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

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Lear, Streisand and Jonah Goldberg


King Lear is old. He's so old he sneezes dust. He's older than Merv Griffen. He's so old – well, anyway, he's old. And moreover his judgment is not what it should be. His fool, far cannier than he, diagnoses his problem:

Fool: "If thou wert my fool, nuncle, I'd have
thee beaten for being old before thy time."

Lear: "How's that?"

Fool: "Thou shouldst not have been old till
thou hadst been wise."

Lear: "O let me not be mad, not mad, sweet
heaven! Keep me in temper; I would not be mad!"

In the midst of an otherwise comic exchange, Lear's sudden plea takes us up short. We are moved by Lear's awareness that he may be going mad, which, if I may get to the point, is so unlike what we face with Barbra Streisand.

Ms. Streisand's eminence as a chanteuse has entitled her to have a poorly written letter published in this week's Los Angeles Times. Given the recent plummeting of the Times' readership, Bardseye thought it would assist that publication in getting word of Ms. Streisand's letter out. To summarize: she decries the liberal Times' firing of liberal hack columnist Robert Sheer, and its (somewhat surprising) hiring of conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg:

Barbra: "…in firing Robert Sheer and putting
Jonah Goldberg in his place, the gamut of voices
has undeniably been diluted…".

If Barbra objects to Mr. Goldberg himself, and seeks a different conservative voice - a Goldberg Variation, Bardseye will make bold to say - that would at least be a principled position, and let her make it. Otherwise, and leaving aside the odd use of the word 'gamut,' which is not something that can be diluted, not even Lear's fool, or the true fool Lear, would believe what she has written.

But without descending further into the sad morass of this talented lady's mind, let's return to King Lear, as he announces his plans to abdicate in favor of his daughters, asking each of them to declare their feelings for him:

Lear: "Which of you shall we say doth love us most,
That we our largest bounty may extend...Goneril,
Our eldest born, speak first.

Gon: "Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter,
Dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty,
Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare,
No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honor,
As much as child e'er loved, or father found;
A love that makes breath poor and speech unable.
Beyond all manner of so much I love you."

Persuaded? You shouldn't be, since Goneril will later require Lear to reduce his retinue by half, plot against him, and tear out his friend the Earl of Gloucester's eyes. Lear moves on to his second daughter, Regan:

Lear: "….What says our second daughter,
Our dearest Regan, wife of Cornwall? Speak."

Reg: "I am made of that same mettle as my sister,
And prize me at her worth. In my true heart
I find she names my very deed of love;
Only she comes too short, that I profess
Myself an enemy to all other joys…".

Regan is laying it on thick. But Lear is lapping it up, just like the liberal readers of the Los Angeles Times each morning as they move from the left-slanting Gonerils of the paper's columnists to the left-slanting Regans of its reporters.

With the empathic powers granted her as an artist, Barbra understands the discomfort she and other privileged denizens of Los Angeles will endure if obliged to notice but ignore Mr. Goldberg's column once it is placed alongside the daughterly obedience of their usual writers. Indeed, what might happen if, letting curiosity get the better of them, they actually read him?

And so it is that Barbra and all her co-readers of the Times, find themselves confronted suddenly with the bracing contrary opinion of Cordelia, Lear's third daughter, I mean Jonah Goldberg, the Times' new columnist:

Lear: "…what can you say to draw
A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak,"

Cor: "Nothing, my lord.

Lear: "Nothing?"

Cor: "Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
My heart into my mouth. I love your Majesty
According to my bond, no more nor less."

Lear: "How, how, Cordelia? Mend your speech a little,
Lest you may mar your fortunes."

And isn't that the current fate of conservative writers, who find their fortunes marred if they speak and write their minds in an era where the levers of power, the institutions of the media and academe, are controlled by the Lears of Liberalism?

Let more Cordelias speak more conservative truth to liberal power, until balance is restored and our republic is allowed to see its own reflection clearly and accurately at last.

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