“My wits begin to turn.—
Come on, my boy. How dost, my boy? Art cold?
I am cold myself. Where is this straw, my fellow?
The art of our necessities is strange
That can make vile things precious. Come, your
Poor Fool and knave, I have one part in my heart
That’s sorry yet for thee.”
Spo-fans know these are troublesome times in history, especially in the USA. There is a lot anger, hurt, anxiety, and paranoia. This is accomplished by ill-will, poor manners, and downright nastiness. What to do? It is tempting to withdrawal and isolate oneself; it is easy to succumb to the dark side and join them.
Out of all of Shakespeare’s play King Lear is the most bleak. The villains get the upper-hand and there is no redemption. There is no sense justice or right has been accomplished . What keeps the tragedy from being utterly despairing is throughout there are small acts of kindness, like little drops in a bucket full of ditchwater. They are hardly noticed among the misery. Lear, The Fool, “Poor Tom” – all down and out – comfort each other. Only one stands out: during the blinding of Gloucester , an unnamed servant suddenly speaks out to say this is wrong. There is no apparent benefit. He is promptly killed and the blinding continues. Some see this as another example of the play’s futility but I see it as a loud blatant call to the audience to ponder doing something yourself.
Most of us think of heroes as the people who do dramatic actions like saving the world while the soundtrack swells and the nation applauds. I say real heroism is seen in the everyday deeds of good and simple folk. Their actions are hardly noticed. If they are they usually dismissed as insignificant. Power has a paradox: what looks to have power does not and what looks powerless holds power. I may never be called on to save a regiment but I can assist a person in need.
In light of Hair Furor and his minions turning people into faceless stereotypes I am doing something inspired from King Lear. “Illegals” “Muslims” “Liberals” are labels which allow people to hate others as something nameless. When I meet a homeless person asking for money, or faced with a person at odds with me politically, I ask them their name. I tell them mine. This deflates the dynamic of seeing a person from a faceless nonentity into an individual. It’s easy to hate ‘them” but not so one person. Then I say “John, it won’t change until we talk” or “John, here’s a quarter. I wish it were more. I am sorry for your plight”.
Perhaps like Lear, these small deeds will not stop the tragedy. Maybe my attempts at standing up for the Gloucesters of the world will only get me clobbered. Objecting to autocrats and refusing to turn others into nameless “Thems” may be all the heroism I can be. I hope it makes a difference in these trying times.