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THINKING ALLOWED


Essays on Issues, Ideas and Reflections on the Times. Published now and
then. Opinions pro or con are welcome.

Assassins Aren't Shouting "Sic Semper Tyrannis" Anymore

North Miami Beach, FL 12-20-2005
A.H. Schectman

I just thought of the dramatic leap John Wilkes Booth made after he shot Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theater.  Somewhere in there he caught his heel in the curtain, fell and broke his leg but he IS recorded as having made that immortal and infamous theatrical gesture of declaiming in Latin that the South would be avenged and, perhaps, rise again.

Assassins are not shouting “Sic Semper Tyrannis” anymore. They either do it long distance through telescopic sights or by sending car- bombs or others set off by electronic signals.  Then there are the surprise and stealthy kind (with no time for speeches or to do anything but press a button to set off the charge), the murderers who are called suicide bombers.  Remember the pictures of rapturous Middle Easterners who posed their babies with simulated dynamite strapped around their bodies?  Times have changed. This time the speeches deal with religious hatred and refusal to admit that a war was lost.

Booth was not only an actor with making a scene on his mind; he also was a classically trained scholar who had to learn Latin and most likely required to study Greek.  Having a classical education helps but the terrible lesson we learn from the self immolation of educated young men is that we lose their talents for a cause that is doomed - that war was over when Booth shot Lincoln.

I am put in mind of the horrible picture of Buddhist monks sitting gracefully on the ground in plain sight of crowds of people in Viet Nam, dousing themselves with gasoline, not saying a word and then lighting their bodies in protest.  They were protesting not by murdering anyone but themselves and they did this in far more dramatic fashion than the stumbling Booth accomplished when he assassinated a President. The Buddhist monks were no assassins.

We have a long history of witnessing assassinations by angry (mostly young men) men who would ordinarily just mouth off in political disputation rather than physical and reprehensible behavior.  Defenestration was once notorious for the way a national leader was put out of the picture.  World War I was started by a bomber who killed the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife.  The list goes on an on but we learn much afterwards what was involved to cause a leader to be murdered.

They are not shouting “Sic Semper Tyrannis” anymore for there are no classically trained actors. Ambitious young people act in commercials in order to pay their bills. Today the assassins are the politically angry and unemployed but willing to go to heaven and sample the virginal delights waiting for them.

 


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