The Frivolous Power of Kings

“You are part of my dominion, and the ground that I am seated upon is mine, nor has anyone disobeyed my orders with impunity. Therefore, I order you not to rise onto my land, nor to wet the clothes or body of your Lord.” – King Canute, to the ocean, as chronicled by Henry of Huntingdon in AD 1129.

It is unclear, as I write this in AD 2016, how many know the story of Canute or what happened next: “But the sea carried on rising as usual without any reverence for his person, and soaked his feet and legs.”

One might be forgiven for thinking that humans have learned something about the quality of their leaders since 1129. But kings still walk among us, as do their followers.

“This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow, and our planet began to heal.” – Barack Obama, to the oceans, after winning the Democratic primaries in AD 2008.

Although Canute did not make his pronouncement in a stadium of screaming fans far from the sea, the primary difference between the two men is not that Canute confronted his opponent. But Canute did command “with the greatest vigor” that his throne “should be set on the shore when the tide began to rise.” And, seated upon that throne, “he spoke to the rising sea.”

Nor can the difference between the two men be estimated by the caliber of their followers. Canute’s men were snickering at him from the beach, while Obama’s followers were cheering deliriously, and writing profusely about the “Lightworker.”

San Francisco columnist Mark Morford, who chronicled the rise of His Holiness Barack I in AD 2008, was prescient enough not to name for posterity the “deeply spiritual” people – “not coweringly religious, mind you” – who identified Obama as “that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment.”

The biggest difference between Canute and Barack is what they did after the sea proved them wrong. Canute is not remembered for his response, and it would be hubris on my part to say that Obama will be remembered for his. But the two men reacted very differently.

King Canute walked out of the sea and delivered his real message: “All the inhabitants of the world should know that the power of kings is vain and trivial, and that none is worthy the name of king but He whose command the heaven, earth and sea obey by eternal laws.”

Barack, on the other hand, doubled down. Not satisfied with his vain war against the oceans, he declared war on war itself. Speaking in AD 2013 at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., he said, “This war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.”

War responded by declaring a new Caliphate – dedicated to the utter destruction of the West – in AD 2014.

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