This article is dedicated to Stephanie Stewart, a fourteen-year-old whose recent brave, inspired political actions made me revisit Shaw’s Maid of Orleans.
— John Kerry, graduate of Yale University, quoting Hamlet
Like Jeanne D’Arc, I had a vision last night. But it was The Bard who spoke, not the Lord. Nevertheless, he’s so lyrical, I thought I’d share his thoughts with you on the “reform” we need…whether Kerry or Bush or Peltier or Nader or anyone else leads the Pack of Wild Animals that dominates our population, our culture, our political agenda. After all, he did know The Globe quite well.
1. Respecting Native Americans: “Like a fair house built on another man’s ground.”
Such an enterprise as ours was doomed from the beginning, according to The Merry Wives of Windsor II, ii, 216, and it’s time to honor the treaties we’ve broken with the Indians. With Kerry their sad situation will get even worse.
2. Respecting Same-Sex Marriage: “Time goes on crutches till Love have all his rites.”
As per Much Ado About Nothing II, i, 352, time does drag painfully waiting for a wedding to take place. Ditto with regard to marriages which have taken place, but which may be nullified because of Bush’s proposed amendment to our constitution. All Love deserves the same benefits sanctioned by society. Ever ask yourself why Kerry lacks Kevin’s convictions, his enthusiasm about the issue? From another angle, Kerry could kick Cockburn’s thoughts on the subject around, if…if Old Skull and Bones can keep up with him intellectually.
3. Respecting War: “For God’s sake, go not to these wars!”
If each and every enlistee (and their family members) would stop using the “economic excuse” for joining the abominations abroad, we’d have another world overnight. Everyone could acknowledge the value of the injunction above (from Henry IV, Part Two, II, iii, 9), and put a fraction of their life’s blood –compared to what’s involved with placing bodies on the line– into demanding that the Feds spend our money another way. It might help to remember the dying king’s advice to his son, the future Henry V: “Be it thy course to busy giddy minds/With foreign quarrels” in the same play (IV, v, 213). That’s one of the ways those politicians fool ‘ya. No relief from John Boy here; ditto for the other JFK, in case you hadn’t noticed.
4. Respecting International Politics: “O, it is excellent/To have a giant’s strength; but it is tyrannous/To use it like a giant.”
Threatening weaker nations so as forge alliances on our way toward Global Hegemony is exactly what Measure for Measure, II,ii,107 is warning against. If only it had been required reading at Yale. 5. Respecting Allies: “Nature teaches beasts to know their friends.” However did the little Elizabethan anticipate the atrocities Mossad would inflict on (and with the help of) this nation under the auspices of a genocidal Israel? Or, to put it another way, don’t we have to re-evaluate the status of the Israeli lobbyists in this country? Darn, I just wish people would keep the words from Coriolanus, II, i, 6 in mind when reviewing the latest revelations about the U.S.S. Liberty, Robert McNamara and Richard Perle. As per The Politics of Anti-Semitism (ed. by Cockburn and St. Clair), we’re in for more of the same with Mass. Murder Man (from-a-V-nyet-Nam).
6. Respecting War Crimes: “Truth will come to light; murder cannot be hid long.”
These words from The Merchant of Venice, II, ii, 79 were echoed by Ralph Waldo Emerson (“Murder will speak out of stone walls.”) in the halls of Harvard, and repeated by Chaucer, Cervantes and many others. “Murder will out” is the proverbial saying, and whether or not our atrocities were commited unilaterally, as a member of a coalition and/or with the UN’s imprimatur, we will be exposed. Our technical immunity –forced upon the world– will not protect us. All great Neptune’s oceans, to paraphrase Macbeth, will not wash the blood clean from our hands. Rather, all of our attempts at coverup will result in making the multitudinous seas incarnadine…so enormous, so widespread are our crimes against humanity. What will be in order? Atonement? Reparations? Punishment? Anyone gonna query Kerry The Unconscionable?
7. Respecting Crime: “The robbed that smiles, steals something from the thief.”
That’s according to Othello, I, iii, 204, but what about the rich robber who smiles as he shafts the poor? Such economic indiscretions will out too (see “War Crimes” above), as the murderer notes in Richard III, I, i, 118. On the issue of minor thievery in this country (as opposed to Enron-like acts), let it be known that people are being driven to acts they would rather not partake in as per Timon of Athens, IV, iii, 422 (“We are not thieves, but men that much do want.”). And it will get much worse as disparity in wealth continues to rise under all administrations. When oh when will the top 2% pay their fair share? Why can’t corporations which have not paid a penny in tax within memory (nay, which have received subsidies up the kazoo) pay double of what they paid the last time they paid taxes? Why isn’t Kerry talking about tax shelters until he’s blue(blooded) in the face?
8. Respecting Poverty: “The orphan pines while the oppressor feeds.”
So says The Rape of Lucrece, 905. See “Crime” above for a solution. Don’t see John.
9. Respecting Environment: “Clear wells spring not, sweet birds sing not,/Green plants bring not forth their dye./Herds stands weeping, flocks all sleeping.”
The lines from The Passionate Pilgrim, xvii, 25 remind me of the fact that the U.S. military’s “closed bases” have already made uninhabitable an area in the continental U.S. the size of Florida. What’s Kerry going to do about that? And will they take action on my wager in Las Vegas?
10. Respecting Obesity/Health: “Let me have men about me that are fat,/Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep a-nights.”
The preferences of our rulers today are not much different than what’s expressed in this sentiment from Julius Caesar, I, ii, 192, but that’s not to compare Bush or Kerry with Founder of the First Triumvirate (see Michael Parenti’s glorious work The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People’s History of Ancient Rome). The lean and hungry look won’t do these days. Nay, “Sweep on, you fat and greasy citizens.” As You Like It, II, i, 55 provides the line that eptiomizes the attitudinal set of those aspiring for High Office; no higher high for them. But because in spite of all that above “There lives the dearest freshness, deep down things” ( as per Gerard Manley Hopkins), let’s have one more for the rough road ahead:
11. Respecting Miracles: “They say miracles are past.”
That’s one view posited by All’s Well That Ends Well, II, iii, 1. However, as Thomas Carlyle declared in History of the French Revolution, miracles are forever with us. And –in that sweet light– I’m going to close by suggesting that a “changed” William, if living today, would personally approve of Katherine Ainger’s “Against the Misery of Power, The Politics of Happiness“. In it, Hilary Wainwright’s Reclaim the State is cited, a miracle of a work which depicts miracles taking place in England right now…where people are taking control of their own lives… “devising systems through which communities can organize themselves. These involve direct democracy, decentralization and radical participation. And there will not be a single ideological model to form a party around and compete in a national election. That’s because what’s needed is a democratic renewal of the system itself, to be implemented here, now, by all of us – one that reaches from the local to the global. No new ideology but a new methodology – one that we build from the ground up.”
Pure Ainger. She underscores how “the powerful spend much of their time and resources attempting to sabotage and undermine recognition of our own power. For we are rich in human ingenuity, in collective resources, in imagination and above all in sheer numbers.” I agree with her that “power from below is reinventing politics” and that it’s going to be on our own terms this time. As the kids might say (if they knew better), “Ainger rules!”. Sonnet to ‘ya, baby! Methinks Billy the Bard would find good material here for the boards, not boding ill, but well…well…well.
RICHARD OXMAN is a former professor of Dramatic Art & Speech, Comparative Literature, ESL and Cinema History at various institutions of so-called higher education. He was born in the “Flower” of the Garden State, Newark, New Jersey, but can be reached these days in so-called progressive Santa Cruz, California at firstname.lastname@example.org when he’s not fussing with the French a la www.frenchpaintbox.com.