OK…we gotta talk about this whole Julius Caesar thing people.
First off if you don’t know the play you should at least know the general history it’s based on…if you don’t please Google it right now. I’ll wait. OK…just in case that whole Google thing is beyond you let me quote Wiki here for a second:
“The assassination of Julius Caesar was the result of a conspiracy by many Roman senators. Led by Gaius Cassius Longinus, Decimus Junius Brutus, and Marcus Junius Brutus, they stabbed Julius Caesar to death in a location adjacent to the Theatre of Pompey on the Ides of March (March 15), 44 BC. Caesar was the dictator of the Roman Republic at the time, having recently been declared dictator perpetuo by the Senate. This declaration made several senators fear that Caesar wanted to overthrow the Senate in favor of tyranny. The conspirators were unable to restore the Roman Republic. The ramifications of the assassination led to the Liberators’ civil war and, ultimately, to the Principate period of the Roman Empire.” (emphasis by me)
Just a little more clarification from Wiki:
“The Principate is the name sometimes given to the first period of the Roman Empire from the beginning of the reign of Augustus in about 30 BC to the Crisis of the Third Century in 284 AD, after which it evolved into the so-called Dominate.
The Principate is characterized by the reign of a single emperor (princeps) and an effort on the part of the early emperors, at least, to preserve the illusion of the formal continuance, in some aspects, of the Roman Republic.” (emphasis by me)
So Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is based on those events. Caesar was declared “dictator perpetuo” or perpetual dictator by the Senate, but some folks in the Senate were VERY concerned about this declaration. They had a fear, a deeply held and sincere fear, that Caesar was going to descend into full on tyranny and their Republic, this form of government that was relatively new and they were truly passionate about, was in danger. So instead of using their governmental process to avoid this they make the tragic and horrible decision to assassinate Caesar. Why do they do this? Because they are blinded by their fear and desire to do what they think is right at all costs.
Now we get to the important part of the story…does it work? Do they, in truth, save their Republic with this act of violence and murder?
THEY FAIL…THEY FAIL HORRIBLY.
Many of them are crippled by guilt afterwards and THEY ALL DIE.
Then…the damn Republic fails and the Roman EMPIRE is ruled for a very long time by EMPERORS. No Republic anymore…at least not in any real way.
Sooooo, what do YOU think moral to the story is?
Is it… “HEY if you don’t like the leader of your country just go kill the dude because that ALWAYS works out well”?
Or maybe is the point of the play that while tyranny is bad and it’s very good to guard against it you cannot successfully save a democracy (Republic) by circumventing it and committing acts of violence in its name?
Now some of you might say, “Well hey Miss Bliss what do you think about this as a theatre choice, clearly basing the character of Caesar on a current world leader?”
I’ll tell you that it’s been done a zillion times before and if we don’t lose our minds it will be done a zillion times more. There has never been a production of Julius Caesar where comparisons were NOT made with various world leaders. That’s why you don’t see a lot of productions of this play in totalitarian countries. They can’t stand it. It makes them nervous. Not just the leaders but the people around the leaders…remember, everyone dies in this story and the government fails.
But having said that, I don’t think it’s a good theatrical choice to make Caesar and any of the other characters in the play too clearly modeled on current politicians/leaders. Why? Because of EXACTLY what is happening right now with this show. It gives too many people an easy way to miss the point of the damn play. It’s a brilliant play with a very important message and when theatre and art do their jobs right it sneaks under your ideology and your preconceived notions and MAKES YOU THINK NEW THOUGHTS!!!
I understand the motive behind doing it, I just don’t think it nets us what it should. Now maybe I’m wrong and maybe tons and tons of people will think to themselves “I should go read that play and see what it’s really about” and the world will suddenly be a more educated place…but color me skeptical.
I do not blame the theatre company or their choices for having caused this uproar because they did exactly what theatre companies have done with this play since it was written.
I blame the extreme extent of our nationwide willful ignorance and quickness to follow the beating drums of outrage and insult with NO actual facts or details required.
I blame our nationwide indulgence in the love of accusation and simplification and the comfort of finding some easily identified “enemy”.
Theatre companies all over the country are getting death threats right now. Not because Shakespeare in the Park in NYC is doing something controversial…but because we’ve become a country of people who are willing to vilify anyone who isn’t us, under any circumstance, for a chance to feel superior and justified in our outrage. We’re happy to miss the point if we can have a chance at that particular indulgence.
You Won’t Like It When It’s Turned On You
So the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced the “Formation of a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR).”
The following can be found on the HHS’s website:
OCR Director Severino said, “Laws protecting religious freedom and conscience rights are just empty words on paper if they aren’t enforced. No one should be forced to choose between helping sick people and living by one’s deepest moral or religious convictions, and the new division will help guarantee that victims of unlawful discrimination find justice. For too long, governments big and small have treated conscience claims with hostility instead of protection, but change is coming and it begins here and now.”
I’m putting up that whole quote so you can see the context of how this is all being presented. For anyone interested in protecting the Civil Rights of Americans this sounds like a good thing right? And honestly I don’t think anyone should be forced to do anything that is truly counter to their “deepest moral or religious convictions”.
But, if your job is to provide medical treatment to other human beings and there are specific people and situations wherein you are going to experience a direct conflict between providing that medical treatment and your “deepest moral or religious convictions” then at the VERY least that limits you as a health care provider.
It seems to me that this Federal Protection means that an employer of medical personnel should now also be protected in the process of researching whether or not any potential employees have particular deeply held moral or religious beliefs that will cause them to be unable to do the job they are hired to do. But protection for the employer does not seem to exist anywhere in this new concept of protecting religious freedom to have a job and simply refuse to do the work you’ve been hired to do. I’m wondering if this mean Christian Scientists can now get jobs as licensed Medical Doctors and refuse to provide any kind of medical treatment other than prayer? Will insurance groups be forced to include those Doctors in their coverage? Will medical groups be forced to include them in their groups without knowing that is the “care” they provide? This really does bring up some question?
Now everyone in favor of this idea is being very careful to make sure that they are not excluding anyone who might have “…deepest held moral or religious convictions”…because you know, they are really interested in making sure no one is discriminated against as a result of their religion as promised in the Constitution. But at the end of the day this is about a very specific group of Christians who want to use their “moral or religious convictions” to punish specific people for either just existing or for having a need for a specific treatment that they think is bad AND wanting Government protection to inflict their morality on others. Flat out, this is about people using their religion to manifest their personal judgement on others in the most public way they possibly can so as to bring attention to their noble stand against this…well let’s be honest, they view it as sin…their noble stand against sin. Of course they don’t seem to mind if their noble stand against sin causes someone’s death…especially if the person who dies is a woman and/or a trans person. That’s just fine with them at the end of the day. That apparently is not a sin or at least not a sin that bothers them all that much.
This protection also means they could declare this same need to refuse to provide services/care/emergency medical treatment to any number of people based simply on their declaration that they have “…deepest held moral or religious convictions” that are in conflict with providing those services. You know…black people, brown people, Muslim people, people they think are sexually deviant or promiscuous, people who are Catholic, people who are Protestant, people who are Jewish, people who have no religious faith at all, people who treated them like shit in high school and will now pay like a motherfucker. You get the picture right?
Here’s another possible example:
What if I am a practicing Pagan? I participate in my religious community. I have a personal practice of faith that informs my daily life. I have many deeply held moral and religious convictions based on the breadth and depth and history of my religion. I am also a paramedic. I am called to an accident site. Bad auto accident. People are hurt, bleeding, in danger of not surviving. One of them is clearly a Christian. Wearing a cross and reciting Christian prayers. I have a deeply held moral and religious conviction that Christians are the source of all evil because historically Christians have hunted, tortured and killed thousands upon thousands of Pagans. Now in the U.S. I am VERY likely to encounter Christians in the course of my work. But according to this HHS Division I should be protected from any form of discrimination as a result of this rather large limitation on my willingness to perform my job duties. It seems that my employer should not be able to ask me about this possibility, if my employer finds out about my “deepest held moral or religious convictions” they cannot negatively impact my employment in any way whatsoever without serious consequences because this would be violating my civil rights. All while that Christian person dies on the ground because critical moments were lost in getting that person treatment due to my “deepest held moral or religious convictions”.
So I stated above that I didn’t think that anyone would should be forced to perform any sort of action that is truly in conflict with their deepest held moral or religious convictions. I stand by that, no one should be forced to violate their deepest held convictions. I also think that if you have caveats about who you are willing to provide legal health services to then you should change your career. Flat out. Medicine is not the job for you. If your “deepest held moral and religious convictions” are more important than being a healer then get the fuck out of Medicine.
Don’t like that answer…tough shit.
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Filed under Essays - Non-Fiction, Political Commentary