“The belief that one’s own view of reality is the only reality is the most dangerous of all delusions.” ~ Paul Watzwalick

  

                The Fuhrer Quartett: German Card Game Featuring 32 Despots . . .                 Updated Version of Go Fish

 

Harris Poll (March 2010) found that
67 percent of Republicans polled believe that Obama is a socialist
45 percent believe Obama was not born in the United States
38 percent say that Obama is “doing many of the things that Hitler did”
24 percent believe that Obama is the antichrist, a biblical figure who foretells the end of the world.

You have probably noticed that I have a problem with the misuse of words, the bastardization of language, the misrepresentation of terms. I believe that if I am going to use a word, I should at least have a passing acquaintance with its definition and application, and most certainly, that should be the case with anyone. Therefore, I feel a pressing need to expound on the word tyrant and its companion word tyranny.  

Tyrant is being bandied about willy nilly by many politicians, would-be politicians, and politicos, and I fear that most of those using the word really do not know what it means. Tyrant derives from the Latin tyrannus, meaning “sole ruler.” The term did not have a negative connotation until 5th century Athens, at which time democrats identified tyrants as those with uncontrolled power. “They easily became violent and mean despots, surrounded by sycophants. Democracy, in this philosophy, was the exact opposite: people were free to speak and power was controled and balanced” (Livius).  

“The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy” ~ Charles de Montesquieu
Mao Card in The Fuhrer Quartett

In its most basic sense, a tyrant is a person who seizes power without the means of constitutional or hereditary power. In the classic sense, Plato and Aristotle define a tyrant as  “one who rules without law, looks to his own advantage rather than that of his subjects, and uses extreme and cruel tactics—against his own people as well as others.”  

A tyrant places the interests of an oligarchy over the interests of the general population. To clarify, an oligarchy exists when power resides in a small, elite segment of society that wields control for selfish purposes; the oligarchy may be members who are tied by wealth, bloodlines, religious disposition, or who are members of the military, not to be confused with a democracy, which is rule by smaller groups representing the masses by winning power through public support (elections). The main difference between an oligarchy and a democracy is that power can be challenged in a democracy. Aristotle used the term oligarchy negatively to refer to a debased form of aristocracy in which power was in the hands of a few corrupt individuals.  

Historically, several names instantly come to mind when speaking of Tyrants: Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Lenin, Mussolini, Idi Amin, Pol Pot. The main thread that ties these rulers together is death. I read one article that compared Mao, Stalin and Hitler by the number of people who died under their regimes:

  Deaths Killings Murders
Mao 40 million 10m 10m
Hitler 34 million 34m 15m
Stalin 20 million 20m 20m

  

However, these numbers have factors that affect the totals. For example, under Mao’s rule, almost 30 million people died from famine. Hitler’s totals include those who were casualties of WWII. Statistics on tyrants vary widely. Take Idi Amin, better known as The Butcher of Uganda: The number of people who were killed, tortured, and/or imprisoned by the dictator is listed at anywhere from 100 to 500,000. That’s quite a variance.  

Different sources contend that Pol Pot, leader of the Khmer Rouge, killed anywhere from 1.5 to 2 million Cambodians from 1974 to 1979. Pol Pot’s attempt to form  a Communist peasant farming society resulted in the deaths of 21 to 25 percent of the country’s population from starvation, overwork and executions.  

“It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice.” ~ Henry A. Wallace

Okay, why the history lesson? I think that opening today’s news and reading Boehner’s declaration that a “political rebellion” akin to the American revolution of 1776 is brewing kind of set the tone for my day. I mean, every single day I read yet another quote calling President Obama, Democrats, and progressive Republicans tyrants. Take this gem:  

“If you are one of those pastors who willfully allow yourself to be used as an agent by some hypothetical tyrannical government to enable an illegal government to carry out their tyranny against the American people you will be guilty of treason . . . What Obama, the Democrats, and the willing weak Republicans are doing is the same as many of the things the King of England was doing. They are enemies of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A final word – Resistance against tyranny is not rebellion. It is righteous!”   

Or this:  

“I’m interested in saving our republic from tyranny, ‘Obamacare’ tyranny, any kind of tyranny.”  

Or this:  

“Obama’s Health Care Reform Bill along with numerous other actions and proposals are no different than the tyranny from the Crown of England against our forefathers. He and his Marxist allies in Congress and the media need to be quickly retired.”  

Marxist allies? Wait. Is he a socialist or a communist? They aren’t the same thing, you know. No wait. You obviously don’t know.  

end of part one . . .

  

Music by Ray Charles, “Drown in My Tears” 

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“Mi sopragiunse uno soave sonno” (Sweet sleep overcame me) ~ From Dante’s La Vita Nuova

Korean War Memorial in Snow, Washington, DC (image by Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Vide cor tuum (See your heart)
E d’esto core ardendo (And of this burning heart)
Cor tuum (Your heart) ~ From Vide Cor Meum from Dante’s La Vita Nuova

U.S. Capitol in Snow (image by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Well, the snow has left the area, melted, gone, no more. We were lucky. Not much accumulation, but we did get icy roads on Saturday night. Apparently, those to the north of us in the state were hammered. Pretty much everything in the DC metropolitan area is closed today—federal agencies, local governments, schools, and forecasters are predicting more snow tomorrow. Flights have resumed at National Airport, where people have been stranded for days, and tens of thousands of people are without power, with no predictions as to when power might be restored. Amtrak has resumed train travel, which means long lines at Union Station filled with people who cannot get out of the area any other way. 

Cross country skiers made their way through the snow, while others were left digging out vehicles that were completely covered by the storm. I’m including pictures of DC/Northern Virginia to give you an idea of what it’s like there. Thankfully, none of that for our area. In fact, today it’s a whopping 39° F. That’s almost 20 degrees warmer than yesterday. I spent most of yesterday wrapped up in the blankets trying to keep my nose warm. Ah life. Always an adventure. 

So yesterday was the Super Bowl. I did not watch as I am completely uninterested in the NFL. That doesn’t make me un-American, just not interested in football. I did, however, peruse the Super Bowl commercials earlier today as these commercials tend to be a little more creative than most mainstream commercials. I’m including my two favorites, KGB’s I Surrender, and E-Trade’s Milkawhat. 

 

 

Io sono in pace (I am in peace)
Cor meum (My heart)
Io sono in pace (I am in peace)
Vide cor meum (See my heart) ~ From Vide Cor Meum from Dante’s La Vita Nuova

Downed Tree Branch in Alexandria, VA (Cliff Owen/AP)

I told Corey earlier that I didn’t really have any idea on what to post today. I mean, there are things going on: In Washington state, a 17-year-old boy crashed his parents’ car into his school and drove down the hall . . . In New York, a 61-year-old woman was cited for driving in the Plus-One lane with a mannequin, decked out in wig and sunglasses . . . And in tech news, Dante’s Inferno has been turned into a video game. 

You might think that with my background in literature I would be offended by gamers taking this classic and turning it into video fare, but I’m not. I’m all for anything that introduces the classics to people who might otherwise be uninterested, even if it is but a glimpse of the original. I don’t kid myself that the game will delve too deeply into the original, but if playing the game causes even one person to turn to the book, then something has been accomplished. 

The movie version of Beowulf that came out a few years ago took liberties with the Medieval tale, yet many of the original aspects were there. Of course, Grendel’s mother in the original did not look like a shimmering Angelina Jolie, but the original storyline of the warrior Beowulf slaying Grendel was kept, albeit embellished. 

The movie 1980s movie Excalibur still remains one of the best retellings of the Arthurian legend, including the betrayal of Lancelot and Guinevere and the search for the grail. Clive Owen’s King Arthur added new dimensions to the tale by incorporating the battle of Baden Hill, which is believed to be the actual battle fought by the Arthur on whom the legend is based.  

Robin in Snow (Jewel Samad/AFP Getty Images)

I’m not saying that I think that our youth should be getting their history lessons from games and movies; however, when a game or movie does present a relatively accurate depiction of history or a literary classic, I view it as a good thing, yet another way in which to teach those who under different circumstances, might never hear of Dante’s Inferno or be interested in reading Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. 

I mean, think of all of the movies that have given viewers glimpses into actual events: Saving Private Ryan (veterans praised the accuracy of the beach-storming scene); Schindler’s List (Shoa survivors were gratified by Spielberg’s honest retelling of the Holocaust); Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 (depicted the fateful flight that almost didn’t make it home); Enemy at the Gates (the battle of Stalingrad); Mississippi Burning (the 1964 slaying of civil rights activists); The Killing Fields (Viet Nam under Pol Pot after the Americans pulled out). 

Of course, the list could be much longer. I just chose the ones that came to mind readily, those films that have stayed with me through the years, some of which my own children have seen and from which they have taken away pieces of history. 

Digging Out in Maryland (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

For every boatload of garbage that Hollywood produces, there is one gem. The same could be said of any medium—music, literature, television. So much is rehashed, redone, retooled, and not towards making something better but usually for lack of original thought. But those few that stand out are the ones from which we take away a sense of time or place or person. The ones that, at the end of the day, we gleaned something from and were made better because of it. 

Consider the movie version of Hannibal, based on the book by Thomas Harris. No. I’m not holding the movie up as a substitute history lesson. Rather, I am pointing out that even in the midst of one of the goriest movies around, great beauty exists—this time in the form of the aria “Vide Cor Meum,” which was written specifically for the movie by Patrick Cassidy. The aria is based on a sonnet from Dante’s La Vita Nuova, in which Dante professes his love for Beatrice. Of course, I could do an entire post on the use of classical music in movies, television, even Loony Tunes, but that’s for another time. 

More later. Peace. 

  

Katherine Jenkins performing “Vide Cor Meum.” Sublime.