Yesterday, I covered an event for Small Town Newspaper in which the guest speaker quoted Pericles to sum up the importance of financially supporting the local food pantry. He chose a sentence from the famous Funeral Oration, not that I knew what that was right away. In fact, I knew absolutely nothing about Pericles except a vague idea of how to spell his name.
I wasn't able to jot down the quote on the spot, so I went home to look it up and to find out something about this Pericles. No one is perfect, and so of course he has some marks against him, but he has some bright spots as well. Pericles was a prominent citizen of Greece (c 495-429 b.c.). He was responsible for the beautification project of Athens, which resulted in the Acropolis, the Parthenon, lots of theaters and temples and, of course, jobs for the citizens who built the things.
He supported the arts and made sure even the poorest of citizens were allowed to see theatrical performances at the expense of those who could afford the extra tickets. He promoted democracy and was considered "The First Citizen of Athens."
Pericles was also a great orator, which leads to what I find very interesting and yet disheartening. According to his supporters, Pericles spoke without gimmicks or the vulgar "tricks of mob-orators." He was calm and intelligent, yet he "carried the weapons of Zeus when he spoke." But his detractors thought he was arrogant and high-minded with his language, and they called him presumptuous and haughty and said his tone suggested a contempt for his adversaries.
And as for his abilities as a political leader, he was accused of starting a war with Sparta to take the attention off of his suspected short-comings and impending investigation into his handling of public funds, a sort of wag-the-dog act of aggression.
Does any of this sound familiar? If you speak well, the people who like you think you're delightful but the people who don't like you think you stink no matter what your message. If you instigate war with an enemy, your supporters get behind you, and your enemies think you're just creating a smoke screen.
Husband and I have been watching West Wing with a vengeance, sometimes watching three episodes in one evening. And the battles the fictional White House fought ten years ago are so similar to the real White House battles of today and the ancient political battles of Athens, it's startling.
I'm on the verge of throwing up my hands and calling the whole thing a waste of time. Let's just each pick our favorite activity and focus on it—you choose. Art creating, pottery making, math solving, science experimenting, cooking, dress making, car manufacturing, fire fighting, wine making, cheese making, bread baking, writing, teaching, publishing, coffee brewing, burger flipping, mothering, fathering, listening, reading, philosophizing, learning, praying, meditating, printing, music making, music conducting, music composing, bridge building, boat building, house building, building designing, road construction, tree trimming, flower planting, rubber tire manufacturing, farming, grass cutting, doctoring, poem writing, film making, acting, baby sitting, peace keeping, furniture making, lamp making, map making, hair cutting, nail polishing, retailing, package delivering, relaxing in a chair with a good book and a hot cup of French press coffee.
If we each just took care of our own thing, then maybe we wouldn't need all the hot air that comes with politics. What do you think?