The dogs of war

When I think back to my time as bureau chief in Washington, D.C., for the Financial Post, it feels so long ago compared to what is happening now it might well have been the Pleistocene Age when mammoths walked the earth. During my posting from 1989-1993, Washington was an idyllic spot troubled only by a few eccentricities. As Jack Kennedy quipped: “Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.”
Pansies bloomed all winter when the worst that could happen was a forecast of an inch or two of snow. The federal government would promptly send everyone home. Residents would clean out their local Safeway in preparation for the Armageddon that never came. Spring arrived six weeks earlier than in Toronto; magnolia grandiflora presided over front lawns. Redbud lit up the rural roads.
To be sure, there were problems in south-east D.C. where most of the Blacks lived while the privileged white folks inhabited tony Georgetown with its rows of federal-style red brick homes. But the people in charge and their places of work were held in high regard. Standing amid other journalists in the Oval Office was an honour. Hearings on Capitol Hill produced knowledgable witnesses and thoughtful outcomes.
Today’s Washington is unrecognizable. Donald Trump, the 45th president, has disgraced the office. Partisan politics dominates; Congressional compromises are rare. There are too few individuals fighting for a good cause. Networks and Internet sites have become raucus platforms for their narrow views. Perversely, the attack on Capitol Hill seemed aided and abetted by some guards who should have been repelling the mob.
Trump, who incited the murderous siege, doesn’t likely know much Shakespeare, but he would readily salute this call to arms from the playwright’s Julius Caesar, ”Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war.” Given the sorry state of affairs in Washington and elsewhere in the U.S,, those slavering dogs will be running amok for a long while yet.

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