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

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Falstaffian Hypodermic Needles


The best known arm's race in medicine is of course the one that exists between disease organisms and antibiotics, a race played out by unsung white lab-coated researchers who chase after eternally evolving viruses and bacteria like cats chasing their own rapidly mutating tails. But there has recently been discovered another medical arm's race, one involving injection technology, which I believe has a fair claim on our attention. It seems that our buttocks – or more accurately many but not all of our buttocks – are growing too big to be serviced by regular-sized hypodermic needles.

"Thou seest I have more flesh than
another man, and therefore more frailty."

Falstaff, Henry IV Part I, III.iii.170.

A study conducted in Ireland has revealed that standard-sized needles often fail to reach the buttock muscles of adult patients. This failure was recorded among 23 out of 25 women, and 10 of 25 men, whose, uh, whose rears were examined after receiving an intramuscular injection. Presumably the women suffered a higher failure rate due to their additional natural endowment of soft curvaceous femininity, an endowment that in other contexts is so highly prized and valued. Yet another unfairness that is deposited more heavily on the fairer sex.

"A goodly portly man, i' faith, and a corpulent;
of a cheerful look, a pleasing eye, and a most
noble carriage; and, I think, his age some fifty,
or, by 'r Lady, inclining to threescore; and now
I remember me, his name is Falstaff."

Falstaff, Henry IV Part I, II.iv.417.

Falstaff in the above scene is pretending to be Henry IV, Hal's father (thanks to Jad at ShakespeareHigh for a correction here). The two men are role-playing in this way in order to prepare Hal for an upcoming meeting with his father. This scene takes place in the noontime of Hal's friendship with Falstaff, a friendship that injects Falstaff with a false sense of security over the advancement he may expect once Hal himself becomes king. But just as the life-preserving medicine delivered to the patients in the Irish study wound up lodged in the unexpected purgatory of their fat cells, Falstaff will later wind up being left behind when his friend ascends the throne. Here the new Henry V (formerly Hal), in the next play in the history series (Henry IV Part II), suggests that Falstaff consider dieting:

"I know thee not old man. Fall to thy prayers.
How ill white hairs becomes a fool and jester!
Make less thy body hence, and more thy grace;
Leave gormandizing. Know the grave doth gape
For thee thrice wider than for other men.
Reply not to me with a fool-born jest.
Presume not that I am the thing I was,…"

It is clear that were Falstaff to have been a patient in the buttock study, he would have been among those whose gluteus was a bit too maximus. The study was performed by a Dr. Victoria Chan, who in interpreting its results displays toward her patients some of the same icy sangfroid as the new Henry V does to Falstaff:

"There is no question that obesity is the underlying
cause. We have identified a new problem related,
in part, to the increasing amount of fat in patients'

As Dr. Chan lobbies for longer needles, so too does Henry V, in rejecting Falstaff, attempt to persuade all England that he has put his misspent youth, and the wayward friends of his youth, behind him. Better it is that we return to that more innocent time when needle lengths and coronations did not separate us from our inner Falstaffs, or our outer ones. And so here we will return to the time when Henry was Hal, scolding with light mockery his chubby friend:

"There is a devil haunts thee in the likeness
of an old fat man; a tun of man is thy companion.
Why dost thou converse with that trunk of
humors, that bolting-hutch of beastliness, that
swollen parcel of dropsies, that huge bombard
of sack, that stuffed cloak-bag of guts, that
roasted Manningtee ox with the pudding in
his belly…?"

And here Falstaff responds, speaking for Dr. Chan's insulted patients, and for all of us who, without apology, place the pleasures of life above its mere appearances (Pharoah's lean kine refers to the seven lean cows, that follow seven fat ones, of Pharoah's dream, which Jacob interpreted as meaning that seven rich harvests would be followed by seven lean):

"If sack and sugar be a fault, God help
the wicked! If to be old and merry be a
sin, then many an old host that I know
is damned. If to be fat be to be hated,
then Pharoah's lean kine are to be loved…
Banish plump Jack, and banish all the world."

P.S.: Here's a recommendable post from the always recommendable Ace of Spades.

And a recommendable post from the always recommendable political teen.

And try this one from Californian Conservative.

And please try this link from Ace of Spades. And this one as well.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Henry VIII and Indian Petrol Adulteration


Cardinal Wolsey commits a blunder in Act 3 of Henry VIII when he arranges for his aide Thomas Cromwell to deliver a message to the king intended to persuade him to marry the Duchess of Alencon instead of Anne Bullen. The packet Cromwell delivers is actually an inventory of Wolsey's worldly goods, revealing Wolsey's misappropriation of the contents of the King's purse. Henry VIII marvels over the list:

Hen: "What piles of wealth hath he accumulated
To his own portion! And what expense by the hour
Seems to flow from him! How i' the name of thrift
Does he rake this together?"

A modern day avatar of Henry VIII, Manjunath Shanmugam, was murdered last weekend outside of Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern central India bordering Nepal. Mr. Shanmugam was shocked and appalled not by a greedy Cardinal, but by corrupt gas station owners who adulterate their gasoline with kerosene, and he mounted a crusade against them. In recent weeks Mr. Shanmugam had sealed shut the gas pumps of some stations and published the names of other offending ones, earning their enmity. His body was found, beaten and with six bullet holes in it, inside a car owned by Sulakshan Mittal. Mr. Mittal owns a gas station in the Gola area of Lakhimpur district whose spigot had been sealed as a punishment for its adulterated gas. You'd think the murderers would be smarter than that, but then you'd think Cardinal Wolsey would have been smarter about that inventory list, too:

Wolsey: "……………………..'Tis so!
This paper has undone me. 'Tis th' account
Of all that world of wealth I have drawn together
For mine own ends – indeed, to gain the Popedom
And fee my friends in Rome."

Eternal vigilance, we were told at the inception of our republic, is the price of liberty. But in what direction that vigilance should be targeted requires some thought. Clearly the threat to liberty comes not only from totalitarian visions that appeal to our adolescent desire for utopia, whereby someone's idea of heaven is hog-tied and dragged kicking and screaming to earth, and those earthlings who are unwilling to enter the offered heaven-on-earth are purged and sent (a bit paradoxically) to whatever real afterlife may be in store for them. No, the threat to liberty also comes from plain old corruption, the failure of enforcement of fair rules, which appeals not to adolescent utopian ardor, but to simple adult greed.

Wolsey: "……………….O negligence,
Fit for a fool to fall by! What cross devil
Made me put this main secret in the packet
I sent the King? Is there no way to cure this?
No new device to beat this from his brains?"

A relevant and revealing contrast to Mr. Shanmugam is available in the form of a republican California congressman, Randy Cunningham. Mr. Cunningham, who is also the decorated Vietnam fighter pilot on whose career Top Gun was loosely based, resigned today in disgrace after pleading guilty to taking over $2 million in bribes from a defense contractor. The former congressman's conduct can hardly withstand comparison to Mr. Shanmugam's heroism and ultimate sacrifice. One can only hope Mr. Shanmugam will inspire more people in India than Mr. Cunningham will render cynical in America. Here Wolsey, knowing his corruption to be discovered, announces to Cromwell his heartfelt remorse over the bribes he took from those defense contractors, I mean over the money he took from the royal treasury:

Wol: "Mark but my fall, and that that ruined me.
Cromwell, I charge thee, fling away ambition!
By that sin fell the angels; how can man, then,
The image of his Maker, hope to win by it?
Love thyself last; cherish the hearts that hate thee.
Corruption wins not more than honesty.
Still in thy right hand carry gentle peace
To silence envious tongues. Be just, and fear not.
Let all the ends thou aim'st at be thy country's,
Thy God's, and truth's; then if thou fall'st, O Cromwell,
Thou fall'st a blessed martyr."

Fallen as a blessed martyr, as Mr. Shanmugam fell. In dedicating his life toward rooting out the corruption that has bedeviled India, the ends Mr. Shanmugam aimed at were indeed his country's. And while it is true that Mr. Cunningham is alive, he will live in prison, while Shanmugam will live eternally in the grateful hearts of his countrymen.

"Corruption wins not more than honesty."

P.S. Allow me to recommend a post by the always recommendable Don Surber.

And allow me to recommend another post by the always recommendable Mr. Surber.

And allow me to recommend the always appealing politicalteen with this link.

And yet another recommended political teen post.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Richard III and Hugo Chavez


At the start of Richard the III, he's still just plain Richard, though he's a step closer to the throne than he was before, having killed the last king, Henry VI, with his own knife at the end of the preceding play (Henry VI Part 3). That act brought to a close the War of the Roses, successfully for the York partisans, ushering in a long hoped for era of civil peace.

But Richard's murder of Henry VI has made not Richard but Richard's brother Edward king, with, indeed, another brother and a couple of children still ahead of him in line. Well, I became impatient this holiday weekend when the car ahead of me in a left turn lane stalled out – twice – each time the little green arrow became illuminated. So it's not as if we can't relate to Richard's impatience. But what Richard is impatient with is peacetime, pleasure and prosperity (son of York refers to Edward – making that a pun on the word "son"; loured means scowled; arms refers to weapons; measures means dances):

Rich: "Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of York,
And all the clouds that loured upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths,
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments,
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures."

Prime Minister Hugo Chavez of Venezuela doesn't much like peacetime either, and has been picking a fight with Presidente Fox of Mexico in recent months. He recently succeeded in scuttling a Latin American summit on trade, and reports are now emerging that he is using his $50 billion dollars in annual oil revenue to finance further steps down the road he has already chosen, a road that opposes not only free trade but also press and other freedoms and ultimately, perhaps, Venezuelan self-government.

Indeed, Venezuelan involvement in domestic Mexican affairs, starting with the rumored funding of Silva de Lula, the leftist opposition candidate, and expanding to espionage and even weapons purchases within Mexico, are documented in a lengthy recent report. One detail that is both frightening and bizarre is that Chavez's private security detail is made up entirely of Cubans. Moreover, the main opposition party has just withdrawn from participation in upcoming elections, based on its recognition of fraud instituted by the regime. I will let Richard's complaint about his physical "deformity" (but we properly say limitations today) stand in for Chavez's moral deformity:

Rich: "But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking glass;
I that am rudely stamped, and want love's majesty
To strut before a wonton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtailed of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling Nature,
Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time
Into this breathing world scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them –"

The holocausts of the 20th century have burdened us with a knowledge of the pattern of effects that follows when an entire society falls prey to an evil regime. Up until the 1930's, thoughtful men and women in civilized societies could be excused for not recognizing exactly what it meant to have large Russian estates and small Ukrainian farms "collectivized" by force, or to have Kristallnacht or the fall of the Reichstag occur in Germany. Never before had evil men had at their disposal the full might of a modern, industrial bureaucratic state.

But we do know now. We have seen before the steps that Chavez is taking today in Venezuela (and Mugabe in Zimbabwe; deserving of its own future bardseye post). We have seen before the step-by-step moral regression, taken like a series of stiff drinks to prepare a regime to perform that which perhaps was unconsciously intended all along.

"And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days..."

And with this added knowledge comes added responsibility. I gave thanks on this Thanksgiving for the long list of freedoms that are granted to me in this society, a list that the greediest child - if he were a freedom-loving rather than a toy-loving child - would blush to show Santa. That in many societies such freedoms remain unknown is somber news enough, but to see emerging freedoms in emerging societies suffocated like Richard's two young nephews in Act 4 is far more humbling for a world that should be pledged to moral advancement. I will end with Richard and Chavez announcing their plans to divide the emerging Latin American democracies from the global opportunities that await them (We will let Clarence and the King stands for Latin America and the World):

"Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophesies, libels, and dreams,
To set my brother Clarence and the King
in deadly hate the one upon the other...".

P.S.: Here a recommendable post from the always recommendable polliticalteen.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving Hiatus

Bardseyeview is in Pennsylvania today, where my wife and I are enjoying my brother and sister-in-law's hospitality on Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a wonderful concept, not exactly secular and not exactly religious, and based on gratitude; calling upon each of us to recall what is it we have to be thankful for, and thus appealing to our better and more generous natures.

Today marks the first five weeks of Bardseyeview, during which average daily traffic has already doubled to around 60 visitors a day. I'm certainly thankful to all of you for that. I know a blog that posts one daily long-form essay, rather than the usual 10-15 daily rapid fire posts of most blogs is unusual enough, let alone one that is based on Shakespeare and draws hallucinatory parallels between Supreme Court nominees and Othello, Saddam Hussein and King John. I hope you've been enjoying as much I have, and hope you will return after the Thanksgiving holidays when posting will resume.

In the meantime, please consider perusing the Bardseyeview Posts of Enduring Allure listed to the right. One advantage of long-form posts is that they are built to last.

PS: Here's a recommendable post from the recommendable Don Surber.

And here's another recommendable post from the recommendable political teen.

And here's yet another link to alluring posts at the political teen.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Titania, Oberon and Cancer Research


In A Midsummer's Night Dream, two selfish pagan gods, Titania and Oberon, are having a lover's quarrel, trading accusations of infidelity both real and perceived. Titania points out that Oberon's jealous rages ("But with thy brawls thou has disturbed our sport") are having a deleterious effect among the mere mortal earthlings below them:

"Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain,
As in revenge, have sucked up from the sea
Contagious fogs which, falling in the land,
Hath every pelting river made so proud
That they have overborne their continents.
The ox hath therefore stretched his yoke in vain,
The plowman lost his sweat, and the green corn
Hat rotted ere his youth attained a beard:…"

Dr. Jiri Bartek, a Czech Republic scientist, conducts basic research into why cancer cells divide; in other words, into the cause of cancer, the vengeful wind of our time which, falling in the land, hath cost the plowmen of our society to lose their sweat, and, in the most tragic cases, causes the green corn of our youth to perish ere their youth attain a beard. The idea that cancer must also have namelessly assaulted Shakespeare's era, and all others, indeed all human cultures across the past, is a somber one to contemplate. But to understand the credit Dr. Bartek and others like him deserve, it is proper to contemplate the full scope of the suffering that has gone before. (Nine-men's morris refers to a part of the village green marked out for a game played with pebbles; murrain means the plague; quaint mazes means paths):

"The fold stands empty in the drowned field,
And crows are fatted with the murrain flock;
The nine-men's morris is filled up with mud,
And the quaint mazes in the wanton green
For lack of tread are undistinguishable."

Yes, such devastation can occur in the wake of a pandemic, but not if Dr. Bartek can help it. Here's the description of the significance of Dr. Bartek's advance, in his own words:

"The frequency of mutations and changes in our
DNA and the frequency of tumors clearly show
that there must be some mechanism that keeps
each damaged cell from degenerating into a tumor.
The question that many laboratories have been
seeking the answer to for over 20 years is, 'How
does a cell learn that it is about to degenerate,
and how does it deal with it?'

"Our project resolved these two aspects, and
that's why it drew so much international attention.
It's the key to better diagnostics and treatment."

Beyond cancer, we hear of the avian flu, buzzing above us among the estimated 50 to 100 billion birds with whom we share the earth, who threaten to deliver their WMD of a viral pandemic sooner or later, but not never, to a theater near you. It isn't a higher minimum wage or greater workers' compensation or social security benefits that will save us. It is people like Dr. Bartek, laboring in relative obscurity in places like Prague and the Route 1 corridor in New Jersey – Pharmaceutical Row – who either will or will not come up with a solution in time. In time, that is, to avoid this:

"The human mortals want their winter here;
No night is now with hymn or carol blessed.
Therefore the moon, the governess of floods,
Pale in her anger, washes all the air,
That rheumatic diseases do abound.

Our commitment to science, and in particular to the basic research on which more visible breakthrough applications depends, is a key measure of our maturity in a modern age. It is notable that new entrants into the stream of modernity, like the Czech Republic, are making such key contributions, even as more advanced, but more socialist-leaning countries like England, France, Japan and Canada, whose medical systems permit no profit-seeking, lag in their contribution. Such countries have made the decision to quietly fall into dependence on America, even for their health, and even as they complain of how we Americans so ruthlessly harness individual ambition to the common good.

One more item that we can add to the list of things for which to give thanks on Thanksgiving is this steady addition of new, young, inquisitive, and vital partners, including India, Israel, the Czechs, Taiwan, Singapore and others – who are joining us shoulder to shoulder in the search for cure and relief.

Meanwhile, Titania continues scolding France, England, Canada, Oberon and Japan for their failure to contribute (childing means fruitful; wonted liveries means usual clothing; mazed means amazed and progeny means offspring):

"…………….The spring, the summer,
The childing autumn, angry winter, change
Their wonted liveries, and the 'mazed world
By their increase now knows not which is which,
And this same progeny of evils comes
From our debate, from our dissension.
We are their parents and original.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Shakespeare and Russia


The future of Europe has recently come into doubt, the doubt being not that Europe will have some future, of course, but that it will have a European one. It therefore seems prudent, if painful, to review what a final collapse of a civilization actually looks like, so that we can at least be prepared for it as it unfolds. Sadly, a current example of a failing civilization, which at least obviates the need to flip through musty old history books that detail the slow-motion fizzling of the Byzantines or the pillaging of Rome, does exist for us, collapsing right before our eyes. I speak of course of Russia.

In the land of the Czars longevity has dropped to below 60 years, a stealth AIDS crisis is in the works, and over 60% of pregnancies are aborted. Women are voting on the new Russia with their wombs and they are voting no. In that society, everything is collapsing.

"This will last out a night in Russia, when nights are longest there."

Measure for Measure, Act II.i

If I may drift today from my usual focus on the Bard to recount a personal story, in the winter of 1993 I had a chance to wander around East Europe for a few weeks. I played chess on the St. Charles Bridge in Prague and was invited for beers with the buskers – the trinket sellers – who worked there. I stayed with a Hungarian family whose daughter, with her fiancé, took me Hungarian discoing. A thief who had already robbed other passengers, as the police later explained to me, shared my train car before jumping off just shy of a station in Slovakia. I saw impoverished gypsies and water-filled crystalware musicians playing a la Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality. In short, I had a ball. And I'll come to Russia in a moment.

"Approach thou like the rugged Russian bear,
The arm'd rhinoceros, or the Hyrcan tiger;
Take any shape but that, and my firm nerves
Shall never tremble:…"

Macbeth to Banquo's ghost.

Every city I visited – Prague, Budapest, Berlin, Warsaw – was filled with art galleries, for which I give Europe credit. Many were devoted to contemporary art, with their rooms invariably divided by country. The Polish and Czech rooms were invariably impressive. The French rooms notably polished and assured. The Italian rooms were stylish and playful. The Scandinavian rooms were dutifully bleak. The Ukrainian rooms talented but despairing.

"Foolish curs, that run winking into the mouth
of a Russian bear and have their heads crushed
like rotten apples! You may as well say, that's
a valiant flea that dare eat his breakfast on the
lip of a lion."

Orlando in Henry V, III.ii.

But the Russian rooms were strangely, memorably horrifying. Of course it's not the kind of thing one can prove, but the impression these artworks left was that not only the concept of beauty, and even of design, but the very concept of order seemed to have been banished from their canvasses. In today's Western museums and galleries, of course, one sees a hatred of beauty and an assault on the concept of art, but at least the concept is understood. In these works there was not even a denial of art – there was simply no relationship with it at all.

Lucio: "Some say he is with the Emperor of Russia;
other some, he is in Rome: but where is he, think you?"

Duke: "I know not where; but wheresoever, I wish him well."

Measure for Measure, Act III.ii – the Duke is in cognito and talking about himself.

And so on the basis of no more than a few gallery visits outside Russia (well, together with a bit of reading and reflection as well) I am willing to venture the opinion that Russia is dying because Russia is Dostoyevskian, and suffers as a result from a nihilistic justification of sin, crime, self-centeredness and despair.

"The Emperor of Russia was my father:
O that he were alive, and here beholding
His daughter's trial! That he did but see
The flatness of my misery, yet with eyes
Of pity, not revenge!"

A Winter's Tale, Act III.ii.120

Culture really is about ideas, and which ideas prevail within a culture greatly matters. There's a reason so many Americans are still displaying their Kerry or their Bush bumper stickers today. Even as the real Senator Kerry and President Bush melt back into being merely human, their names remain the current standards in a culture war whose outcome is still very much unknown. And ask any high school sports referee, morale as much as strategy and leadership count on the field, particularly in the face of setbacks and adversity.

France tells us which is the wrong road. And Russia tells us what will happen if the wrong road is taken and pursued.

Ros: "Help, hold his brows! He'll swoon!
Why look you pale? Sea-sick, I think,
Coming from Muscovy."

Love's Labour Lost, V.ii

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Henry IV and the Redd Family


In Henry IV, the King has some serious doubts about his son Hal. Hal's got game, he's a leading NBA scorer after all, but he's also got attitude, hanging out with Falstaff, who attempts to involve Hal in a highway robbery among other crimes and debaucheries. So when war comes, and Hal returns to the castle, and finds his father napping, and takes up his crown to contemplate the meaning it has for him, and Henry IV wakes up and sees him holding it, you can understand the father's suspicions:

Hen: "Thy life did manifest thou lovedst me not,
And thou wilt have me die assured of it.
Thou hid'st a thousand daggers in thy thoughts,
Which thou hast whetted on thy stony heat,
To stab at half an hour of my life.
What, canst thou not forbear me half an hour?
Then get thee gone and dig my grave thyself,
And bid the merry bells ring to thine ear
That thou art crowned….".

Actually it isn't Hal who's got game, but Michael Redd, a star player for the Milwaukee Bucks, who leads the team in scoring at 23 points per game, 11th highest in the league. Michael's father is a minister in Columbus Ohio who, in raising Michael, took some precautionary steps that Henry IV perhaps regrets not considering:

Hen: "For now a time is come to mock at form
Harry the Fifth is crowned. Up, vanity!
Down, royal state! All you sage counselors, hence!"

The Redd family has managed its transmission across the generations better than Henry's. James Redd delivers his sermons at the Philadelphia Deliverance Church of Christ in Columbus, Ohio. The church is brand new, and a tribute not only to religious faith but in this case to the love that can exist between a father and a son. Since his son Michael paid for it. Here's Michael Redd in his own words:

"That was the first thing in my heart.
The Lord, he gave me life. What I did
was to give it right back to Him. That's
the least I could do, is buy a church.
The very least I could do."

Meanwhile, back in England, Henry's son Hal, influenced by the Redd family or at least by the enduring spirit which informs it, is able to persuade his father that he intended no usurpation, and seeks his father's valued blessing in the normal course of human events:

Hal: "Coming to look on you, thinking you dead,
And dead almost, my liege, to think you were,
I spake unto this crown as having sense,
And thus upbraided it: "The care on thee depending
Hath fed upon the body of my father;
Therefore, thou best of gold art worst of gold…".
"If any rebel or vain spirit of mine
Did with the least affection of a welcome
Give entertainment to the might of it,
Let God forever keep it from my head
And make me as the poorest vassal is
That doth with awe and terror kneel to it."

The passing of manhood between fathers and sons is a delicate thing, and like winning in football, for the two men involved it can be - underneath everything else in their lives - the only thing. As with fathers and sons so too with the passing of rule between kings, or the transfer of governments following elections, or even the passing of the mysterious Blessing from G-d to Abraham and along the line of the patriarchs; in all these cases, authority descends, it is not grasped from thin air. In the end Henry IV too understands:

Hen: "….O my son,
God put it in thy mind to take it hence,
That thou mightst win the more thy father's love,
Pleading so wisely in excuse of it!
Come hither, Harry, sit thou by my bed,
And hear, I think, the very latest counsel
That ever I shall breathe…".

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Religion and Domestic Peace


Let me begin at my health club, where this morning an elderly lady, completing her physical therapy, joked about how she had been made late the week before because she had come in from the parking lot without her cane, and had had to return to her car for it.

"I wake at 4:30, and I anoint myself, pressing olive oil to my forehead," she informed me, "in praise of the Lord, who returns my health to me."

Such scenes, which are among the joys of living in the American South, to me are nothing but moving. But of course they are the source of satire in Hollywood and in portions of the cold north in America among the same people who will sit down, somewhat against their own logic, to a Thanksgiving meal next week. But faith and its absence is no laughing matter. We see in Europe what there is to fear from a majority culture made up of those who pray against prayer. From King John (V.iv.12):

"Welcome home again discarded faith."

Target is a retail outlet store that occupies the link in the outlet store food chain just above Walmart and just below everyone else. The Target chain has prohibited the Salvation Army, a private Christian charity organization with an unimpeachable record of service to Americans in need, from soliciting donations during the Christmas season outside Target stores. Christmas solicitations represent a major portion of fundraising for the Army, which does not engage in the more aggressive sales tactics of the American Red Cross and other groups.

"We, ignorant of ourselves,
Beg often our own harms, which the wise powers
Deny us for our good; so find we profit
By losing of our prayers."

Anthony and Cleopatra, II.i.5.

In this case it is those who pray against prayer, that is, atheists and their corporate appeasers at Target, who might be said to be begging of their own harms. For if there is one key distinction between the relative domestic tranquility America is experiencing, certainly in comparison to Europe and the Middle East, it is not really our more vibrant capitalism or even our lower taxes or the Electoral College system for selecting our President. It is in our spirituality, which is broadly Christian. Henry VIII:

"Heaven is above all yet; there sits a judge
That no king can corrupt."

Now, being Jewish, I make bold to predict that were the American majority Jewish (one can dream), it would be similarly tranquil, and yes I will offer democratic and progressive Israel, its unlucky geography aside, in support of this belief. But that is a digression. America is broadly Christian, and in the health of American Christianity resides the security of American Jews, and Muslims and atheists for that matter.

"Now, God be praised, that to believing souls
gives light in darkness, comfort in despair!"

Henry VI, Part Two, II.i.66

By contrast, atheism, the religion of those who pray against prayer, and who consequently can seek nothing outside the self or the present on which to base hope or meaning, has formed in Europe the foundation of two generations of hard-hearted anti-Muslim discrimination. For while minority American atheism, aided by corporate appeasement, may target Salvation Army soldiers at Target, the majority European variety holds all belief, including Muslim belief, in contempt – and it is foolish to think that European Muslims don't know this. I will let a doomed and damned Macbeth speak for Europe:

"I had most need of blessing, and "Amen"
stuck in my throat."

Well, Muslim theology, which is supremacist, confident, self-sacrificial, and communitarian, hardly sticks in Muslim throats. Meanwhile, the European absence of each of these values, coupled with a weak-kneed appeasement of Muslim extremism, has found its climax in the recent Eurofada, whose beginning was as sudden as its end now appears unforeseeable. The Winter's Tale (II.iii.113) contains a line that today may serve to depict both European and Muslim civilization, and it is hoped never our own:

"It is a heretic that makes the fire,
Not she which burns in it."

Here's a related and recommended post from Jo's Cafe.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Bard and a New Malaria Treatment


In All's Well That Ends Well a courtier, Lafew, offers encouragement to the King, who is ill (the reference to grapes and foxes is to the fox in Aesop's fable, who calls the grapes sour only because they are out of reach):

Lafew: "Good faith, across!
But, my good lord, 'tis thus: will you be cured
Of your infirmity?"

King: "No."

Lafew: "O, will you eat
No grapes, my royal fox?... I have seen a medicine
That's able to breathe life into a stone,
Quicken a rock, and make you dance canary
With sprightly fire an motion, whose simple touch
Is powerful to araise King Pepin, nay,
To give great Charlemain a pen in 's hand
And write to her a love line."

In a sane world, a medical breakthrough that benefited those who suffer most, who suffer wholesale, would stop the presses. The childish games of presidential polls and congressional cowardice would be temporarily forgotten, and a silent undertow would tug the latest amber alert or adolescent angst-driven parent killing off the front page so that it might be filled with information on how, for example, a new malaria vaccine showed real promise in sub-Saharan Africa, offering hope for the alleviation of suffering among the least among us.

King John: "…Who comes here! A grave unto a soul,
Holding the eternal spirit, against her will,
In the vile prison of afflicted breath."

In fact, a study conducted in Mozambique has just been published indicating that new malaria vaccine does show real promise in sub-Saharan Africa. The injection reduced clinical malaria by 30% and serious malaria by 58%. Moreover, it continued providing protection for 18 months, long enough to accommodate the logistics of aid workers. Since a permanent vaccine is currently unrealistic (and because the previous first world demonization of DDT, the most effective anti-malarial agent, has placed that near-cure off limits) this seems to represent the most striking, currently employable resource against a disease that takes two million lives a year, most of them children.

"Restoration hang
Thy medicine on my lips."

- King Lear, IV.vii.26.

The debt of gratitude humanity owes Glaxo Smith Klein for developing this vaccine cannot be overstated. Again, in a sane world, movie and television studios would be competing even now for the rights to the story of its development and the faces of the researchers, led by a Dr. Joe Cohen, would be reverently displayed on posters in the bedrooms of middle schoolers throughout the nation, replacing Britney and Justin, Demi and her young beau, Angelina and Brad and all the other opportunistic growths of ego and assertion that appear in the absence of sunshine, hope and care.

"With the help of a surgeon he might yet
recover, and yet prove an ass."

- Midsummer's Night Dream, V.i.312.

In a sane world, moreover, our governmental leaders would speak candidly and with confidence to our democratic siblings of the developed world, and more in sadness than in anger, asking England, Canada and Japan in particular, where is their contribution to the medical advance so essential to maintaining the health of humanity, in our increasingly global community? How do they answer to the collapse of innovation in their otherwise innovative nations, and has not the nationalization of their medical industries cost the world their participation in maintaining its health?

King Lear: "Kill thy physician, and thy fee bestow
Upon the foul disease."

The gratitude owed to Glaxo Smith Klein extends not only to its contribution to the alleviation of the suffering of the afflicted, but to the lifting from our own minds of the oppressive awareness of that suffering. But the public stage where such gratitude might be expressed and echoed is yet controlled by media organizations that will not permit its expression. Macbeth consults with his doctor:

"Throw physic to the dogs; I'll none of it."

Paeans to drug companies, after all, would run counter to the health care nationalization agenda that is the semi-conscious motivation of our major media. And so it is that any celebration of science in the defeat of disease goes unsung, unpraised, and practically unreported where song, praise and report might impermissibly endorse the profit motive that funded the research behind the breakthrough. A mainstream media that proclaims itself pro-science thus renders itself mute in the face of scientific advance. Lady Macbeth's doctor speaks for the current state of affairs between medicine and the media:

"This disease is beyond my practice."

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Tempest and Senator Rockefeller


In The Tempest, Alonso, the King of Naples, is drowsy, as is his entire entourage. The group has been cast under a sleeping spell by the magic of Ariel, Prospero's sprite-like servant. Prospero, who is the dispossessed Duke of Milan, rules the island on which he has caused Alonzo and his snoring courtiers to be shipwrecked.

Alonso's brother Sebastian, absent when the spell was administered, arrives with Antonio, who is the current Duke of Milan and Prospero's usurping brother. With King Alonso's son Ferdinand presumed drowned in the shipwreck (actually he is off falling in love with Prospero's daughter Miranda), Sebastian, who would like to be King of Naples, and Antonio, who has already made himself Duke of Milan, consider the situation before them:

Ant: "…Here lies your brother,
No better than the earth he lies upon.
If he were that which now he's like, that's dead;
Whom I, with this obedient steel, three inches of it,
Can lay to bed for ever;…".

Senator Jay Rockefeller, the Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, considered the situation before him while being interviewed on a cable news show last Sunday. He repeated the now well-aired accusation that the Bush administration intentionally lied about Saddam Hussein's weapons program as a means of bringing our nation into war. Senator Rockefeller then made a bit of news, acknowledging a previously unrevealed conversation he held with Sabastian, I mean with Bashir Assad, President of Syria:

"I took a trip by myself in January of 2002 to Saudi
Arabia, Jordan and Syria, and I told each of the heads
of state that it was my view that George Bush had
already made up his mind to go to war against Iraq –
that that was a predetermined set course which had
taken shape shortly after 9/11."

It is to be noted that January 2002 (four months after 9/11) preceded any post-9/11 public speech on Iraq by the President and was long before Iraq was invaded. Syria was then and remains on the State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism. It is a country from which a large portion of terrorists active in Iraq emanate. And it is considered the prime candidate for where Saddam, in the run-up to the war that Rockefeller admits tipping Assad off to, would have hidden whatever weapons he might have developed.

Seb: "Thy case, dear friend,
Shall be my precedent; as thou got'st Milan,
I'll come by Naples. Draw thy sword; one stroke
Shall free thee from the tribute which thou payest;
And I the king shall love thee."

It is not my contention that Rockefeller and Assad conspired as consciously as Antonio and Sebastian. But given Rockefeller's admission, which was made voluntarily, after being withheld just as voluntarily for over two years, it is fair to ask the question: Who benefits?

Who benefits when Syria, a Baathist state and ally of Iraq, is secretly given advance warning from the Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee of that chairman's opinion that the US has resolved to invade the world's only other Baathist state? Which political party today benefits from military reversals, real or perceived? Which party has benefited from the failure to discover weapons of mass destruction that, with the assistance of the Vice Chairman, may for all we know now be in Syria?

Like King Alonzo and his shipwrecked courtiers, the public is encouraged to doze, charmed by the Ariels of the network news broadcasts into a belief that their elected representatives always want is what is best for their country, and differ only on the definition of what that best may be (and that if there is an evil and deceitful exception to that rule, it must be the President alone, and not representatives like Senator Rockefeller, who constitutes it). Meanwhile, outside the charmed circle, plans continue:

Ant: "…Say this were death
That now hast seized them; why, they were no worse
Than now they are. There be that can rule Naples
As well as he that sleeps; lords that can prate
As amply and unnecessarily
As this Gonzalo;……………….
…………………........O, that you bore
The mind that I do! What a sleep were this
For your advancement! Do you understand me?"

Seb: "Methinks I do."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Henry VI and the US Senate


In Act IV of Henry the VI Part One, the English are getting the stuffing kicked out of them by a girl, and not only a girl but a French girl, Joan of Arc. There can only be one reason (besides witchcraft on her part) – internal dissension. The seeds of the War of the Roses have (earlier) been sown, with different English nobles wearing red or white roses to show allegiance to either York or Lancaster. The weakened king, his poll numbers in the high thirties or low forties, and unable to command a majority of the congressional nobility even for such domestic priorities as Alaskan drilling, now faces division in his ranks even over the war. Presidential spokesperson Sir William Lucy addresses Majority Leader Frist of the senate, I mean the Earl of Somerset:

Lucy: "….Lord Talbot,
Ringed about with bold adversity,
Cries out for noble York and Somerset
To beat assailing death from his weak legions;
And whiles the honorable captain there
Drops bloody sweat from his war-wearied limbs
And, in advantage lingering, looks for rescue,
You, his false hopes, the trust of England's honor,
Keep off aloof with worthless emulation.
Let not your private discord keep away
The levied succors that should lend him aid…".

The United States Senate, which is ostensibly in the hands of the same political party as the President, voted yesterday to require the administration to report periodically on its progress toward the goal of exiting Iraq. One had thought that the goal was victory. Somerset, today played by Frist, advertised his appeasement of the forces of capitulation by claiming to have averted a Democratic Party proposal to require a specified timeline for withdrawal. Such a proposal, of course, would have been defeated if tabled. But rather than table and defeat it, Frist offered a compromise whose difference from the defeatist Democrat proposal only well-trained lawyers will understand.

Certainly Joan of Arc, portrayed today by the mad bomber Zarqawi, will have no trouble reading the weakness of his opponent in this act:

Joan: "Glory is like a circle in the water,
Which never ceaseth to enlarge itself
Till by broad spreading it disperse to naught,
With Henry's death the English circle ends;
Dispersed are the glories it included,
Now am I like that proud insulting ship
Which Caesar and his fortune bare at once."

So speaks an emboldened Zarqawi. Meanwhile, back among the keystone cops in Washington DC, Senator Frist, carrying water for the defeatists, takes the floor:

Som: "York set him on. York should have sent him aid."

The Democratic Party, and now a craven majority of pollward-glancing Republican senators, have spoken. Even as our troops, young men in their twenties, well-trained, valorous and far from home, conduct close combat operations in terrorist infiltrated residential areas along the Syrian border. Meanwhile back in the senate the Democrats careen from supporting Lancaster and Clinton in Bosnia to opposing York and Bush in Iraq, while the Republicans, with only eleven honorable exceptions, careen from opposing Clinton to supporting Bush and now to opposing Bush:

Som: "York lies, He might have sent and had the horse,
I owe him little duty and less love,
And take foul scorn to fawn on him by sending."

To WMD or not WMD, that is the question. But is that the only question? What of the moral advance represented by this new 21st century policy of ending holocausts, and which, to give President Clinton credit, follows his Bosnian precedent of doing the same? Why does this proud crossing of a moral Rubicon go unremarked? It is as though the old 20th century policy of arriving afterward to count the skulls, in the Ukraine, in Germany and Poland, in Uganda, in Cambodia, in Rwanda, is to be preferred, and looked back upon with a nostalgic throb.

Lucy: "The fraud of England, not the force of France,
Hath now entrapped the noble-minded Talbot.
Never to England shall he bear his life,
But dies betrayed to fortune by your strife."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Richard III and Voter Fraud


Shakespeare takes on the issue of voter fraud in Act I scene IV of Richard III. Here the famous villain Richard, who is not yet the Third but would certainly like to be, murders a succession of successors to the throne whose claims are above his own. There was recently a pleasant Hollywood spoof on this theme starring John Goodman as the last remaining (American) claimant to the British throne, who is coronated following a regal mishap involving a photo shoot of the royal family, electricity and a wet floor.

Rich: "Clarence still breathes, Edward still lives and reigns;
When they are gone, then must I count my gains."

Translated into modern democratic terms, what Richard was murdering was the concept of legitimacy, the idea that transfixed Shakespeare through his entire eight-play history cycle (ten if you count the two non-consecutive history plays).

Richard carries this dark torch of illegitimacy into the 15th century, sending two murderers into the Tower to kill the legitimate democratic aspirations of the American people, I mean to kill Clarence, a legitimate heir to the throne who today would represent the entire body politic, all those dutiful and trusting voters who can't quite believe that the problem of voter fraud is really as bad as it now appears. When he says, "your brother Gloucester," the second murderer is referring to both Richard and to your state legislature and voter registration department (Richard is Duke of Gloucester):

2nd Mur: "You are deceived. Your brother Gloucester hates you."
Clar: "O, do not slander him, for he is kind."

1st Mur:: "Right, as snow in harvest. Come, you deceive yourself
"Tis he that sends us to destroy you here."

Clar: "It cannot be, for he bewept my fortune,
And hugged me in his arms, and swore with sobs
That he would labor my delivery."

1st Mur: "Why, so he doth, who he delivers you
From this earth's thralldom to the joys of heaven."

2nd Mur: "Make peace with God, for you must die, my lord."

Whether the death of democracy is something we must make our own peace with is, of course, up to us. But willing murderers, or at least unwilling protectors, there are. Only twenty states ask voters to provide identification at the polls. Of the twenty, only six require photo identification, the same type needed to rent a car or to apply for a video rental card at Blockbuster, and that's assuming Georgia's new law receives federal approval from the Department of Justice. The remaining thirty states, both as to voting and in most cases even as to initially registering, are as is often said of French husbands, complaisant.

In 2002 (yes, vote fraud stories are always a bit outdated; but if you wait to be outraged by cheating in the next election, you'll always be one behind), the senate race in South Dakota was understood to have involved massive voter fraud on Indian reservations. To assist in collecting registrations for the Democrats, Maka Duta bought a county history book containing local names, which began turning up in new voter roles. In Dewey and Ziebach counties, registered voters far exceeded the number of residents over 18 counted in the 2000 census. A Shannon county clerk, Renee Doss, received 1,100 new registrations in a county of only 10,000 people. "Many," she has said, "were clearly signed by the same person."

So how has the governor of Minnesota respond to this wake-up call in his neighboring state? He has just vetoed a bill that would require the state's voters to present photo identification when they vote. Oh and yes, the governor is a Democrat; his state legislature which passed the now vetoed law is in the hands of the Republicans.

Lest this sound like unjustified partisan piling on, in Indiana, after a similar law was passed this past May, the Democratic Party sued to have it overturned (a malmsey butt is a barrel of malmsey wine):

Clar (to 2nd Mur):
"My friend, I spy some pity in thy looks,
O, if thine eye be not a flatterer,
Come thou on my side, and entreat for me,
As you would beg, were you in my distress.
A begging prince what beggar pities not?"

2nd. Mur: "Look behind you, my lord."

1st Mur:
"Take that, and that! (Stabs him.) If all this will not do,
I'll drown you in the malmsey butt within."

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Duchess of Gloucester and Mary Mapes


In Richard II, The Duchess of Gloucester carries a grievance to her brother-in-law John of Gaunt. She complains to him of her belief that the King is responsible for the illegitimate election of President Bush in 2000; I mean, for the death of her husband, Gaunt's brother. Gaunt agrees, but says that there is nothing to be done.

Gaunt: "But since correction lieth in those hands
Which made the fault that we cannot correct,
Put we our quarrel to the will of heaven,
Who, when they see the hours ripe on earth,
Will rain hot vengeance on offenders' heads."

Gaunt understands that the divine right of kings, which for his day was what the sovereign right of the people is for ours (and in both cases representing legitimacy), protects both Bush and Richard II. As God's deputy, that is as the people's elected representative, only He, or they, can punish Richard II or not re-elect George II. But the Duchess, portrayed today by Mary Mapes, the former CBS news producer, is not buying it:

Duchess: "Finds brotherhood in thee no sharper spur?
Hath love in thy old blood no living fire?
Edward's seven sons, whereof thyself art one,
Were as seven vials of his sacred blood
Or seven fair branches springing from one root,
Some of those seven are dried by nature's course,
Some of those branches by the Destinies cut;
But Thomas, my dear lord, my life, my Gloucester,
One vial full of Edward's sacred blood,
One flourishing branch of his most royal root,
Is cracked, and all the precious liquor spilt…".

The Duchess and Ms. Mapes, biding their time, pursue over the course of Richard II's first term in office a story concerning President Bush's service in the National Guard. Mapes and the Duchess come into possession of a photocopy of a document purporting to show an inconsistency in the President's service record. There is no authenticating witness. In ordinary journalism, this would not be enough to present to the public. Nevertheless, Ms. Mapes makes her pitch to Dan Rather. Let's imagine, just for kicks, that Rather, filling in for Gaunt, expresses prudent reservations about springing so flimsy a story on the public fifty-five days before the election. Mapes and the Duchess respond to Rather, their references to Gaunt's father and brother finding their modern equivalent in the Democratic Party and the broad culture of liberalism:

"…Thou dost consent
In some large measure to thy father's death
In that thou seest thy wretched brother die,
Who was the model of thy father's life.
Call it not patience, Gaunt; it is despair,
In suffering thus thy brother to be slaughtered,
Thou showest the naked pathway to thy life,
Teaching stern murder how to butcher thee.
That which in mean men we entitle patience
Is pale cold cowardice in noble breasts."

Well, the character assassination attempt goes awry. Charles Johnson, who writes a blog named, notices that the Mapes document formats itself exactly in line with the default settings of Microsoft Word, and that it exhibits variable type and proportional spacing characteristics that did not exist in the 1970's, when the document was purported to have been produced (let alone in the 1400's). The reputation of CBS News begins to leak like a tire, and then like a boat, and then like a ship. Rather is fired as an anchor and under-assigned elsewhere, and Mapes is simply fired. She retires to her country estate, and debates whether to receive visitors:

Duch: "…Bid him – ah, what? –
With all good speed at Pleshey visit me.
Alack, and what shall good old York there see
But empty lodgings and unfurnished walls,
Unpeopled offices, untrodden stones,
And what hear there for welcome but my groans?
Therefore commend me; let him not come there
To seek out sorrow…".

Actually, Ms. Mapes emerged from Pleshey recently for a round of television interviews. She appears to be in a trance, and repeats without factual support her original assertions. She continues to assert the document is not a forgery, and states baldly into the camera a brazen new journalistic standard: that the absence of disproof is sufficient to support belief in the truth of a story. Having seen her somnolent, disaffected eyes on the television, it was all I could do to resist pulling out the big guns and using Lady Macbeth. But really she is too much of a bit player for that.

CBS's problem, and Big Time Media's in general, is that it lacks a John of Gaunt, someone to place reporting in perspective, as news gathering and not politics practiced by dishonorable means.

Duch: "What shall I say? To safeguard thine own life
The best way is to venge my Gloucester's death."

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Achilles and Terrell Owens


Like the great warrior Achilles in Troilus and Cressida, there is much of which Terrell Owens can be proud. His hard work, talent and determination have made him a multi-millionaire, and established his reputation as one of the premier receivers in the NFL. He has also managed to solidify a reputation for being locker room poison and a prima donna. Last week the Philadelphia Eagles suspended him indefinitely for giving an interview in which he suggested his team would be better off with a different quarterback, and complained that his 100th career touchdown had gone unrecognized:

Owens: "I just felt like it was an embarrassment.
It just shows the lack of class that they had."

In Troilus and Cressida, Ulysses comments on Achilles' similar behavior:

Uly: "What glory our Achilles shares from Hector,
Were he not proud, we all should share with him,
But he already is too insolent,
And we were better parch in Afric sun
Than in the pride and salt scorn of his eyes…".

Ulysses on behalf of Athens and the Eagles' front office on behalf of Philadelphia made the same call, with Ulysses benching Achilles in favor of Ajax in a coming battle with Hector, and Philly suspending Owens. Owens was given until last Saturday to apologize. Here is what he said this Tuesday in front of his very nice home:

Owens: "The mentality that I have, my greatest
strength can also be my greatest weakness.
I'm a fighter. I've always been and I'll always
be. I fight for what I think is right. In doing so,
I alienated a lot of my fans and my teammates."

Was this an apology? Well, as we examine the statement, we see that the alienation he caused his fans appears to be framed as a necessary price the fans must pay for exposure to Owen's greatest strength, his mentality, which is also his greatest weakness. This is more an explanation than an apology. Great strengths that are also great weaknesses are the stuff of Greek tragedy, leading us back to our comparison with Achilles. But of course, as we proceed, we should remain mindful of the distinction between the tragic and the pathetic.

Ach: "What, am I poor of late?
"Tis certain, greatness, once fall'n out with fortune,
Must fall out with men too. What the declined is
He shall as soon read in the eyes of others
As feel in his own fall; …"

Both Achilles and Owens would be willing to blame the loss of their greatness on a falling out with fortune, should that occur, but they are certain that they are still enjoying fortune's favor. Still, each is beginning to sense that something else may be missing:

Ach: "…But 'tis not so with me;
Fortune and I are friends. I do enjoy
At ample point all that I did possess,
Save these men's looks, who do, methinks, find out
Something not worth in me such rich beholding
As they have often given….".

Owens: "This is very painful for me to be in
this position. I know in my heart that I can
help the team win the Super Bowl and not
only be a dominant player, but also be a team
player. I can bring that."

There needs no ghost come from the grave to suggest to us that our society is facing a crisis of confidence within the institutions that exert duly constituted authority. Recently an entire college administration found itself unable to articulate a basis for shutting down the campus broadcast of a hard-core pornographic movie produced by a student. Indeed the NFL itself was hoodwinked by an exhibitionistic and dark-hearted half-time show in a not-too-distant Super Bowl. And in an act that was commendable but that should not have been necessary, the NBA was obliged to institute a dress code for its millionaire role models players, who model themselves on gang-bangers.

And so it is heartening to see the Philadelphia Eagles make the painful but correct decision to walk away from a great receiver whose tragic flaw, or more accurately whose pathetic flaw, is that he is a poor teammate. A generation of football fans may learn from this the vicarious lesson that there are limits in all things.

Ach: "For they passed by me as misers do by beggers,
Neither gave to me good word nor look.
What, are my deeds forgot?"

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Henry IV's Lady Percy and Military Families


Hotspur, that glory-driven bundle of martial energy introduced in Henry IV, Part I, now lies dead at the hands of Henry's son Hal, the future Henry V. Hotspur was spurred to rebellion by his father Northumberland. Once hostilities began, however, and like the democrats within the US Congress who voted for war only to seek a later retreat, Northumberland withheld his support from Hotspur, leading to his defeat and death. Here is Hotspur's widow, Lady Percy, calling on her father-in-law in Act II scene iii of Henry IV, Part Deux:

Lady P: "The time was, Father, that you broke your word,
When you were more endeared to it than now,
When your own Percy, when my heart's dear Harry,
Threw many a northward look to see his father
Bring up his powers; but he did long in vain.
Who then persuaded you to stay at home?"

The Learning Channel (TLC in your cable guide) offers a show entitled American Homecoming, which follows the domestic travails of military families as they separate, serve and reunite. One recent broadcast followed the family of Kevin and Dawn White. In the face of a recent diagnosis of Crohn's disease, Mrs. White must watch her husband leave for Iraq. Dawn's parents step up to assist her at home. Kevin, while fighting the war, becomes pen pals to a (US-based) fourth grade class. We viewers are treated to his homecoming and his visit to the school children with whom he has corresponded, and who are some of the very few Americans who will be receiving unbiased reporting on the events in Iraq.

Meanwhile Lady Percy, and all who would benefit from the raising of democracy and hope in the middle east, and all who will suffer in its continued absence, responds to Northumberland and to the democrats in Congress who continue their morale-defeating dirge:

"There were two honors lost, your and your son's.
For yours, the God of heaven brighten it!
For his, it stuck upon him, as the sun
In the gray vault of heaven, and by his light
Did all the chivalry of England move
To do brave acts. He was indeed the glass
Where in the youth did dress themselves."

Another American Homecoming broadcast follows the reunion of John Keith, who lost his leg from a mortar attack, with his troop and with Christian Moretti, who Keith believes saved his life. Keith's wife is also on hand to thank Moretti.

Here's another: Sergeant Corey Johnston while serving in Iraq, learns that a 5 year-old Iraqi boy, Rebaz, is in need of heart surgery for the same malady that took Rebaz's brother's life. After finding out that Rebaz' older brother had died from the same condition, and with help from Johnson's mother and the local community, Rebaz and his father move into her home in Iowa and Rebaz receives the life-saving surgery. Corey meets Rebaz for the first time only upon his homecoming.

Of course, these are the more heart-warming stories of our military's survival and return. Our fallen soldiers, on whose sacrifice a generation of peace may ensue (in the event that victory can be attained in the teeth of democratic party resistance) require something more than a television show can provide. Lady Percy's words, spoken for her fallen husband, speak movingly for the last full measure of devotion that they have offered us:

"In diet, in affections of delight,
In military rules, humors of blood,
He was the mark and glass, copy and book,
That fashioned others. And him, O wondrous him!
O, miracle of men! Him did you leave,
Second to none, unseconded by you,
To look upon the hideous god of war
In disadvantage, to abide a field
Where nothing but the sound of Hotspur's name
Did seem defensible. So you left him.
Never, O never do his ghost the wrong
To hold your honor more precise and nice
With others than with him!...".

politicalteen, a recommendable blog, has this link of interest.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Richard II and European Deportation


Bolingbroke has accused Mowbray of treason in Richard II, and the two men begin burning non-Islamic owned cars in the streets of Paris; that is, they prepare to embark on a duel, when the king interrupts the action:

King: "For that our kingdom's earth should not be soiled
With that dear blood which it hath fostered,
And for our eyes do hate the dire aspect
Of civil wounds plowed up with neighbors' sword;
And for we think the eagle-winged pride
Of sky-aspiring and ambitious thoughts,
With rival-hating envy, set on you
To wake our peace, which in our country's cradle
Draws the sweet infant breath of gentle sleep,"

There's more, but in the face of this violence in the streets, the hand-wringing French government, I mean Richard II, eventually finds a little spine and gets to the point (Hereford is another name of Bolingbroke):

"Therefore we banish you our territories,
You, cousin Hereford, upon pain of life,
Till twice five summers have enriched our fields,
Shall not regreet our fair dominions,
But tread the stranger paths of banishment."

In France, where the term auto de fe is gaining a new meaning, the government announced plans to banish to their country of origin non-citizens involved in the violence. More dramatically, the government of the Netherlands can now
deport citizens without a trial to the country from which they emigrated. Apparently these citizens only thought they were citizens. Who will they come for next?

Mowbray: "A heavy sentence, my most sovereign liege,
And all unlooked for from Your Highness' mouth."

Citizenship is a concept whose power must impress any observer of the scene in Europe, where an undigested Muslim population has declared its unwillingness to assimilate. My wife, who is Japanese, will always carry, regardless of her increasing American identity (it was at her insistence that we now display a "Support Our Troops" sticker on our car), a second national culture in her heart. Indeed for her to feel otherwise would be to turn against the entire environment in which she was formed. Gaunt offers my wife, I mean Bolingbroke, comfort:

Gaunt: "All places that the eye of heaven visits
Are to a wise man ports and happy havens.
Teach thy necessity to reason thus:…".

Thankfully, the conflict between being Japanese and being American has more to do with self-assertiveness and the quality of food than a will to subsume oneself within a feudal warrior cult dedicated to world domination. Or at least it does now. Now, that is, that Japan's former feudal warrior cult has been unambiguously defeated, and a new, democratic culture fostered into being. But does the West intend the same defeat for today's feudal warrior cult of radical Islam dedicated to a similar world domination? And can we expect the same peace, indeed amity, without it?

Moreover, the young disaffected youth conveniently ringing Paris and every other French city are French, not Algerian, and not only in citizenship. The language in which they think France-hating thoughts ("Nous avons le revulsion pour notre pays!") is French. But they don't swoon to Chanson or the Marseilles in quite the same way, and it's unlikely they or even their great-grandchildren ever will. And draconian laws or not, it's a little late for France to throw the lot of them out:

King: "Norfolk, for thee remains a heavier doom,
Which I with some unwillingness pronounce;
The sly slow hours shall not determinate
The dateless limit of thy dear exile,
The hopeless word of "never to return"
Breathe I against thee, upon pain of life."

The role of loving-kindness, at the personal level and below politics, is going unremarked in all of this. Certainly America is luckier to have desperate Catholics rather than desperate Muslims on our border, but we have absorbed many million Muslims over the past generation as well, people who live among us in a time of war between our civilization and their civilization of origin. Given the fascist theocratic ideology from which they are emerging, it's clear that their sympathies are at best divided. And yes, some of the least grateful form cells and plot our destruction.

But the broad mass of American Muslims are not torching our cars, and don't seem to want to. And we can have the sense that their children at least will find their way into the embrace of our loving culture. An investment of open-heartedness on the part of the American people, religious at its core, has given us protection from what the absence of open-heartedness has given France, and is giving Europe.
Note: politicalteen, a recommendable blog, deserves this link in exchange for listing a bardeyeview post in a trackback list for its readers.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Twelfth Night and Roe v. Wade


In Twelfth Night, Viola is obliged to fend for herself on the Illyrian coast after a shipwreck. She dresses as a man and attaches herself to the court of Count Orsino. Now known as Cesario, she is sent to the neighboring court of Olivia to woo Lady Olivia on Orsino's behalf. Viola does this all too well, as Olivia falls in love with her (in the guise of Cesario) instead of Orsino.

Sir Andrew Aguecheek, a foppish figure who has been unsuccessfully courting Olivia, writes a letter of challenge to Cesario, which is delivered by Olivia's mischievous kinsman Toby Belch. Toby has been milking Sir Andrew of his funds for weeks while assuring him of his eventual success in the courtship that Cesario has now jeopardized. Toby approaches Cesario:

Toby: "That defense thou hast, betake thee
to't. Of what nature the wrongs are thou hast
done him, I know not, but thy intercepter,
full of despite, bloody as the hunter, attends
thee at the orchard end. Dismount thy tuck,
be yare in thy preparation, for thy assailant
is quick, skillful and deadly."

Ces: "You mistake sir, I am sure no man hath
any quarrel to me My remembrance is very
free and clear from any damage of offense
done to any man."

Thus does the pro-choice Planned Parenthood provoke its feminist followers as to the demonic, womb-abrogating intentions of the pro-life movement, and indeed for similar fund-raising purposes. But when Toby returns from terrifying Viola and the Feminists to relay her answer to Sir Andrew and the Churchgoers, he proves that he would be equally at home working for the fund-raising component of the pro-life religious right:

Toby: "Why, man, he's a very devil; I have
not seen such a firago, I had a pass with him,
rapier, scabbard, and all, and he gives me
the stuck in with such a mortal motion that
it is inevitable; and on the answer, he pays
you as surely as your feet hits the ground
they stop in."

Andrew: "Pox on 't. I'll not meddle with him."

Toby: "Ay, but he will not now be pacified."

And so the pro-choice / pro-life debate in America progresses. While this twilight struggle is over an issue – the sanctity of life – that is central to any serious mind, the corresponding struggle over Roe v. Wade is by now actually a bit of a stalking horse. It's fairly clear, after all, that abortion would remain broadly legal in America even if Roe were to be repealed. (But of course I should say overturned, repealed being the wrong word for something decided by nine old unelected individuals thirty-two years ago). The only difference is that we the people would be struggling democratically amongst ourselves to develop our own moral vision, rather than having it imposed on us in a manner that is not only aristocratic, but ratifies the concept of aristocracy.

Meanwhile, the champions of each side of yesterday's fight over a mere court case continue inflaming their adherents to defend against their opponent's provocation (Fabian is Toby's assistant):

Viola: "I beseech you, what manner of man
is he?"

Fabian: "….He is indeed, sir, the most skillful,
bloody, and fatal opposite that you could
possibly have found in any part of Illyria."

It is worth noting that in the context of this aging blood feud, the absence of an expected explosion from the left over the pro-life tilting Alito nomination may mark a turning point - as Fabian's conciliatory hint to Viola seems to suggest:

Fabian: "Will you walk toward him, I will
make your peace with him if I can."

Viola: "I shall be much bound to you for 't...."

And here's Toby with Sir Andrew, admitting some confusion on the part of his champion over why he'd thought it so important to stage this generational court vs. legislature struggle in the first place:

Toby: "There's no remedy, sir, he will fight
with you for 's oath's sake. Marry, he hath
better bethought him of his quarrel, and he
finds that now scarce to be worth talking of.
Therefore draw, for the supportance of his
vow; he protests he will not hurt you."
Andrew: "Pray God he keep his oath!"

It is doubtless too soon to know if the fires of adversity have begun to ebb, which is to say to shift to a democratic rather than a judicial dueling-ground, but Toby and Fabian at least appear ready to continue maneuvering to identify the fund-raising possibilities a post-Roe world may have to offer., a recommendable blog, deserves this link in exchange for a link offered to bardseye.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

None Sweat but for Promotion

To business that we love we rise betime
And go to it with delight."

So spoke Antony in Antony and Cleopatra, his own business then being war, but at least he had a job, unlike the unanchored Muslim youth of France who, lacking jobs, provoke a war. And apropros of France, a valuable statistic to bear in mind, as we huddle each evening around the cool televised campfire that once was Paris, is that over the past 30 years, America has created 57 million jobs, while the European Union has created 4 million.

"I am a true laborer; I earn that I eat, get that
I wear, owe no man hate, envy no man's happiness,
glad of other men's good, content with my harm."

Ah, but Corin the Shepherd was lucky to have found employment in As You Like It and not within the EU, where he would have been romanticized through the 20th century as a member of the proletariat, before being left in the 21st without a job, though perhaps with the winter hay and salt lick of a stipend.

"Distribution should undo excess,
And each man have enough."

And who is that channeling Karl Marx but King Lear, who, whatever his other charms, is not a guy to be followed into battle, economic or otherwise.

I note in passing that on a recent trip my wife and I took to still civilized, indeed over-civilized Scotland, the British pound (and I know the Euro to be no different) felt oddly strong, or rather my beseeching dollars at the currency window felt oddly weak. It is at first blush paradoxical that our currency, like our relative cultural level in things like languages and the piano, should remain a bit lower than theirs.

Well, the barriers to fortress Europe are high, and that disruptive thing called growth is held firmly in check by interest rates that, if they do not choke, certainly bind Europeans as tightly as the church collars they no longer wear. By contrast, we Americans spend like drunken sailors, and our money can look a little down at heel as a result, but then we don't believe in money. We believe in growth.

"I can get no remedy against this consumption
of the purse. Borrowing only lingers and lingers
it out, but the disease is incurable."

Falstaff, of course.

Because we believe in growth, lowering rates remains the democratic and American thing to do, letting everyone have money to invest or spend or just flash around as they like. Unfortunately it also reduces the value of our money for our vacationers to Scotland, not to mention our importers of foreign oil. By contrast, raising rates is the European and anti-democratic thing to do - it's what you do in order to preserve the value of the money that's already in the hands of the aristocratic finger-kissing elites, productivity and jobs be damned.

"Thou art not for the fashion of these times,
Where none will sweat but for promotion,
And, having that, do choke their service up."

Orlando, praising his faithful toothless servant Adam in As You Like It.

My own insufficiently instructed theory is that, as Europe tried to commit suicide across the 20th century, America spent, blood aside, a massive amount treasure in wresting the revolver away from Europe's collective temple. So much treasure that, in the end, we had ourselves been wrested away from the fiscal rigor of the pre-First World War era, a rigor encompassed in the gold standard, however it would be encompassed now. And thus it is that our money is weak and our haute culture is sometimes not so haute. That is, why our people aren't as proficient in languages, chess and the piano as we are in software, business productivity and management. Three world wars (going on four) prosecuted at our expense have set back our language study and appreciation of the arts.

Frankly, and to risk a moment of pique in this decorous Shakespearean environment, that's one more thing I blame Europe for, one more thing they cost us over the last 90 years

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Brutus and Prime Minister Singh


There's trouble brewing between Brutus and Cassius, the two main conspirators who have spearheaded the assassination of Julius Caesar. Each has his own followers among the Roman army, and they need each other's help in the looming war with the triumvirate of Antony, Octavius and Lepidus. They meet in a tent outside Sardis. But war preparations are the farthest thing from their minds:

Cas: "That you have wronged me doth appear in this:
You have condemned and noted Lucius Pella
For taking bribes here of the Sardians,
Wherein my letters, praying on his side,
Because I knew the man, was slighted off."

Bur: "You wronged yourself to write in such a case."

Cas: "In such a time as this it is not meet
That every nice offense should bear his comment."

Brutus' decision to kill Julius Caesar was, at least in the spirit of the time, a principled one, there not being much point in idealizing Julius' fascist dictatorship. Like those of us alarmed by the misuse of the Commerce Clause, Brutus sought a return to a republic and not coincidentally, fair and honest administration.

So does India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who yesterday fired his country's Foreign Minister Natwar Singh (no relation) after Foreign Minister Singh was identified as one of the recipients of Saddam's Oil For Food blood money. This would be the equivalent of President Bush firing Secretary Rice for a similar offense. Natwar Singh stands as the first political casualty of the OFF scandal worldwide. And Prime Minister Singh stands proudly before the world, and usefully before his own nation, as an example of rectitude; intolerant of corruption. Here's how his meeting with Natwar Singh went yesterday:

Bru: "Let me tell you Cassius, you yourself
Are much condemned to have an itching palm,
To sell and mart your offices for gold
To undeservers."

Cas: "I an itching palm?
You know that you are Brutus that speaks this,
Or by the gods, this speech were else your last."
"O ye gods, ye gods! Must I endure all this?"

Bru: "All this? Ay, more, Fret till your proud heart break.
Go show your slaves how choleric you are
And make your bondman tremble. Must I budge?
Must I observe you? Must I stand and crouch
Under your testy humor? By the gods.
You shall digest the venom of your spleen
Thogh it do split you; for from this day forth,
I'll use you for my mirth, yea, for my laughter…".

Meanwhile in France, a panel of judges is "investigating" 10 government officials who were implicated in the scandal, while France's former U.N. ambassador (our equivalent being Colin Powell) was detained and questioned about why former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's regime granted him rights to purchase about 4.5 million of barrels of Iraqi oil at a discounted price. All of this is a far cry from the exemplary summary dismissal offered by Prime Minister Singh.

Hamlet: "In the corrupted currents of this world
Offence's gilded hand may shove by justice,
And oft 'tis seen the wicked prize itself
Buys out the law."

Closer to home (for this America-based blog) stories continue to percolate about France's pre-war hand in derailing the American effort to unseat Saddam Hussein. Reasonably non-paranoid and informed speculation has been offered that the CIA may have sent non-employee Joseph Wilson of Plamegate fame to Niger without the usual signed non-disclosure agreement, because only in that way could he have been able to present his findings to the op-ed page of the New York Times instead of to the Vice President's office, which originally requested the information he was sent him to acquire. It is to be remembered after all that one of the core functions of the CIA involves the surreptitious toppling of governments. Wilson's participation in the Kerry campaign, given the additional gifts he offered, can be seen as a bid for something along the lines of Secretary of State in a Kerry administration.


Not only France but America's French wing, swoons as Cassius does before the prospect of nakedly grasping power. Brutus speaks for Prime Minister Singh and all others who would oppose this tarnished vision of life:

Bru: "Shall we now
Contaminate our fingers with base bribes,
And sell the mighty space of our large honours
For so much trash as may be grasped thus?

I had rather be a dog and bay the moon,
Than such a Roman."

Here's a Link to thepoliticalteen, a recommendable site.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Hotspur and the 9/11 Commission


Our text today is Act V, scene ii of Henry IV Part I. The rebels are huddling over the question of how to handle their mercurial young leader, Hotspur. Certainly telling him the truth won't do (Worcester is Hotspur's uncle):

Wor: "O, no, my nephew must not know, Sir Richard,
The liberal and kind offer of the King."

Vernon: "'Twere best he did."

Wor: "Then are we all undone.
It is not possible, it cannot be,
The King should keep his word in loving us;
He will suspect us still and find a time
To punish this offense in other faults.
Suspicion all our lives shall be stuck full of eyes;"

Worcester and Vernon substitute their own judgment for Hotspur's even though he is the most exposed, deciding they are in too deep to be trusted or forgiven by any succeeding regime should all the facts regarding their betrayal be discovered. That's why they steal classified intelligence documents from the national archives relating to their prior dealings with Saddam Hussein. Worcester, disguised as former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, inserts those documents into his clothing for transport home. In Henry V, two dramatic elections later in Shakespeare's history cycle, Berger's resulting prosecution will result in a slap on the wrist from the succeeding administration. Clearly, Worcester, Vernon and Berger misjudged the next Henry's and Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez's forgiving nature even in the face of such perfidy.

Worcester goes on explains the Byzantine intrigue of contemporary American politics in further detail:

"For treason is but trusted like the fox,
Who, never so tame, so cherished, and locked up.
Will have a wild trick of his ancestors…."

Here we see Worcester surprise our audience by casting off his men's apparel to reveal himself to actually be Jamie Gorelick (just as Ganymede in As You Like It was actually Rosalind and Cesario in Twelfth Night was actually Viola), the very person responsible for the pre-Iraq war administrative firewall which inanely separated CIA-gathered intelligence from use in domestic law enforcement and prosecution. Gorelick, through a wild trick of her ancestor Worcester, secures a seat on the 9/11 Commission, whose report scants mention of Henry IV's conciliatory gesture, I mean of the firewall.

Wor: "Look how we can, or sad or merrily,
Interpretation will misquote our looks,
And we shall feed like oxen at a stall,
The better cherished still the nearer death…".

The ox feeding at the stall is of course former President Clinton who, looking how he can sad or merrily, finds himself repeating as recently as last night, and with the obsessiveness of Lady Macbeth, his insistence that he was focused like a laser beam while in office on capturing Osama Bin Laden.

But Worcester is not yet through with his rationalizations. His focus shifts at last to the future, to the ideological progeny borne of his and Vernon's corruption, employing his nephew Hotspur's name as a place marker for, the privileged son of Soros, another modern Worcester avatar:

Wor: "My nephew's trespass may be well forgot;
It hath the excuse of youth and heat of blood,
And an adopted name of privilege –
A harebrained Hotspur, governed by a spleen,
All his offenses live upon my head
And on his father's. We did train him on,
And, his corruption being ta'en from us,
We as the spring of all shall pay for all,
Therefore, good cousin, let not Harry know
In any case the offer of the King."

Sunday, November 06, 2005

CSI and As You Like It

CSI, which stands for Crime Scene Investigation, is a hit TV show that features graphic autopsies and fine-tooth comb searches among the aftermath of hotel room excesses. Its beslabbed victims while living, and its Las Vegas-haunting perpetrators until caught, share what the French (who have words for these things) call a penchant for the louche, a preference for the most distorted of pleasures. If CSI were to be defended in moral terms – not that it particularly can be - it would be for its role as a cautionary tale.

Last night's episode concerned the aspiration to change one's gender. Watching it, I was struck by how much differently Shakespeare handles the same issue. Here's Rosalind, in As You Like It (curtal means broad; swashing means swaggering; outface…semblances means bluff your way through with mere appearances):

"Were it not better,
Because that I am more than common tall,
That I did suit me all points like a man?
A gallant curtal ax upon my thigh,
A boar spear in my hand, and – in my heart
Lie there what hidden woman's fear there will –
We'll have a swashing and a martial outside,
As many other mannish cowards have
That do outface it with their semblances."

Rosalind has escaped with her friend Celia from the court of Duke Frederick, Celia's overbearing and dangerous father, to live by her wits in the woods, so she has some reason to recast herself as a man. The CSI casting department, by contrast, performed some real shoe-leather research in finding, by all appearances, actual sex-changed actors, whoops, actresses, to populate their episode. But back in the woods, here's Rosalind (doublet and hose refers to the male clothing of the time, which included hose stockings to advertise the muscularity of men's legs):

Rosalind: "I could find in my heart to disgrace
my man's apparel and to cry like a woman;
but I must comfort the weaker vessel, as doublet
and hose ought to show itself courageous to
petticoat. Therefore courage…".

At the close of the CSI episode, after the unlicensed sex-change surgeon, herself formerly a man, is arrested, the CSI shift supervisor Gil Grissom rhetorically flourishes the image of an oyster species that can change its sex at will, suggesting a template for human identity that may yet lurk deep within our brains. We are briefly charmed by the infinitely protean potential of nature, presumably including our own.

Shakespeare of course was himself charmed by the imagining of sexual role-playing, which he makes central to As You Like It, Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice. But his characters always understood it as playing, as a temporary exercise designed to instruct ourselves in a greater empathy and understanding for members of the other sex.

Rosalind, disguised as Ganymede, but in love with Orlando, meets Orlando in the forest. Orlando is in love with Rosalind and is in fact carving her name along with some bad love poetry onto trees. Rosalind, as Ganymede, offers to cure Orlando of his love if he will visit Ganymede every day and pretend Ganymede is Rosalind and attempt to court her. Rosalind/Ganymede tells Orlando she will behave in such contrary ways that the counseling will work as aversion therapy:

Ros/Gan: "And this way will I take to wash your liver
as clean as a sound sheep's heart, that there shall not
be one spot of love in 't."

Orl: "I would not be cured."

Ros/Gan: "I would cure you, if you would but call me
Rosalind and come every day to my cote and woo me.

Orl: "Now by the faith of my love, I will. Tell me
where it is."

Ros/Gan: "Go with me to it, and I'll show it you; and
by the way you shall tell me where in the forest you live.
Will you go?"

Orl: "With all my heart, good youth."

Ros/Gan: "Nay, you must call me Rosalind…".

This emphasis on love and thought and imagination contrasts starkly with the deadly seriousness of the surgery and hormone-based culture that the CSI episode describes.

Being unincarcerated myself, I can't really speak for those who perhaps do feel themselves trapped in the body of a man while identifying as a woman. But responding to one's tortured soul by torturing one's body into a semblance of an ideal self-image strikes me as a form of idolatry, the substitution of the physical for the spiritual. It's just a body after all. It's supposed to provide health and long life and relative freedom from pain; a vessel primarily for the spirit and not the passions.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Henry V, Church, State and Islam


The struggle between secular and religious power within Islamic societies is something we in the West are watching with rapt attention, since our own future security seems to weigh in the balance. The theocratic vision of Saudi Arabia and Iran has been imposed through the brutal enforcement of iron laws. But we should not regard this situation as foreign to our own development. Angelo, who is charged with prosecuting moral offenses, in Measure for Measure:

"We must not make a scarecrow of the law,
Setting it up to fear the birds of prey,
And let it keep one shape till custom make it
Their perch and not their terror."

The puritanical zeal of 1590's Vienna that Shakespeare satirized in Measure for Measure finds its parallel today in Islam. A religious vision that enforces the separation of the sexes and the subjugation of women is also imposing unendurable burdens on young men, resulting in what is at heart a sexual sickness. Maddened and humiliated at their core, they lash out at other cultures over a wound imposed by their own. But the mullahs in Iran and the princelings among the Sauds have far too much invested, and too much to lose, by reforming.

Christian churchmen in the Renaissance could relate. In Henry V, the Archbishop of Canterbury huddles with the Bishop of Ely over a tax bill proposed by the late Henry IV that if passed would confiscate church property (Temporal means used for secular purposes; esquires means gentry, one rank below knights; lazars means lepers; indigent means poor; corporal means physical) :

"Ely: "But how, my lord, shall we resist it now?"

Cant: "It must be thought on. If it pass against us,
We lose the better half of our possession.
For all the temporal lands which men devout
By testament have given to the Church
Would they strip from us, being valued thus:
Full fifteen earls and fifteen hundred knights,
Six thousand and two hundred good esquires,
And, to relief of lazars and weak age
Of indigent faint souls past corporal toil,
A hundred almshouses right well supplied;
And to the coffers of the king besides
A thousand pounds by th' year. Thus runs the bill.

Ely: "That would drink deep."

Cant: "'Twould drink the cup and all."

And of course the Iranian clerics would have to add to that list the gestating and still-unhatched nuclear weapons over which they now brood, while the Saudi Wahabbis would be surrendering the world's biggest pot of sweet crude oil.

Shakespeare's writing encompassed the religious struggle which in the next fifty years would ignite religious civil wars throughout Europe, The resolution of those wars starting in the 1640's involved an increasingly official separation of church and state, the foundation of the spiritual peace the West largely enjoyed for the past 350 years, right up until last week, when France exploded in flames.

It is to be remembered how ancient the division of political authority in the West is, not only between church and state but between ruler and (vaguely) representatives of the ruled. After all, the Archbishop and the Bishop are discussing the former King's mere proposal to confiscate church lands. The new King, Henry V, must still get it passed. And this is a history play not only for us but for Shakespeare as well, referring to events in the 1340's.

So we ask a great deal of Islamic societies by expecting them to catch up so quickly to something we were able to do so slowly. Nevertheless, given the dangers involved, there seems little choice but to ask, indeed to insist. Shakespeare, however, and as always, helps us refocus on the human dimension of what is before us.

I will leave you with the Archbishop's estimation of Henry V, who inherits the confiscation bill from his father but does not enforce it, valuing a proper balance between the secular and religious realms. In two prequels, Henry V (then Price Hal) was a practical joker and ne'er-do-well, keeping (bad) company with Falstaff and despaired of by his father, but he has now emerged as a great, balanced and wise ruler. Indeed he represents the flower of what a tolerant Western society may produce (a chartered libertine means a free spirit who is licensed to roam at will; prelate means churchman):

Cant: "Hear him but reason in divinity,
And, all-admiring, with an inward wish
You would desire the King were made a prelate.
Hear him debate of commonwealth affairs
You would say it hath been all in all his study,
List his discourse of war, and you shall hear
A fearful battle rendered you in music.
Turn him to any cause of policy,
The Gordian knot of it he will unloose,
Familiar as his garter, that, when he speaks,
The air, a chartered libertine, is still,
And the mute wonder lurketh in men's ears
To steal his sweet and honeyed sentences…."

Here's a related post from the always recommendable politicalteen.
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