WEDNESDAY, APRIL 20, 2022
Sympathy for Cassandra: As it turns out, we shouldn't have started a week-long report this week.
As it turns out, we've been called away from our sprawling campus on a mission of national import. For that reason, we won't be able to finish this week's report on The Disappeared.
We won't be able to wrestle with a certain complex story. We refer to the story concerning the young woman who was held up at gunpoint.
(It's a story you've never heard. The complex story involves Al Sharpton, but also the New York Times.)
We won't be able to get to that story this week. But as we prepare to exit our campus, we increasingly sympathize / identify with Cassandra, the prophet with no last name.
Cassandra, daughter of Priam and Hecuba, could see disaster coming for her native Troy. Her problem was, she couldn't get anyone else to see it.
The leading authority on this history recounts these events as shown:
Cassandra was said to be a daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy. Her older brother was Hector, hero of the Greek-Trojan war. The older and most common versions state that she was admired by the god Apollo, who sought to win her with the gift to see the future. According to Aeschylus, she promised him her favors, but after receiving the gift, she went back on her word and refused the god. The enraged Apollo could not revoke a divine power, so he added to it the curse that though she would see the future, nobody would believe her prophecies.
The sexual politics of those days was primitive, undisguised. More on these events:
Her cursed gift from Apollo became an endless pain and frustration to her. She was seen as a liar and a madwoman by her family and by the Trojan people. Because of this, her father, Priam, had locked her away in a chamber and guarded her like the madwoman she was believed to be. Though Cassandra made many predictions that went unbelieved, the one prophecy that was believed was that of Paris being her abandoned brother.
Before the fall of Troy took place, Cassandra foresaw that if Paris went to Sparta and brought Helen back as his wife, the arrival of Helen would spark the downfall and destruction of Troy during the Trojan War. Despite the prophecy and ignoring Cassandra's warning, Paris still went to Sparta and returns with Helen. While the people of Troy rejoice, Cassandra, angry with Helen's arrival, furiously snatched away Helen's golden veil and tore at her hair.
In Virgil's epic poem, the Aeneid, Cassandra warned the Trojans about the Greeks hiding inside the Trojan Horse, Agamemnon's death, her own demise at the hands of Aegisthus and Clytemnestra, her mother Hecuba's fate, Odysseus's ten-year wanderings before returning to his home, and the murder of Aegisthus and Clytemnestra by the latter's children Electra and Orestes.
She issued those warnings, but no one believed her. So it went for Cassandra of Troy.
As we acknowledged several years ago, Cassandra has been advising us on occasion, addressing us through the nocturnal submissions the haters refer to as dreams. Like Cassandra, we think we see disaster coming, though of course we could always be wrong.
Cassandra's vision involved the tribal warfare between the Trojans and the Achaeans (the Argives). Our vision involves the ongoing tribal warfare between our nation's red and blue tribes, with combat among an ever-increasing array of identity groups adding to the complexification, confusion, disorganization and distrust.
We don't see an obvious way out of this situation. Mountains of money are being made by corporate and personal entities who stoke these intergroup wars. Tribal novelization is big business now.
Regarding the various identity groups to which we've referred, each of these various groups has its own complaints. None of these complaints is necessarily "wrong," but all these complaints will be overstated or built on misstatement at times.
It's Cassandra who has called our attention to these disastrous patterns. We don't see a good way out of the mess, given the systemic, structural nature of this advancing war.
How do matters stand at present? Things aren't encouraging at all.
In our view, the red tribe has already seceded, at least on the leadership levels. Meanwhile, our own blue tribe is busy doing two things:
We're busy creating invidious distinctions between an ever-increasing array of identity groups. For example, black women are now invidiously compared to black men. Stereotypical insults about the Karens are occasionally thrown in.
We're also busy trying to get The Others locked up. These seem like two perfect ways to lose future elections. It's also true that our love of loathing tends to blind us to such facts.
(Or so Cassandra tells us. Even after all these years, she's extremely convincing.)
This morning, as we prepared for our coming mission, we watched a bit more Morning Joe than we normally would. We had these reactions to a pair of fascinating segments, each of which can be watched at the Morning Joe site:
In the first segment to which we refer, Jonathan Haidt discussed his new essay in The Atlantic, "Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid."
Haidt said the evolving culture of social media has been turning the nation into a Babel. (His term. Beyond that, he explicitly said that we can typically see the "stupidity" of other groups, but we can't quite see our own.)
Haidt described social media's role in creating a Babel. (He didn't mention the role played by mainstream news orgs.)
But uh-oh! When Haidt suggested that unbalanced, unintelligent commentary on social media is coming at us from various points on the political spectrum, we thought we saw Professor Glaude make the classic unhelpful suggestion:
The stupidity is only coming from Them; it isn't coming from Us. Or at least, that's what we thought Professor Glaude pretty much said.
Is that what Professor Glaude said? We thought that's what we saw him suggest. If you choose to watch the segment, you'll have to decide for yourself.
In the second segment to which we refer, Mallory McMorrow, a Wisconsin state senator, discussed the way she was attacked in a recent fund-raising pitch by a Republican colleague.
McMorrow, age 35, is stone-cold political talent. (She graduated from Notre Dame in 2008.)
She looks like talent; she articulates like talent. Then again, there's also what she said.
Yesterday, McMorrow became an instant blue tribe icon, thanks to the aggressive way she pushed back against the charges made in the fund-raising letter. On Morning Joe, we thought McMorrow went wrong, and we'll guess that Cassandra agrees.
On Morning Joe, McMorrow hotly attacked the "hatred" shown by the Republican state senator who launched the accusations. She didn't say that she regretted her colleague's "lack of wisdom." She went straight to a major bomb, with Joe hotly urging her on.
We know what Cassandra will say about that approach. For starters, she'll talk about President Clinton.
("We don't have a single person to waste," the inclusive candidate said in 1992. He campaigned on behalf of everyone who "works hard and plays by the rules.")
She's also going to talk about President Obama's speech, the one which shot him to fame in 2004.
("We pray to God in the blue states," he said. "Also, we coach Little League in the red states.")
That meant that we're the united states, the emerging superstar said. At the time, we wondered why it had taken so long for someone to make that speech.
Cassandra has said it before. There's only one way out of this mess. The savior pol—the new Lincoln, the new FDR—would pretty much have to say this:
I believe in the people who voted for me. I also believe in the people who voted against me.
I endorse every one of you, however you decided to vote. We get to vote the way we choose, but each of us has a citizen's duty. We have a citizen's duty to be careful in the things we say and in the judgments we make.
We have a duty to triple-check the things we're prepared to believe. We have to respect our neighbors and friends if they reach a different judgment. Each of us has a citizen's duty to do those basic things.
Cassandra will say that the savior pol is going to have to make that statement every single time out. We can already hear the howls of protest from the war-inclined citizens behind our own blue walls.
We suspect that it's already too late for any such savior pol. We see people saying the darndest things on various sides of the aisle.
We've become a Babel, we're inclined to say—an angry, routinely unintelligent collections of warring tribes.
Cassandra says she still regrets what happened on the wide plains before Troy. You never really get over such things, the prophet despondently says.