EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

January 12, 2014

Column: No, we can't just 'get along'

“No cause is left but the most ancient of all, the one, in fact, that from the beginning of our history has determined the very existence of politics: the cause of freedom versus tyranny.”

— Hannah Arendt

So no, we can’t just get along.

That was the theme of my presentation this week to the Explorer’s Lifelong Learning Institute in Salem. When Franklin Hawke called me in the fall about my subject, I was watching the budget battle in Washington.

If you recall, Sen. Ted Cruz was refusing to vote for a budget that funded Obamacare, and the Democrats refused to allow a budget without it, and some Republicans were angry with Cruz, and in the middle of the debate voices from all sides were raised deploring the fact that everyone isn’t getting along.

So I said to Frank, in exasperation, “no, we can’t just get along’ might be a good subject”, and thus it became.

Where to start. A small statue of the goddess Athena resides near my computer. When I lived in Greece, I studied the mythology as well as the history of the country, was intrigued to learn that Athena is the goddess of wisdom and of war, which seemed at first a contradiction.

The gods and goddesses battled over important things, like giving mankind fire, but also silly things like who would be awarded a golden apple for being judged most beautiful. It’s hard to justify the Trojan War, romantic though its alleged cause may seem. Unlike her more bloodthirsty half-brother Ares, Athena’s involvement is strategic: her hero Odysseus meets with Troy’s Hector in negotiation, trying to “get along” and prevent the Trojan War. The Iliad and the Odyssey reflect the futility of their effort. In the movie “Troy”, Achilles is asked by a distraught woman after a terrible battle, “when will this end?” He calmly replies, “it will never end.”

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