I've been reading a great deal lately about Henry VIII -- a cruel and tyrannical narcissistic Christianist theocrat if ever there was one. I'm into my fifth book dealing with the period, which sounds almost obsessive, and I've worried that I might be carrying my escapism too far. (Wouldn't want to have my Internet addiction compounded by a book addiction, would I?)
I probably should have been more concerned when I made fun of my Tudoresque escapism in a post titled "Escapism and the politics of the past." I thought I was being cute when I snidely dismissed the idea that political concerns of Henry's day would have any relevance to modern events.
Little did I know. For today, much to my horror, I stumbled upon a serious historical comparison by British historian David Starkey between Henry VIII and Barack Obama:
Hear David giving an insight into our fascination with Henry VIII, and his process for researching his new biography on this icon of British history.A Tudor Obama? Did he really say that?
Yes, I'm afraid he did.
Here's the video, titled David Starkey on Henry VIII "Tudor Obama"
Did he really have to say that? I mean, puh-leez! Isn't there enough hyperbole in the world? It's like, we're all tired of Hitler comparisons, and many people have said it's time to stop with that. Fortunately, there's even an unwritten law, called Godwin's Law, which we can invoke when we become sick and tired of Hitler comparisons.
The problem is, so far as I know, Godwin's Law does not apply to Tudor comparisons, so Professor Starkey may well have found a loophole.
But I want my Tudor escapism, dammit! (Is there no way to close this loophole, so I can prevent my history reading from being spoiled?)
Let's just hope that Professor Starkey is only trying to sell his book (which looks like a good one, BTW) and that this comparison does not withstand the test of time. (What worries me the most is that Starkey happens to be a leading Tudor scholar.)
One last point. I can't help notice the Wiki entry for Godwin's Law seems to have been expanded quite a bit since I last cited it. Could it be that the law is being taken more seriously under Obama than it was under Bush? Surely a bad Hitler comparison is a bad Hitler comparison, right? I'd hate to think that Obama Hitler comparisons are being considered more offensive than Bush Hitler comparisons, for that would constitute a double standard in the law's enforcement. (Godwinian relativism is something we can do without.)
OTOH, it's probably a sign that a law has really made it to the big time when people are complaining about loopholes and double standards.
posted by Eric on 08.21.09 at 01:37 PM
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