The theater of politics
Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 00:10
A huge part of politics is a performance, and looking at the presidential campaigns, I’d say both the candidates majored in theater.
They flash winning smiles and spew the version of reality that best suits their purposes while flinging insults in the other’s direction and feigning innocence when a ripe piece of propaganda hits them in the face. Their tactics are dramatic, but compared to King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia, they are amateurs.
Most people are probably unfamiliar with King Sihanouk, but he was one of the most charismatic politicians out there. Musician, actor, producer, king—he did it all.
His people loved him and during his 71 years in the spotlight, he played many political roles; he even won the Guinness World Record for the most political offices held by one person.
To peasants he was a god-king. He would walk into villages, see that there was no water, and declare that that a well should be built on the spot.
Sihanouk was a master of the flip-flop. During WWII he declared independence for Cambodia only to give it back to France when the war was over and then demand it again in 1953.
In the charged political climate of the Cold War Sihanouk claimed neutrality, but his vanity and perceived slights constantly pushed him from one side to the other.
After a coup ousted Sihanouk from power, he aligned himself with the Khmer Rouge whose leader, Pol Pot, he had mercilessly persecuted.
For one year Sihanouk was the titular president, but then was put under house arrest as the Khmer Rouge killed 1.7 million people. In 1979, Vietnam rescued the country and its king. To show his gratitude Sihanouk went to the United States and accused Vietnam of being the enemy.
Despite all of this, people still adored Sihanouk and he died as the king-father in October 2012.
All of that drama and he was still loved. That is a skilled politician. We should probably be grateful for the amateurs we have in the United States.