Janus Faces 2019

Full length figure of the Roman god Janus, showing his two faces in profile. The god of beginnings is holding a key and a vine.

Janus is the Roman god of beginnings and endings; of gates, doors, and seasons; and all sorts of metaphorical passages.  Associated with time and change, the two-faced god, whose gaze takes in both past and future, presides over all transitions, “whether abstract or concrete, sacred or profane.”  He opens and shuts doors with his key, his staff (depicted above as a living branch heavy with fruit) symbolizing his power to determine what prospers.  From this architect of the new, the month of January takes its name.

Where the past and future meet, Americans stand, wondering how “happy” or “new” 2019 can be.  Given the dismal character of national politics, cries of “Happy New Year!” have a hollow ring.  No need to be blithe, given that, in the manner of Janus, the new year will proceed from the year we’ve just had.  An impotent Congress, two parties captive to an unproductive quest for partisan dominance, a president whose vulgarity and viciousness are infecting civil society: these conditions, in combination, are weakening and destabilizing one of the most prosperous and powerful nations in the world.

Underlying it all is a decline in social leadership and the dying off of what was formerly an effectively unifying civic culture.  In 2018, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the late Senator John McCain, and the late President George H.W. Bush all pleaded for a renewal of civility, comity, and patriotic service, exhorting a new generation to assume the burdens of enlightened and disinterested leadership, in some cases pleading to us from beyond the grave.  To my mind, motivating America’s “natural leaders” to resume their traditional role in promoting communal well-being and an enlightened politics is a crucial task that will determine whether this year improves upon a politically dismal 2018.

Image: from this source.

2 responses

  1. A good solid article which makes great sense. Indeed, almost the entire GOP in Congress, House and Senate, are too weak and too utterly, shamefully spineless to rein in Trump. He is vulgar, vicious, mean, heartless–even to call him a human is wrong. . .
    P.S. Sure do like the picture of Janus, really cool !

    • Harley, yes, Congress is too spineless to counterbalance Trump. If Congress were using its powers as intended, and its members were intent on acting for the common good, Trump would be far less powerful–less influential, and less capable to doing damage. Congress’s lack of unity puts Trump in a stronger position, where he can call the shots. He is making policies in lieu of Congress’s making laws.
      The problems of Congress are not being treated with the seriousness and condemnation they merit.
      Thank you! Always good to hear from you.