Oct 302013

Major Andre was Benedict Arnold’s “handler” as we might say of a modern spy and his spymaster. Corrosive vanity, as with the gifted Alcibiades, was all that Arnold had left of his sense of personal honor. Much of the same hero-victim attitude permeates our contemporary celebrity and sports culture. “I am the best at what I do,” becomes a demented demand for special treatment and privilege–a demand that erodes the unity of a free people, creating special classes of individuals. In contrast, Andrew Jackson famously held the celebration of his Inauguration inside the White House, and when the festivities got too rowdy, he had the party whiskey barrels rolled out onto the lawn to remove the crowds; after all, the White House is “the people’s house.” Major Andre, in the poem, is encouraging the slighted ego of Benedict Arnold into an exacerbated state of self-inflicted suffering. In such a state of mind, one’s personal wishes for acknowledgement out-weigh all duty, all glory of a noble goal, all pledges given to a losing cause. One may gain the world, but lose himself in the indulgence of such a mood.

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