Reflections on an Ominous Anniversary
What a strange breed we seem to be.
The Ides of March again: 2,063 years (or is it 2,064, the transition to Common Era dating is confusing) since the assassination of populist leader Gaius Julius Caesar by, among others, his possibly illegitimate son, Marcus Junius Brutus. A society as polarized then as ours is today with truth just as irrelevant, an irrelevancy that infected recorded history as well.
Perhaps that is our nature, a lemming-like reflex to avoid that which we don’t want to know, a proclivity for calumny instead of objective reasoning, a satisfaction with living in the cages, some admittedly gilded, in which selfish elites keep us, voting consistently against our better interests when we bother to vote at all.
A depressing scenario.
I’ve always been inexplicably drawn to Julius Caesar, a complex genius mixing the best and worst characteristics of charismatic human leaders. I’ve been drawn to that period of Roman history too because ours seems, at least to me, to so faithfully echo theirs. I wonder how faithfully we will follow their own trajectory. Whether our verisimilitude of democracy and liberty will vanish, the veneer no longer necessary to disguise the reality. Bread and circuses replacing the vestiges of our more noble instincts.
This morning I posted a story on Facebook about a young Citadel graduate, Ben Carnell (“Ben Carnell’s journey, from Citadel football to American soldier: ‘The last 100 yards’”). The story reflects the best we as a people have to give, as well as the worst. A noble young man, as Citadel graduates tend to be, whose life and well-being are offered as sacrifices, but for whose benefit? To those doing the sacrificing the perceived benefit is to us all, to preserve our safety and to bring the blessings of liberty to oppressed people. But the reality seems horribly different. The beneficiaries are really the entrenched political classes and the military industrial complex President Eisenhower warned us against so long ago, and the price is broken lives at home and abroad, broken People, broken countries, fractured ethics and morality. Inequity is the real goal, inequality maintained. How else could the putridly wealthy perpetuate their lifestyles, their power, their “pursuit of happiness” guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence?
On the other hand, sometimes our intimate lives, the lives we share with our spouses and siblings and children and parents and friends are so worthwhile that they obscure the rest, at least for some of us. The more fortunate among us, albeit not quite as fortunate as those plutocrats our apathy and gullibility permit to remain in power. That seems the secret to distilling wealth and power among the very few. Keep enough of us just happy enough to remain apathetic through benefits that cost the putridly wealthy nothing, or at least very little. Happiness akin to “pigs in shit”, their own shit.
Even so, what about the rest? The majority really, at least on a worldwide basis. The families of the slaughtered, the maimed in the name of democracy and liberty, those without jobs or healthcare or homes or adequate food, or access to adequate education so that sixteen or so families in the world can live in luxury so exaggerated that they will never be able to spend a millionth part of what they have? Do we as members of a shared human race have some responsibility to struggle at their side to attain a semblance of equity?
“What would Jesus say” I often think as I view the most religious among us defend the status quo? Will the most recent medical plague, the coronavirus, make any difference? If so, will it be a positive difference? “Will we ever learn” as a refrain in a popular protest song asked over half a century ago?
The United States is again in the midst of presidential race, a race winnowed to a very few candidates, not by the electorate but by the monopolistic major political parties, and within them, by the neoliberal-neoconservative elites who own them as well as the purportedly “mainstream media”. There are candidates galore in non-major political parties but we know next to nothing about them other than that a vote for people in whom we believe is a wasted vote, there always being terrifying scenarios around the corner if we refuse to vote against a dire existential threat, if we refuse to vote for the lesser evil in whom we don’t believe, knowing we’ll be betrayed, but what the heck.
Amazingly, the apparent order of electoral probability among the three remaining candidates for the Democratic Party nomination seems in inverse order to their merit. The worst of all, a corrupt, war mongering career politician apparently in the early stages of dementia places first followed by another lifelong politician but of more complex nature, one with seemingly sterling character tainted by instances of support for military interventionism and Zionist war crimes and evincing profound ingratitude for the sacrifice the third candidate made in his defense during 2016. The best of them all, a woman of color, a military officer opposed to needless wars, is “dead” last, politically assassinated by the “mainstream” media’s conspiracy of silence and the cowardice of the Democratic National Committee evinced by their tortured, constantly changing rules for debate participation, obviously terrified by what Tulsi Gabbard would demonstrate about her party and the other candidates.
Yes, what a strange breed we seem to be. I wonder whether Julius Caesar would feel comfortable in the here and now.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.
Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia although he has primarily lived in the United States of America (of which he is a citizen). Until recently he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at email@example.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at www.guillermocalvo.com.