A 21st Century “Bonfire of the Vanities”


Some years ago, a man with a gift for speaking managed, without having any real experience, to rise to head a powerful republic that had earlier ignored him and people like him.

He spoke with passion about things that could not be proven, nor could the results of what he asked the citizens of this republic to work toward.  He could not stand criticism, and was convinced that he, and he alone, knew the correct path forward.

He even conspired with an avowed enemy of his country and took control of the government, changing laws on his own whim.

Are you thinking of Barack Obama?

Sorry, that little parable is not about our Narcissist-in-Chief, but about a man who lived until just before the turn of the 16th Century.  His name was Girolamo Savonarola, a Dominican Friar who was born in 1452, and lived to become the effective ruler of the Florence following the invasion of the region by Charles VIII of France, who he had encouraged.

Savonarola was apparently an extraordinarily gift orator, and swayed the masses in Florence to renounce their worldly ways, and give up their luxuries.  After being affected by Savonarola’s speeches, the famous Renaissance painter Botticelli not only limited himself to painting subjects of a religious nature, he actually contributed his secular paintings to the fire that has come down to us known as the Bonfire of the Vanities.

In 1497, he and his followers carried out the Bonfire of the Vanities. They sent young men and boys from door to door collecting items associated with what Savonarola considered to be displays of moral laxity: mirrors, cosmetics, lewd pictures, pagan books such as Aristotle, Socrates and so on, gaming tables, chess pieces, lutes and other musical instruments, fine dresses, women’s hats, and the works ancient poets the he viewed as immoral, and burned them all in a large pile in the Piazza della Signoria of Florence.

Of course, as the saying goes, what goes around, comes around, and a year later, in 1498,  there was a second Bonfire of the Vanities – only this time is was Savonarola himself who was burned to ashes.  Florentines finally had enough of his sermonizing and scolding, his lecturing and hectoring, and in accord with the admittedly political action of the reigning Pope, they burned this Dominican so that only ashes were left, denying the chance for his more fanatical followers to gather up any “relics”.

This short recitation of an obscure moment in the history of Italy illustrates the reaction of any people that are denied too much, too often and told too many times that they are corrupt, weak, and unfit to do anything worthwhile.  They might even be accused of being “soft”.

Now that sounds more like our fearless leader in the White House. Obama asks you to give up your tax breaks, deny yourself the money you have worked for and earned fairly, and give it to him so that he can redistribute it to those that he, and only he, can see clearly are more worthy than you could ever be.

Apparently the smartest-guy-in-the-room never heard of Savonarola, or he might not be quite so cock-sure about his re-election chances.

Frankly, I feel that unless the Republicans select a complete idiot, Barack Obama will suffer his own Bonfire of the Vanities, at least metaphorically.

History does tend to repeat itself, and 2012 appears to be an instant replay of 1498.

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Let me just say that, yes, this is my blog, but I honestly wanted it to be a forum to discuss the issues of the day (or week, month, year…whatever).  But you, dear reader, need to respond.  A conversation where only one person is speaking is not an exchange of ideas, it’s merely a lecture…or worse, it is just a sermon. 

 Please feel free to use the comments section or even rate this particular blog entry.  I can’t improve without honest critiques, and only the reader can note where I might have gone wrong, or where I should have expanded the ideas.

 Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll join the conversation.

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About Jim Yardley

Retired after 30 years as a financial controller for a variety of manufacturing firms, a two-tour Vietnam veteran, and independent voter.
Gallery | This entry was posted in 2012 election, Elections, Political Doubletalk, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A 21st Century “Bonfire of the Vanities”

  1. marion iori says:

    It took the people of Florence only one year to come to their senses? I’m afraid the American people are a lot slower finding their voice. Obama has been given more than enough time. The TeaParty has been working hard to make this change. Let’s hope we have our own “Bonfire”.

    • Jim Yardley says:

      Sorry for the delay in responding. I got caught in the snowstorm up here in New York, and we’ve been without power for 3 days.

      Yeah, it kind of makes you wonder why the Florentines seem brighter than we are. Of course, even I will concede that their idea of term limits via immolation might, just might, be a little extreme.

      Jim Yardley

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