A Shakespearean Glance at the People and Issues of the Day.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Iago and Alito


This week, President Bush nominated Judge Alito, the son of an Italian immigrant to America, to the U.S. Supreme Court. Yesterday, an anonymous memo began circulating around Washington DC accusing Judge Alito of failing to prosecute a mafia case to conviction in 1988, when he was a New Jersey prosecutor. It turns out that this net-based memo retained some attached computer code, called "metadata," which identified not only its origin but even the user-names of two of its writers. The document's origin was the Democratic National Committee. The user names were "prendergastc," probably Chris Prendergast, and AdlerD, probably Devorah Adler, both DNC workers. Ms. Adler is part of upper DNC management.

Iago: "Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
Who steals my pure steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed."

Iago, for motives no less fascinating to speculate on than the motives of the DNC operatives, seeks to bring down Othello. While Othello is a great general, entrusted by the aristocracy of a resurgent Venice with the leadership of their military, he is himself an immigrant, described racially as a Moor, meaning of mixed race, whose drive and ambition, like those of Judge Alito's Italian father, led him to the great metropolis of his time.

When Italians first began arriving in America in large numbers, some Protestant Caucasians launched the now meaningless but at the time quite intentionally racist argument that they were not "white." The DNC has slanderously accused Alito of racial nativism in burying a prosecution for his paisan. Accusing your target of racism is a clever way of covering up your own.

Here Iago informs a fellow Venetian aristocrat, Brabantio, that his daughter Desdemona has just eloped with the darker-skinned Othello (Zounds means Hey!; the devil…you means you will become a grandfather of the devil-child of Othello and Desdemona):

"Zounds, sir, you're robbed. For shame, put on your gown!
Your heart is burst; you have lost half your soul.
Even now, now, an old black ram
Is tupping your white ewe. Arise, arise!
Awake the snorting citizens with the bell,
Or else the devil will make a grandsire of you."

Nor has the Catholic/Protestant division grown irrelevant since in America. If Alito is confirmed, the five most conservative members of the Supreme Court will be Catholic; the remaining left-leaning four will be Protestant and Jewish. It is interesting to note that within this gerontological time-capsule, the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant "establishment" culture (actually yesterday's WASP establishment, preserved in amber) is now politically on the left. This is the same culture that the Marx Brothers, in their madcap, 1930's vaudeville comedies, made fun of as right-wing reactionary plutocrats. Today the "upstart" Catholic (and Asian) immigrant culture plays that thankless, plodding role.

Iago is careful to keep his own role in Othello's downfall as hidden as the authorship of the DNC memos was intended to be. He is thus not present when Brabantio, standing in for the broad public opinion that Iago and the DNC seek to influence, and pulled as much by Iago's strings as Othello will later be, accuses Othello of seduction:

"….a maiden never bold
Of spirit so still and quiet that her motion
Blushed at herself; and she, in spite of nature,
Of years, of country, credit, everything,
To fall in love with what she feared to look on!
…I therefore vouch again
That with some mixtures powerful o'er the blood,
Or with some dram conjured to this effect,
He wrought upon her.

For Brabantio and Iago believe that only by such sorcery could a new, less educated culture of Italian Catholics, or Jews, or Americans of Indian descent, or Singaporean, Taiwanese or Mainland Chinese, or Moors, rise to the then-exclusively Protestant and Caucasian heights of Venetian, I mean American, society. To give Brabantio and the American people credit, Brabantio is moved to accept his new son-in-law by Judge Alito's upcoming televised testimony before the congressional judiciary committee, I mean by Othello's magnificent speech in Act I scene III, detailing his long meritorious career and ending with a description of his innocent and in fact unintentional courtship of the judiciary committee, I mean Desdemona:

"…These things to hear
Would Desdemona seriously incline;
But still the house affairs would draw her thence,
Which ever as she could with haste dispatch
She'd come again, and with a greedy ear
Devour up my discourse…"

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