October 14, 2006

Non omnes sancti qui calcant limina templi

In English: Not all are holy who tread the threshold of the temple.

I thought I would offer this saying as a follow-up on the proverb from yesterday and my commentary on the conviction of Representative Bob Ney on corruption charges. The literal meaning of today's saying is obviously directed against church officials and church-goers who are less than holy, but I think it can also be applied, metaphorically, to our elected officials, those who tread the threshold of the temple of democracy.

Consider the words of Bill Moyers is a recent commentary, Lincoln Weeps, on the dreadful state of our democracy: "If democracy can be said to have temples, the Lincoln Memorial is our most sacred." I do agree with this. Just the other night, I watched the genius anti-war film The Day The Earth Stood Still, and one of the most moving scenes in that film is when the little boy takes Klaatu, the alien visitor, to the Lincoln Memorial. This, Klaatu realizes, was a great man, and the memorial to him is an expression of democracy's highest hopes.

Yet, as Moyers goes on to say, "Lincoln looks out now on a city where those words are daily mocked. This is no longer his city. And those people from all walks of life making their way up the steps to pay their respect to the martyred president—it's not their city, either. Or their government. This is an occupied city, a company town, and government is a subservient subsidiary of richly endowed patrons."

It's not something partisan. Moyers is careful to note that Democrats as well as Republicans are "up to their necks in the sludge." The solution? The only possible solution to the corruption of our democracy would have to be a truly democratic solution: "The only way to counter the power of organized money is with organized and outraged people."

I agree with Moyers, and my sense of outrage and dismay is what prompts me to often include political commentary with these daily proverbs. Studying the past should not be a way to put our heads in the sand and ignore what is going on around us. Instead, we need to recognize that the problems we face are real, and they are the problems that people face again and again, in utterly different time periods and in wildly disparate cultures. The only people, though, who can solve our problems right here, right now would be "we, the people." And today's proverb reminds us that we cannot let corrupt politicans wrap themselves in the sacred cloak of democracy: we must keep them under our scrutiny, and keep ourselves well-informed (hurray for the Internet!) about what is going on in Washington these days.

So, read Moyers's commentary if you have a chance - and here is today's proverb read out loud:

1315. Non omnes sancti qui calcant limina templi.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

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3 comments:

JoHammonia said...

"Not all are holy who tred the threshold of the temple."
to tread, trod, trodden - right?

(Nevertheless: thank you very much for this service!)

Laura Gibbs said...

Thanks for pointing out the typo - it's fixed now.

Anonymous said...

I pray when historians look back to this age, they will admired the heroes of America's great second revoluton.