Quote of the Day: “A soothsayer bids you beware the Ides of March.” –Brutus, to Julius Caesar, in Julius Caesar by Shakespeare
As everyone knows, Brutus answered Caesar’s last words in the affirmative as he dealt the final and killing blow to the most famous of all Roman leaders. Down through the centuries, his legacy has endured equivocal approbation. Although most would agree Caesar’s power grab was wrong, there is an element of discomfort and disapproval in how his quest for absolute power was thwarted by Brutus, et al. Regicide, to many, is the worst of all sins, no matter the justification. On top of that Brutus is often seen as the ultimate, though honorable perhaps, traitor in that he dealt the killing thrust to one who was not only known as his good friend, but to one who had only recently spared his own life when Brutus chose the losing side in civil war. In my opinion the historical reputation of Brutus and those like him has also been manipulated through the years by an ever present cultural bias against those who chip away at the establishment and their power. TB, sympathetic to the ones who make this cause their own, therefore views Brutus’ act as one of the greatest courage, an act of one who advanced the universal arc of liberty, and an act which deserves to have the stain of lukewarm praise removed for at least a few days each year. And on this eve of the Ides of March, I list for you some others who took on the cause of liberty, of chipping away at that establishment wall, only to be immortalized as controversial, flawed heroes, self interested egomaniacs and even failures–reputations that only solidify in my mind the true import of their acts. Let’s accord them the honor of unequivocal greatness, just through the Ides of March.
Oliver Cromwell–perhaps the ultimate anti-establishmentarian. He deposed the monarchy in England for a short period of time. Few men, if any, have left a legacy of debate as to their standing as hero or villain within their own country.
John Adams–he sacrificed his reelection bid and his entire political party ultimately by going against his party’s wishes and keeping the United States out of a war with France that he knew could not be won. Only recently have a best selling biography and accompanying mini-series on him rehabilitated his reputation as one of the lest effective of the founding fathers, and even so, he is still generally held in a different class than his contemporaries such as Washington and Jefferson.
Napoleon Bonaparte–begrudgingly accepted universally as one of the greatest military minds of all time, Napoleon is at the same time viewed as an upstart usurper unsuited to hold civilian power. The whole of European aristocracy went to war to stop him, and not to protect the petty freedoms of the peasantry.
Corporate whistleblowers–the accountant who exposed Worldcom’s fraudulent books, and the Insider who shined the light on the tobacco industry’s evil empire are two of the most prominent heroes of recent times of the sort I seek to honor at the Ides. Their courage is even greater than that of the politicians and generals of history for they had–the have–no position of strength from which to act. They are the triggering event for stock declines though the farthest thing from the cause of it. Because of this loss of wealth and because they are typically awarded some form of compensation, whistleblowers are often portrayed as opportunists and their motives are questioned.
Each of these I’ve listed are different in many ways, but they hold in common a trait TB admires. That is the conscious disregard of the easy path in favor of a difficult one they saw as the righteous. In these difficult times I wonder, is there such a path to be taken that will lead our country out of the mess its in, and if so, is there anyone in Washington with the courage to take it?