The English teacher in me loves the fact that today is the Ides of March. I’m no soothsayer, but today, the middle of March, marks the day when that famous warning was spoken to Julius Caesar: “beware the Ides of March.” Proud and confident, Caesar chooses to ignore the warning. Despite Calpurnia’s attempt to talk him into staying home, and a month of bad dreams stemming from the soothsayer incident, Caesar set off to the Senate. As a result of his hubris, a delicious cocktail was concocted in memoriam.
As in Caesar’s Rome, there are many warnings for us to heed in today’s political arena. Travel bans, border walls, executive orders, and citizenship tests however, are little league. Worse is the increased rhetoric around cultural xenophobia, religious persecution, relativism and the drive to secularize us to politically correct oblivion. Today, when some municipal officials fancy themselves as MLAs or MPs, when armchair pundits spin alternative facts from Google and Wikipedia as if Gospel truth, we quickly find ourselves mired in political ugliness. We see those with lean and hungry look, those who would be Caesar. We see the long blades hidden under white togas.
Poor behaviour, slander, and blogging to complain about not getting one’s way after a public vote reveal just how out of touch with decorum and due process, some of our ‘governors’ are. Caesar, in Act I-ii, warns us about such political parasites when sizing up his rival: “Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; he thinks too much; such men are dangerous.” The danger is real and transcends all humanity. We have witnessed first-hand what happens when such leaders are left unchecked and unchallenged by the reasonably informed bystanders in the world.
In Act IV, Brutus, upon realizing the folly of his hand in the assassination enterprise, offers a summation of that delicate and precarious balance of fair and just versus poor and corrupt governance: “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.” All politicians and leaders need to take heed and understand that ‘fortune’ means serving the common good with integrity, with respect for the dignity of others. These should be the first planks of any platform. To ignore this is folly, yet malfeasance and poor examples exist and persist.
Today, I will enjoy a Caesar salad, perhaps an Orange Julius, and contemplate the warning signs that are so very present in our geo-political landscape. Provincial and national leadership races are afoot. The federal Conservative bracket challenge, with its umpteen contenders and pretenders, smacks of Game of Thrones. The Alberta “unite the right” drama with Kenny and Jean fighting for the helm of that ship of state, warrants sombre thought and reflection. Ultimately, despite the many ideologies vying for power, there will be many seeking election or re-election, all of them honourable men and women. May due process and voter voice bring us all to good fortune!
How will I heed the soothsayers? I am going to lend my ears to truth. I will take greater interest in the platform of our current and would-be leaders. I will delve deeper into the labyrinth of their politically correct ideologies, of those who would seek to bend us to their will, and those who have a vision of prosperity for all. In the meanwhile, I will avoid trips to political venues today and perhaps enjoy Caesar’s signature cocktail after work today.
Tim Cusack is an educator, writer, and member of the naval reserve.