Thursday, November 10, 2005

Two Minds Thinking Alike

Not that anyone else will notice the connection, but Ray McGovern notes something we've been talking about:

Allegations keep cropping up in the press that CIA professionals are undermining the administration. In at least one sense, I suppose, this is true. For when an administration embarks on a war justified by little or no intelligence, speaking truth can be regarded as treachery. The country could use more of that kind of "treachery."

Cheney's current situation has the makings of a Greek tragedy in the way he is about to self-destruct. The tragic flaw of overweening arrogance - the Greeks called it hubris - did not begin with Euripides. Nor will it end with the inexorably approaching demise of the vice president and other leaders of the current US administration.
I would locate the tragic protagonist in Bush, however, not Cheney. And, sadly, this won't end like a Greek tragedy; it will end as historical farce.

"Antigone" turns on one sentence from Tiresias, the blind prophet. Up until the prophet's appearance, the audience can be forgiven for thinking the play is about the daughter of Oedipus, that she is the tragic protagonist. But before the play is over she is hauled away to be entombed alive, and that is when Tiresias appears and brings Creon to a halt:

TIRESIAS: Then reflect, my son: you are posed,
once more, on the razor-edge of fate.
Creon listens, but just as quickly rejects what Tiresias has to say. In the end, of course, he finally accepts that he has been wrong, but it is too late, and soon not only is Antigone dead, but so are Creon's son Haemon, and his wife and mother of his child, Eurydice.

And the guilt is all mine--
can never be fixed on another man,
no escape for me, I killed you,
I, god help me, I admit it all!

Take me away, quickly, out of sight,
I don't even exist--I'm no one. Nothing.
This is where tragedy parts from reality, and not only because George W. Bush will never say those words, will never have that depth of self=realization, of responsibility. In tragedy, the disaster is personal; it strikes directly in the home. Indeed, so much of "Antigone" tracks with Shakespeare's "King Lear" that the endings of the two plays are almost identical. "Medea," "Oedipus Rex," Shakespeare's tragedies: the protagonists who fall feel the pain personally. They may visit it on others (thus satisfying Aristotle's requirement that they be a person of significance, upon whom others must depend), but it is, in the end, visited upon them.

No one expects that to happen to George W. Bush or Dick Cheney. They have nothing at risk except their reputations and their political power. But they will lay that power down eventually, anyway; and their reputations will be subject stitching and unstitching; they will have their shot at their second acts. Richard Nixon is the Great American example. Indeed, both Bush and Cheney have both made friends for themselves among the children of this age, so that they can be welcomed into the eternal homes.

And we will be the ones who suffer for their injustice. Like Antigone, we won't live to see their suffering. In fact, it raises anew the question of God's justice and what we should expect of it. Perhaps it even takes us back to that chorus in "Antigone", about the glory of reason in humankind, and how that view compares with the view of the Psalmist. Two ways we have in this world; and which one that we should follow? Which one makes sense of things for us?

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