I can speak in pig latin too…

I just don’t get yesterday’s Maureen Dowd column. It is important to note that these days I seldom – by seldom I mean “never” – understand Dowd’s columns. Perhaps I didn’t take enough latin in high school (I got a D in one semester).

Her column begins by declaring:

The decline and fall of the American Empire echoes the experience of the Romans, who also tumbled into the trap of becoming overleveraged empire hussies.

Which should set off alarms to the reader that we are about to get into terrible historical analogue territory. But before whipping out the big guns, Dowd takes the time to meditate on the supposed “rise” of Latin again. And give us insight her personal education in Latin:

The study of Latin and Greek, with illuminations on morality, philosophy, mob rule and chariot races, reached a nadir in the greedy ‘80s and ‘90s, when it seemed irrelevant for kids who yearned to be investment bankers and high-tech millionaires. But now we’ve learned the hard way that greed is bad — avaritia mala est — and the classics have staged a comeback. Amo Latinam, so I was happy to see last week’s Times story about the soaring enrollment for Latin classes in New York.

In high school, I translated swatches of Julius Caesar’s “The Battle for Gaul” from Latin to English while nibbling cheese crackers.

This is all vaguely stupid but does not come anywhere close to the the level of stupidity – masked a cleverness – that is to come.

The rhetorical thrust of her column is just astounding. Remember that is column appears in America’s paper of “record”. What Dowd does – a strange pig latin discussion of today’s political situation – is just inane.

There are several problems her rhetorical strategy. The obvious being incoherence. The final several paragraphs are nigh-unreadable. As this sample shows:

Rabidi subcanes candidati, pretendant “no orator as Brutis is,” ut “stir men’s blood” et disturbant mentes populi ad “a sudden flood of mutiny,” ut Wilhelmus Shakespearus scripsit.

One wondes how many cocktails Dowd – or her editors – had when they thought that this column made sense or was a good idea. Ladies and gentlemen if this is where liberal elitism – or the liberal media – will lead us I’ve had enough. Thank you very much.

But the worse part of it all is that it has nothing to do with her central historical metaphor, laid out in the beginning of the piece. She’s now drawing analogues from the era of Caesar – the beginning of the Roman Empire not it’s end as I understand it – which just muddles the intellectual waters even more.

In the wake of this rhetorical disaster I would like to enter the following in the record: the following analogies should be banded from our discourse.

  • Anything having to do with the rise, fall, or inbetween of the Roman Empire
  • Anything having to do with Hitler, especially Munich

I believe this would be a service to our generation and all future generations of Americans.


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