The word “king” comes from the Old English word “cyning”. It is related to words “kin” and “kind”. The King is the one who is our kind, who represents our kin.
The Latin “rex”, the Sanskrit “raja”, the Gaulish “rix”, the Irish “righ”, the Old English “rice” (pronounced “ree-chuh”), and the German “reich” all have the same Indo-European root. The Old English and German words mean the place that is ruled; the other words denote the ruler, the one who has the right of rule. The modern English descendant of the word “rice”, by the way, is “rich”. Rule by the rich is also known as plutocracy, a combination of the Greek words for wealth and government. Nowadays you have to be pretty wealthy just to attempt to gain political office.
The United States is a democracy, or a republic, or a democratic republic, depending on whom you ask. The Founding Fathers were men of great vision, but not great enough to envision a society in which every member was a citizen, every person was entitled to vote. They were influenced more by the Roman Republican model, perhaps, than by the Greek democratic model–and neither of those models allowed women or slaves a vote. Yet the principles they laid down led eventually to the emancipation of slaves and the enfranchisement of women and African-Americans.
We vote for people to represent our interests and to do what is good for the people at large. We feel betrayed when they act merely to increase their own already considerable wealth and power. We do not have a king or a rex, but a President, one who presides over an assembly of free individuals. The President executes the will of the people as distilled by the two houses of Congress and the laws as interpreted by the Supreme Court.
In ancient Indo-European cultures, the king, the rex, often took office by a ritual that married him to the land, or to the goddess of the land, frequently represented by a mare. He was accountable not merely to his people, but to his gods for the success of his reign. A rightful and just ruler meant good weather, good harvests, prosperity, peace instead of war, harmony instead of crime. An unjust ruler would be repaid by wars, natural disasters, crime and dissent. If such a ruler did not step down for a worthier replacement, he might be sacrificed, or executed, depending on how one looks at it.
Today we vote for someone to preside over us. Whether it’s McCain or Obama, he will be accountable to his own conscience and his own understanding of the Divine for his behavior. He will be held accountable by the people four years from now. And perhaps he will also be accountable to that American goddess who holds her lighted torch over the harbor and invites the people of the world to come and live in her light.
Thanks for stimulus of this post goes to Alfrecht on Livejournal.
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