Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Chickens Coming Home to Roost (2016 Edition)

The phrase about the chickens is most familiar to modern Americans from the fact Barack Obama's Chicago pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, pointed out to his congregation on September 16, 2001, that "America's chickens are coming home to roost." Just as with most figures of speech that contain a lot of truth, that phrase is much older than the current century. Robert Southey used "Curses are like young chicken, they always come home to roost" on the title page of The Curse of Kehama in 1811. Earlier than that, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote "And ofte tyme swich cursynge wrongfully retorneth agayn to hym that curseth, as a bryd that retorneth agayn to his owene nest" in The Parson's Tale in the late 14th century.

In the six centuries since Chaucer, there may never have been a better illustration of the homing instincts of Gallus gallus domesticus than we saw this week when the CIA announced with "high confidence" that Russia had interfered with the US election to help Donald Trump win the presidency. The CIA. They should know. Since their founding in 1947, they have influenced elections on every continent but Antarctica (and maybe Australia?), beginning with the Italian election of 1948. Here's a short audio recap from Tim Weiner, author of Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, that was heard on WNYC yesterday:

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