The Last of anything is usually a memorable or mournful occasion. The problem is how to tell which. According to the Weekly Standard, “the Obama campaign is now advertising ‘the last Dinner with Barack.’ In an email sent to supporters this afternoon seeking donations,” it says:
Want to meet the President? This is the last Dinner with Barack of this campaign. You could be there. Enter today.
Presumably this emotional occasion will be the president’s final time to break bread with his supporters — before the evil Romney betrays him. The historic occasion naturally calls to mind other famous “lasts”.
Such as the last dinner from a famous ocean liner’s passage. Here is the suggested menu from that occasion.
Then there was the “Last Stand of Saddam”. Curiously, in the 60 Minutes Version, Bush “didn’t get Saddam” the way Obama “got Osama”. Instead, Colonel Hickey gets the credit, which doubtless he deserved. Perhaps the saddest moment of the video was the examination of the cans of ‘Happy Tuna’, the Iraqi dictator’s final meal. It has not yet been revealed what Osama’s last comestibles were. But then bin Laden’s death represented a new and more furtive method of handling things. He was buried in the unmarked deep, as if they still feared what he represented. Saddam, on the other hand was given the benefit of a trial by his own country, a better and more lawful end perhaps than he deserved, but also symbolic of the greater confidence there was in those days of the justice of the cause against him.
Yet the truth is that every time is the Last of its kind. Philosophers argue that since things don’t stay the same you can never return to the exact same spot. As Heraclitus put it: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
For most things, the Last Times are simultaneously the First Things, as one era follows upon the last. The Last Supper in conventional theology, was the first of a mystical communion. “Do this in memory of me.” The Last Dinner on the Titanic represented the end of the Edwardian era and the inaugural of its successor. And as for Saddam’s last stand — it opened a new chapter in that nation’s history which may be better or worse as events unfold.
Maybe the most famous song about ‘Lasts’ was Kern’s “The Last Time I Saw Paris”, which captures this double sense of eulogy and rebirth. It was especially symbolic during the wartime years.
The last time I saw Paris, her trees were dressed for spring,
And lovers walked beneath those trees and birds found songs to sing.
I dodged the same old taxicabs that I had dodged for years.
The chorus of their squeaky horns was music to my ears.
The last time I saw Paris, her heart was warm and gay,
No matter how they change her, I’ll remember her that way.
So what does the last supper with President Obama represent? A new phase of hope and change? The end of the America he inherited? Or is just another day, just another dollar?
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