Amid the coronavirus crisis, a scandal erupted late last week when media reported that four U.S. senators may have become involved in insider trading by selling their shares in hotel stocks after learning of confidential hearings. on the probable effect that the virus would have on the stock market. Three of the senators, Richard Burr, Kelly Loeffler and James Inhofe, are Republicans and one, Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat.

What it means to be a war president


When the press confronted the President of the United States, Donald Trump, on the subject, he avoided any mention of the names of the Republicans and focused only on the Democrat. But he excused them all for something he clearly considered unworthy of concern.

The President explained: “I saw some names, I know them all. I know they all mentioned Dianne Feinstein, I suppose, and a few others. I don’t know what it’s all about, but I think they are very honorable people, that’s all I know, and they said they did nothing wrong. I find them, the whole group, very honorable. ”

Here is today’s 3D definition:


Probably guilty of various types of social injustices and even crimes, but wealthy and powerful enough not to be charged for those offenses

Contextual note

In response to another question,
Trump repeated: “I think they are honorable people.” Then after insisting on
Naming the only Democrat among the four cited lawmakers, he replied, “Well,
It also includes Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, you didn’t mention her name. Why
Didn’t you mention his name? I think he is a really honorable person, for the

In just over a minute, Trump
I used the adjective “honorable” four times. Nothing could better illustrate
be it the poverty of Trump’s literary culture or the subtlety of his rhetoric
that the fact that he was not the first person in the history of the English
insist on designating somewhat suspicious individuals as “honorable”.
Four centuries ago, William Shakespeare provided a precedent that most
English speakers, including children, are familiar.

Shakespeare’s play, “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar,” tells the story of the conspiracy organized by the Roman senator Marcus Junius Brutus to assassinate Caesar, the official ruler of Rome whom the Senate had honored with the dictator of the title (the term did not have the same meaning for the Romans that it has today). After the murder, the conspirators allowed young Marc Antony, Caesar’s ally, to address the Roman people. They hoped that by accepting the murder, he would calm the public’s fears. In his famous sentence, Antonio at first seemed to apologize to the conspirators. Five times, with increasingly sharp irony, he referred to Brutus as an “honorable man” and the conspirators as “honorable men.” People quickly understood Antonio’s not-too-hidden meaning: that what “honorable” men had done was, in fact, shameful.

At the press conference where Trump
asked for his opinion on the allegations against the four senators, the
The President did his best in a limited time. But he couldn’t match Antony’s
record the amount of “honorable” in the shortest period of time. The end
Score: Antony 5-4 Trump.

Historic note

Marc Antony’s speech in Act III, scene 2 of Shakespeare’s play, “Julius Caesar,” which begins with the words, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears,” remains one of the most famous passages in English literature. For that reason, it is highly unlikely that Donald Trump, before his press conference last week, would have never read the sentence or heard it spoken by an actor. On the other hand, it is very likely that you have never considered it important enough to keep it in your long-term memory.

One would think that today
politicians would consider it prudent to follow the example of Antonio, whose irony had
a powerful impact on the crowd, powerful enough to start a civil war that only
ended in the battle of Actium 10 years later. The two main assassins whom
Antonio insists that they are honorable, Brutus and Cassius, demonstrated their sense of Roman.
honor in Act V by committing suicide.

While the first-century historian Plutarch recounts the story in his famous “Lives of the Greek and Roman Nobles,” Brutus opposed the conspirators’ intention to assassinate not only Caesar but also Antony. Plutarch accuses Brutus of two costly “failures” that amount to underestimating the threat Antony posed. The first was Brutus’ refusal to murder Antony and the second, allowing Antony to continue with a funeral prayer.

Here are Antony’s five invocations of
The idea of ​​an “honorable man”, written by Shakespeare:

“Here, under license from Brutus and the rest–

Because Brutus is an honorable man;

So are all, all honorable men.

Come talk at Cesar’s funeral.

He was my friend, faithful and fair to me:

But Brutus says he was ambitious;

And Brutus is an honorable man …

When the poor wept, Caesar wept:

Ambition must be made of harder material:

However, Brutus says he was ambitious;

And Brutus is an honorable man.

Three times I gave him a royal crown,

Which he rejected three times: was this ambition?

However, Brutus says he was ambitious;

And, of course, he is an honorable man. “

Politicians could do worse than studying
Shakespeare will learn to deal with rebellious or ill-reputed crowds
conspirators It is true, however, that Antonio’s irony would not go well in
America today where the media and tweet armies tend to take everything
literally in the belief that people should always say what they want to say and say
what they say. Irony will always be misinterpreted and politicians have
I learned to avoid it. So while it is tempting to speculate, nothing
justifies thinking that Trump pretended to be ironic by subtly referring to
Shakespeare’s play.

However, there may be a different ironic twist to meditate in light of Trump’s performance. It may even involve tragic irony. Antonio’s speech unleashed the civil war that was finally resolved with the disappearance of the Roman Republic in favor of an empire ruled by General Octavio, nephew and adoptive son of César, who, when all the smoke had cleared, in 27 to. C. assumed that title of Emperor Augustus.

The extreme polarization of politics.
in the United States today has reached a point that had already begun to
resemble a nascent civil war, even before the devastation caused by the
coronavirus (COVID-19. The current pandemic and confusing decision-making
has been generated has drawn attention to the fragility of the two ideological
pillars of the American political system: democracy and free market capitalism.
Can it respond to human needs in times of crisis? Can they even do it in
What do people consider “normal” times?

The drama of climate change had
It has already created a climate of anguish around this historical dilemma. How can a
political and economic system built around the goal of transforming the
, guided by the sole objective of maximizing private profit,
Restrict yourself from depleting all the vital resources of the planet? COVID-19
has aggravated and highlighted the fundamental dilemma, a question
Humanity as a whole must respond in the coming years.

As despair grows over the consequences of COVID-19, we must ask ourselves two related questions. First, is the United States undergoing political change that could lead to civil war? Second, could the current situation in any way be comparable to the transformation of the Roman Republic into an empire? Many Americans, who are busy stocking up on guns and bullets (as they often do whenever there is a national drama), may well be preparing for civil war, however, given the lack of command structure, it is likely to resemble more to “Mad Max” than the rivalry of the armies led by Roman triumvirs.

We might even wonder if the process
it has not yet achieved its effects. After all, the United States has been acting as a
empire for the past 75 years. And recent presidents of the United States, perhaps starting
with Ronald Reagan, they have adopted attitudes and methods of government that can
sometimes they resemble those of some 1st century Roman emperors. These
they include, together with the illustrious Augustus, two other notorious names: Nero
and Caligula. Some people find that Donald Trump bears a remote resemblance to
true of those emperors.

As for what will happen to the four
Senators “honorable”, the scandal associated with them has at least momentarily
has been overwhelmed by the drama of voting for a comprehensive bailout. And yet
history tells us that Brutus and Cassius, the honorable leaders of the
conspiracy to kill Caesar: both committed suicide in Actium, unlikely
that any of the four senators accused of insider trading will be tempted to
follow the example of the Romans.

* *[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]

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