Sunday, September 18, 2005

September: A Shakespearean Tragedy

Historically, the month of September has not been kind to American presidents. The American presidency has been riddled with September events, disasters, and acts of war. In September of 2001, the current president faced terrorism of epic and unknown proportions on 9/11. Now, in September of 2005, President Bush has encountered the political aftermath of a natural disaster. He is not the first president to face September turmoil, nor will he be the last.

Four U.S. presidents have been assassinated. We all know Lincoln and Kennedy. Most Americans recognize the names of their assassins: John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald. But what of the other two?

William McKinley and James Garfield were both assassinated in the month of September. With a Bach sonata playing in the background, a lone gunman in Buffalo, New York shot and killed President McKinley September 6, 1901. Standing in the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Depot, President Garfield was fatally shot in the back September 19, 1881. Most Americans don't know that it was an anarchist by the name of Czolgosz that shot McKinley or that another three-named assassin, Charles Julius Guiteau, assassinated Garfield. Most Americans also don't know that Robert Todd Lincoln was in town at the the time of both assassinations, just as he had been at the time of his own father's assassination in 1865.

Coincidence? Most likely. Even the most far-fetched conspiracy theorists won't even attempt the connection, but even the most unknown and amateur historians will tell you the probability of a president encountering great opposition and turmoil in the month of September. Though I feel as if our current president has lost his political momentum and dedication since the first September he spent in office, I recognize the magnitude of the tasks before him. I recognize the oddity of September strife.

I wonder if like in the Shakespeare classic Julius Caesar there might be a warning behind melancholy September days. Not a warning of an assassins conspiring agenda like that in the statement: "Beware of the Ides of March" (one that presidents McKinley and Garfield would have benefited from), but a warning of the work to come. The physical and weather-related wrath of Katrina is behind us, but the social and political storm remains.

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