Henry II and Chris Christie share a lot in common
In light of the recent Chris Christie I find that I am reminded of Shakespeare’s Richard II, particularly the actions of the king’s most trusted servant, Exton, who feels it is his duty as King Henry’s closest confidante and ally to do away with the king’s self-proclaimed ‘greatest foe’ (Richard II). Exton, recalling his encounter with the king to another servant, illustrates the king implicitly requesting that Exton kill even if he doesn’t say it explicitly.
Didst thou not mark the king, what words he spake,
‘Have I no friend will rid me of this living fear?’
Was it not so?
These were his very words.
‘Have I no friend?’ quoth he: he spake it twice,
And urged it twice together, did he not?
And speaking it, he wistly [intently] look’d on me,
And who should say [as if to say], ‘I would thou wert the man
That would divorce this terror from my heart’;
Meaning the king at Pomfret. Come, let’s go:
I am the king’s friend, and will rid his foe.
It is clear that while not directly a call to commit suicide, the king’s well-chosen words call on Exton to be ‘rid’ of ‘his foe’. It’s a strategy employed by Christie as well in his most recent scandal, in which Christie is implicated as having insinuated that punishing Fort Lee’s mayor for his lack of support during his campaign for reelection would have been something that Christie might have looked upon favorably. Ina similar fashion to Henry casting out his servant Exton when he finds out he is responsible for the crimes he is initially accused of, Christie fired much of his key staff when accusations were initially generated by the media. Henry, perhaps fearing any implication of his personal involvement in the crime, ostracizes his loyal servant;
“With Cain go wander through the shades of night
And never show thy head by day nor light.”
The fact these two leaders feel the need to so violently cast out anyone who might be responsible for the crimes in question points to the possibility of guilty conscience. Henry casts out Exton in the same way God casts out Cain for the murder of his brother, seemingly assuming the position of a figure of holiness casting out the insidious forces from his kingdom. The act of casting those implicated for crime may illustrate (though more clearly in Henry’s case) the guilt the leaders feel, and their need to remove themselves from any potential affiliation with the party that overtly committed the crime itself.
An essential difference between the two figures is their eventual abilities to come to terms with the events in question. Though Christie has yet to take on any personal responsibility or assume any knowledge of the traffic scandal, Henry eventually did in fact come to terms with the fact that he did, indeed, hold certain guilt within himself for the murder of Richard II.
“Lords I protest, my soul is full of woe.
That blood should sprinkle me to make me grow.”
Henry eventually is able to understand his role that lead to the death of his enemy. He is filled with remorse and regret and can admit this candidly. This eventual reaction is in contrast to Christie’s reaction—that appears to be one of complete disgust with his staffers and the mere potential that their actions might implicate him in any possible way. Henry sees that he is responsible and feels guilty in turn that his actions have helped him to increase the amount of power he has. Christie’s inability to take any sort of responsibly may be indicative of a highly employed method of diversion of guilt taken by the leaders of today. By firing those staffers implicated almost immediately, if not intentionally implicates Christie as having a ‘guilty conscience’. Christie may feel that the fine line between guilt and plausible deniability can be more defined if he eschews any association with those charged directly with the crime. This distinction in reaction is important to note because I feel it points to a greater theme in our political climate at the moment.
In our ever scandal-eager society, political figures and organizations seem to be less and less inclined to take responsibility for their actions despite the blame that they may share in. They make adamant assertions that they are not personally explicitly responsible for their crimes—which may, indeed, be true. But their non-action, their implicit acquiescence does in fact make them culpable. Through their non-action, their ability to allow certain negative behaviors to continue while in positions of leadership, amounts to guilt, even if they are not the hands the dealt the actual crime.
A perfect example of this phenomenon of ‘implicit guilt’ can be found in a highly publicized recent announcement by Swarthmore University’s Hillel organization that they would now be ‘open’ to hearing both anti-Zionist and Zionist speakers on campus. Though the Hillel was not specifically saying they were in agreement with anti-Zionist teachings nor did they out rightly say they no longer stood with Israel and its right to exist, their subliminal acquiescence served to say more than they agreed with Anti-Zionist principles. It’s an occurrence that happens all too often in a political climate that can often be determined not just through our actions but often also through lack thereof. With this statement of ‘openness’ Swarthmore Hillel in a sense became complicit in allowing hate rhetoric spread often by anti-Zionist advocates on their campus that such syndicates try to disguise as simply disagreement with Israeli political policy at the moment.
This theme of nefarious covert action by our leaders, cleverly disguised behind carefully chosen syntax or hidden action, is repeated time and time again within American history. Our leaders may not have personally committed the crimes they are accused of, but sometimes their reticence or lack of action can make all the difference. This points to the greater importance of classes like AP Comparative Government, because it enlightens tomorrow’s young citizens and leaders to the cruel realties of politics in the 21rst century. An acute consciousness of even the tiniest details is necessary in order to appreciate, criticize, and understand the actions of our leaders. Knowing that such behavior is rampant within modern political action and discourse is essential to comprehending the various intricacies of such a fast-paced political environment. It is important to be aware that things are not always as they seems within the King’s court. Our leaders are capable of committing tremendous crimes, disguised by the careful appointment of underlings to carry out those things they don’t want the public to know about. Even our greatest leaders are capable of tremendous folly so it is therefore provident to become keenly aware of such conniving behavior.