Laudamus Mauriniam Doudiam! Palinam Delenda Est!
October 12, 2008
Are We Rome? Tu Betchus!
By MAUREEN DOWD
With modernity crumbling, our thoughts turn to antiquity.
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.
As our sand-castle economy washes away under the tide of bad gambles and debts, this most self-indulgent society lurches toward stoicism (even bankrupt Iceland gives us the cold shoulder and turns to a solvent superpower). It's going to require more than giving up constant infusions of stocks, Starbucks and Botox.
As Seneca, the Roman Stoic who advised treating the body "somewhat strictly," wrote in a letter: "Avoid whatever is approved of by the mob, and things that are the gift of chance. Whenever circumstance brings some welcome thing your way, stop in suspicion and alarm ...They are snares. ... we think these things are ours when in fact it is we who are caught. That track leads to precipices; life on that giddy level ends in a fall."
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. To boost the felicitous new trend toward Latin, I enlisted Gary D. Farney, an associate professor of history at Rutgers University, to translate (loosely and creatively) from English to Latin "The Battle of Gall," my take below on why the hyperventilating Republicans are not veni, vidi, vici-ing.
Manes Julii Caesaris paucis diebus aderant — "O, most bloody sight!" — cum Ioannes McCainus, mavericus et veteranus captivusque Belli Francoindosinini, et Sara Palina, barracuda borealis, qui sneerare amant Baracum Obamam causa oratorii, pillorant ut demagogi veri, Africanum-Americanum senatorem Terrae Lincolni, ad Republicanas rallias.
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.
Cum Quirites Americani ad rallias Republicanas audiunt nomen Baraci Husseini Obamae, clamant "Mortem!" "Amator terroris!" "Socialiste!" "Bomba Obamam!" "Obama est Arabus!" "Caput excidi!" tempus sit rabble-rouseribus desistere "Smear Talk Express," ut Stephanus Colbertus dixit. Obama demonatus est tamquam Musulmanus-Manchurianus candidatus — civis "collo-cerviciliaris" ad ralliam Floridianam Palinae exhabet mascum Obamae ut Luciferis.
Obama non queretur high-tech lynching. Sed secreto-serventes agentes nervosissmi sunt.
Vix quisque audivit nomen "Palinae" ante lunibus paucis. Surgivit ex suo tanning bed ad silvas in Terram Eskimorum, rogans quis sit traitorosus, ominosus, scurrilosus, periculosus amator LXs terroris criminalisque Chicagoani? Tu betchus!
"Caeca ambitio Obamana," novum rumorem Palina McCainusque dixit. "Cum utilis, Obama laborat cum amatore terroris Wilhelmo Ayro. Cum putatus, perjuravit." McCainianus bossus maximus Francus Keatinx vocat Obamam, "plebeium," et ut iuvenum snifferendum cocaini minimi ("a little blow.")
Cum Primus Dudus, spousus Palinanus, culpari attemptaret "Centurionem-Gate," judices Terrae Santae Elvorumque castigat gubernatricem Palinam de abusu auctoritatis per familiam revengendum.
Tamen Sara et Ioannes bury Obama, not praise him. Maverici, ut capiunt auxilium de friga-domina, hench-femina, Cynthia McCaina Birrabaronessa, (quae culpat Obamam periculandi suum filum in Babylonia), brazen-iter distractant mentes populares de minimissimis IV 0 I K.ibus, deminutione "Motorum Omnium," et Depressione Magna II.0. Omnes de Georgio Busio Secundo colossale goofballo. "V" (because there's no W. in Latin) etiam duxit per disastrum ad gymnasium.
Gubernatrix (prope Russia) Palina, spectans candidaciam MMXII, post multam educationem cum Kissingro et post multam parodiam de Sabbatis Nocte Vivo atque de Tina Feia, ferociter vituperat Obamam, ut supralupocidit (aerial shooting of wolves) in Hyperborea.
Vilmingtoni, in Ohionem, McCain's Mean Girl (Ferox Puella) defendit se gladiatricem politicam esse: "Pauci dicant, O Jupiter, te negativam esse. Non, negativa non sum, sed verissima." Talk about lipsticka in porcam! Quasi Leeus Atwater de oppugnatione Busii Primi ad Dukakem: "non negativus, sed comparativus."
From Mr. David Johnson of Carbondale, Illinois: For those whose Latin is a bit rusty, here's a translation, whose fidelity to Dowd's original is not much greater than hers to proper Latin usage. Yes, of course it's better in the original.
THE BATTLE OF GALL
Shades of Julius Caesar--"O most bloody sight!" John McCain, maverick, veteran, and Indochine prisoner of war, together with Sara Palin, the boreal barricuda, love to sneer at Barack Obama for his oratory. But at Republican rallies they attacked the African-American senator from the Land of Lincoln like true demagogues.
The candidates, raving attack-dogs (with apologies to our canine readers) pretend that they are "no orator as Brutus is", as they "stir men's blood" and rouse the minds of the people to "a sudden flood of mutiny," as Shakespeare wrote.
When American citizens at Republican rallies hear the name of Barack Hussein Obama, and shout out "Death!" "Terrorist-lover!" "Communist!" [surely no one in the mob would be so moderate as to yell "Socialist", especially in French--ed.] "Bomba Obama!" "Obama is an Arab!" and "Off with his head!", it's time for the rabble-rousers to stop the "Smear Talk Express", as Stephen Colbert has called it. Obama is demonized as an Islamo-Manchurian candidate--at a Florida Palin rally a citizen in a cervical collar (really? But what the hell else would collo-cerviciliaris mean?--ed.] held up a mask of Obama as the devil.
Obama does not complain about this high-tech lynching. But the secret service agents are rather nervous.
Hardly anyone had heard the name "Palin" a few months ago. She arose from her tanning bed deep in the forests of Eskimo Land, and asked who this traitorous, ominous, scurrilous, dangerous lover of the 60's, terror, and the Chicago mob was. You betcha!
"The blind ambition of Obama," runs the new story by Palin and McCain. "When it's useful, Obama works with the terrorist William Ayers. When he's asked about it, he lies." McCain party boss Frank Keating calls Obama a guy from the hood and notes that as a young man he sniffed a little blow.
When the First Dude, Palin's spouse, tried to attack Trooper-Gate, the judges of the Land of Santa and the Elves castigated Governor Palin for her abuse of power in pursuit of revenge for her family.
But Sara and John come to bury Obama, not to praise him. The mavericks, with the help of their ice-maiden henchwoman, Cynthia McCain, Baroness de Beer (who blames Obama for endangering her son in Iraq), brazenly distract the minds of…
Here the excellent translation of Mr. David M. Johnson of Carbondale, Illinois, abruptly leaves off. Perhaps someone stabbed him in the Forum. Or the back. Let's hope not.
I'll try to fill in the rest…without resorting to my Latin dictionary!
…the populace from the tiniest 401k's, the loss of General Motors and the Great Depression 2.0. All because George Bush Second, the colossal goofball, V. (because there's no W in Latin), took even these to school by means of disaster.
Governor (near Russia) Palin, looking to the candidacy of 2012, after much coaching from Kissinger and after many parodies on Saturday Night Live by Tina Fey, fiercely blames Obama, while she aerially shoots wolves in Hyperborea (far North).
At Wilmington, in Ohio, McCain's Mean Girl defended her gladiatorial politics thusly: "A few say, O God, that I'm negative. No, I'm not negative, but the most truthful." Talk about lipstick on a pig! Just as Lee Atwater attacked Dukakis on behalf of Bush the First: "not negative, but comparative."
Not my most elegant translation job, but you get the idea. Maybe someone out there can clean it up for me.
Maurinia Doudia, o puella sapientia!