Growing up I was “educated” like a lot of my fellow ‘Mericans in the Euro-American narrative, with feel-good Just-So history. There were so many stories to choose from… Kind and just kings ruling over the loving peasantry; intrepid explorers “settling” the frontier; or a fearless man with a badge breaking up some criminal conspiracy. Ah, youth! I miss those simple times, that really only existed in fantasy. What does that have to do with the Ides Of March? Well, the way my elders learnt me, Julius Caesar was the strong and just ruler who got back-stabbed by a bunch of mean and jealous guys. The moral I got from that story was “When you try to do something good, there’s always going to be a critic.”
Fast-forward into my adulthood and I started to see life isn’t that simple. In the words of Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us!” Slowly, slowly I started to see the stories that shaped my worldview as myths. Growing pains. After blind faith comes disillusionment. Lies, all lies! But after disillusionment comes metaphor. You start to see that all stories are mirrors, opportunities to see yourself as multifaceted, the hero and the villain. Especially, when you strive to be part of something beyond yourself, part of a family, community, nation.
Now, we are moving into an ambitious and ambiguous springtime. Vaccinations are accelerating. Some kind of normalcy is within reach. Will we take the lessons of the last year, solidarity and caring within a feeling of community, and build on a new and humble sense of collective identity? Or will we come crashing through the gate, sloshing our drinks, elbowing the weak and hesitant out of the way in a mad dash toward freedumb? Based on my study of history, I’d have to say both.
But there’s more to it than that. I’m pretty sure we’ll see some beautiful expressions of community and caring this year. There will be many opportunities to “fight the good fight.” But the ingrained habit of choosing sides, creating an easy narrative of hero vs. villain is deceptive. “Beware the Ides of March” might be a good way to remind ourselves that we must go forward, but trepidatiously, knowing the mistakes we are capable of as we proceed; togas draped elegantly, knives out, ready to smite enemies, yet hopefully more aware that the enemy is us. What do you think?
Have a great week!