OBAMA AND THE SHOES OF THE FISHERMAN There’s no telling where inspiration comes from or the blurry lines separating art and reality, and I note that our president has a fondness for Hollywood. Much has been said about the Emperor’s new clothes, another parable might be a better fit in the shape of a ’60’s cinematic triumph.
Obama’s stunning spending sprees, lavish vacations, posh state dinners, bring to mind a movie based on an Australian’s novel that was a best seller at the height of hippie rebellion (1968) and the cold war which resonated nicely with the times. Shoes of the Fisherman starred Anthony Quinn and was a blockbuster.
The plot tracks the events of Quinn, a Ukrainian Archbishop, unknown and unnoticed following a 20 year stint in the mines of Siberia as political prisoner. He tried, we learn, to stay a good Catholic but he wasn’t always nice. Siberia was as rough as, oh, say Chicago.
Quinn is released and transported from the far off northern Soviet Union to Rome through the old enduring friendship of the current, sickly Pope. Through odd mixes of fate and chance, the old Pontiff dies and Quinn is named as his successor. (Frankly you can see the actor relishing the role).
One subplot is a Chinese-Soviet feud threatening to boil into World War III. There’s a severe famine in China caused by US trade sanctions (Hollywood couldn’t have been fonder of the Soviets and Chinese in the ’60’s, too). The world is in disarray, and, implied, it’s America’s fault. Details are appropriately sketchy.
The real punchline of the movie which wasn’t lost on anyone comes at the moment when Quinn, new Pope Kiril, appears on the Vatican balcony to address the masses for the first time as newly elected Pontiff.
He finds, right then in a fast, on the spot, whispered conference with the elders, (just as Quinn is being overcome with humility and fighting the embarrassment of largess and has removed his jeweled crown), that as Pope all the wealth of the Vatican is at his personal disposal. A glow comes over Quinn. You can see him thinking, “Well, hot damn!”.
The teeming throngs have barely contained their joy for the new man at the helm, but it is quadrupled by his first spoken declaration, which is quite simply:
‘”I’m going to empty the Vatican treasury and gift it to the masses!!” Well, wahoo! The crowd goes wild.
The elders suppress shock, resigning themselves to his superior command. My guess is that if it ever really happened the Pope Quinn’s largess would have met with resistance. (We are to ignore the centuries of Vatican politics and power struggles).
There are plenty of older historical references to the dangers of handing a nation’s treasury over to the discretion of one supreme ruler, or an unpredictable supreme court, the chiefest one being that our national bank could get emptied faster than anyone can say checks and balances. Maybe our elected officials can draw some guts by studying the consequences of indifferent spectatorship.