As all students of Dr. Lector will recall, it was the custom in the medieval era to hang traitors and thieves on a gibbet in the public square, always by one foot only, and often with heavy bags of mock coinage tied tightly to their hands to burden their misery with the empty spoils of sin.
Hanging them by one ankle served to animate their ridiculous position and to entertain passersby, for they wiggled a great deal, and they soiled themselves. It was intended to torture, and to perfectly portray the complete lack of balance in their character. Their very public demise demonstrated to everyone who saw it the real rewards of misappropriating other people’s property.
It was a serious business. It was a crucifixion. If their crime was irredeemable, they were left up there unto death. If their larceny could be recompensed by their living on to repay it, they were cut down in time to pursue that course.
No one escaped punishment, even if they escaped in person. If convicted in absentia then murals were painted on the city walls right above their name, depicting them hanging by one foot, suffering in effigy the punishment they had earned but not yet received.
Such portraits of shame, or pittura infamante, appear in Tarot decks to this day as the hangedman card, which portends infamy and ruin in this world and the next.
Throughout medieval art and literature, the inverted human figure, whether hanging or falling, symbolizes the very antithesis of sanctity, virtue, trust, and honor — it speaks of base treachery, banal evil and unbounded lust for power and possessions.
Thus we find ubiquitous images of Lucifer and his angels falling headfirst from heaven, the description of Pope Nicholas III stuffed headfirst into a rock, in Dante’s Inferno, and a plethora of other scenes in poetry and paintings from across Europe showing the hell bound sinner hanging or falling, unbalanced and upended, at the last.
In contrast, classical scenes of saints and martyrs depict their physical postures upright, with ankles crossed and hands either clasped in prayer or clasped behind the torso to symbolize their unwillingness or even their innate inability to do others any harm. To this day, soldiers of every army in the world respond to the command to stand “at ease” with similar body language, clasping the hands behind the back to symbolize that no harm is intended in the moment.
The intent of the inverted portraiture is always to illustrate the very last appearance of a fallen soul on its way to hell, not heaven. Raw and ridiculous, like a slug in the sunlight, driven to destruction by grasping at temporal things instead of grace, it is the only end of traitors, thieves and frauds, whether they receive it in this world or after their death, in absentia.
Benito Mussolini and his mistress Claretta Petacci, along with a baker’s dozen of famous fascists, were hung in this manner from the naked girders of a bombed out Milan gas station, on a lovely morning in late April of 1945. Italian patriots at the scene apparently felt that Mussolini had stolen so much – so immensely — from generations of Italians that they were inspired to tie up each of his feet separately, hanging him by his heel times two, departing from tradition only in the fervor of its expression. Once was not enough, they felt.
I believe there is a corner of Dick Cheney’s dark and dying heart that knows such an end is his due. In his lusting grasp for more money than he can spend in ten dozen lifetimes, he has become a caricature even of venal sin.
He and his entire neocon, nepotist and conservative crony crew are right to fear retribution from the point three billion American people they are so busy insulting and impoverishing. If Americans do get their hands on these thieves, at the last, it will be no better than what was done to Il Duce and his doyens in the Piazzale Loreto one lovely April morning.
These people in power now are traitors in that they have forsworn their oaths of office in order to place our freedoms and possessions in the hands of their supporters. They are thieves in that they have taken the taxes of unborn generations of Americans unto themselves, burdening our babies with crushing debt before they have even drawn breath. These people are frauds in that they have no intention of governing, only of clinging to power so they can loot ever further afield. The whole world is not enough for them.
Of course, Cheney, Bush and all the other ringers in this Administration think American patriots will never actually come for them. And if it happens, they think they can hide. Do a deal. Work the angles. Get away with it. They always have.
They always will, until one lovely morning they don’t. It is the peculiar tragedy of tricksters that they arrange their own ruin in the very act of stealing successfully. In truth, the thief only steals his own peace, from his own soul, coin by coin. He works his own end, inevitably.
The high crimes they have committed so far will sink Cheney, Bush and Rove in due course. The crimes they have yet to commit, in the three years they think they have left — will only hasten their lovely day.
Until the very moment their upending arrives, they will continue to grasp and then grasp further, not knowing how to cease or slow down, or how to control the many monsters they’ve unleashed in themselves, and upon this world.
Like Dick Cheney, Benito Mussolini claimed to be writing history anew, for lesser men to study as best they could. Like Il Duce’s hysterical fascisti horde, Cheney’s conservatives now run wild before the beasts he set free, staying just in front of a tide of blood and gluttony and calling his leadership inspired.
But lo, these beasts ever grow in strength and number, in tooth and claw, and the very mortal men of this Administration will find, at the last, that there is not enough flesh to be found to feed them. That the whole world is not enough.
And so the day must come when these very common crooks hang by one foot while American patriots throw coins at them and ask, “Is this all you wanted? And is it enough?”
George W is a caricature president. A liar and a fraud, a traitor to his oath of office and to his nation. He has never been more than Cheney’s creature, right from the early days when Dick was “interviewing running mates” for him. When his morning comes, Bush will be merely one among the baker’s dozen alongside Cheney and Rove.
Those two are the real President and real Vice President; for five years those two have directed our nation toward wholesale ruin to benefit only their backers. When their lovely morning arrives, will once be enough for the patriots present?
It is high time to try these neocon traitors in absentia, and to portray them in public print and paintings as the unbalanced thieves they are. As con men who make war on innocents for wealth and for power, who slaughter to satisfy slavering greed, who will feed our children into the fire, who will feed the whole world into the belly of a beast they cannot sate.