Scene In Passing: Partisan passion exiting; voters take stage
Happy Tuesday is on the horizon.
Election day is the best day culminating after the worst season. It reinforces the truth democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the rest, as Sir Winston Churchill put it. So the first Tuesday in November every couple of years is about results in the United States, for good or ill, but best of all it ends the inane blather and drivel leading up to it.
Another Englishman of an earlier era, William Shakespeare, offered insight into the risks of passionate outbursts or emotion-driven conniving when he wrote about families feuding in his tragedy “Romeo and Juliet:”
“A plague on both your houses.” An overused phrase borrowed aplenty to criticize labor-management disputes and other things once again applies. It covers many of the national, state and even local races, mostly as a critique concerning partisanship. But it also can apply in non-partisan races in which candidates and party hacks, or those with axes to grind, muck around making mountainous molehills.
In “Romeo and Juliet,” Shakespearean character Mercutio spoils for a street brawl. His friend Romeo, trying to stop a sword fight, comes between the drawn weapons of Tybalt and Mercutio, blocking Mercutio’s view of Tybalt’s sword coming under Romeo’s arm. The thrust critically wounds Mercutio, who too late sees the folly of taking sides in the family feud on Romeo’s behalf.
“Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man,” he says. “A plague on both your houses! Zounds, a dog, a rat, a mouse, a cat, to scratch a man to death! A rogue, a villain that fights by the book of arithmetic!
Why the devil between us? I was hurt under your arm.”
“I thought all for the best,” Romeo replies. Ah, there’s the rub. Counseling moderation, as Romeo does because he has fallen for Juliet in the family with which his own is feuding, can backfire. The law of unintended consequences often means the extreme and passionate parts of each faction in a feud will clash, sooner or later. Emotions and passion prevail; reason exits the stage.
Everyone venerates George Washington, the nation’s first president, as father of the country, but rarely does anyone pay heed to his admonitions against partisan politics, sectionalism or factionalism. He counseled against it in his final message to the nation, but put it best in a July 27, 1795, letter to Timothy Pickering.
Washington decried the “turbulence of human passions in party disputes, when victory more than truth is the palm contended for.” Voters in the main, however, see through the passion play. They bypass demagoguery and drivel. Unlike Romeo, whose emotions and conniving spurred him to follow Mercutio into the great beyond, self-informed voters see the trap of emotions run rampant.
They know an election, unlike a Shakespearean drama, is bad street theater. It’s mostly blather.
John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at email@example.com.