I loved the movie Gladiator. I’ve always loved Greek and Roman history, which reached its glorious and blood-drenched apex in Byzantium. Don’t worry, I’m not an apologist. Loads of bad with the good. Same goes for the movie. But I enjoyed watching it. If only that guy in the Hong Kong movie theater hadn’t answered his phone during the climactic battle.
One of my favorite scenes was in North Africa, when Maximus walked down the line of his fellow gladiators to confront 5 (or more) well-armed fighters. Spaniard Spaniard Spaniard. His foes took a subtle step back when Maximus appeared. His foes were not much longer for the world. After he defeated them, he threw a sword into the VIP lounge. He then challenged the mob.
Are you not entertained? Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?
I always thought it should be is that not why you are here. During my teaching stint in Turkey my friends and I visited Aspendos, the site of an amazing Roman ruin. I think it was a theatre or an amphi-theatre. I can never remember the difference. I shout-quoted Maximus. It was ridiculous. I bet there was a Turkish caretaker there shaking his head. Oh God, another moron. Evet.
What got me thinking about Rome and the follies of the mob? I’ll show you. After the images I’ll follow up with a plea.
The above is the state of public discourse, the state of our republic. Fox News online (CNN and MSNBC are just as awful). One of the 3 main sources of information for everyone. Look at those images and the corresponding captions. They’re all horrible, but the kicker is Eric Trump saying he’d love to see Hunter Biden on the stand. Let’s try to imagine where that questioning would lead.
Eric Trump: Hunter, did you seek to profit off of your father’s standing and name?
Hunter Biden: Hi Eric. Squash soon? Thanks for putting me up at your dad’s hotel. The burgers suck, but the view is unbeatable. And the answer is no. I’m a self-made man. Like you, I pulled myself up by my boot-straps. And as you well know, I’ve always been a fan of Milla Jovovich. The logical next step was hiring me to the board of a Ukrainian firm. Oh, and pssst….flashes a thumbs up…the people at Hotel Dacha want to talk, and they wanted me to pass a hello along to Ivanka.
Eric Trump: Oh, that’s nice of them, Ivanka will be thrilled. She’s so stoked that the police force likes her Chinese-manufactured uniforms. Where was I? You’re scum for…[phone rings]…just one sec Hunter…Hello? What? Absolutely not. Tell the Air Force that there is only one room at the golf club that is government rate. Unless that C-5 Galaxy crew wants 10 cots, charge one room at government rate and the other 9 at full rates. What? Hell no breakfast isn’t included…Sorry Hunter.
Hunter: It’s quite alright. I used the time to put the finishing touches on this Obama Biden silkscreen t-shirt I want to pitch to Under Armour.
Eric Trump: Nice, I’d buy that. Wait, it doesn’t have their faces or names on it, does it?
Hunter Biden: I got you. I can get you a special version with nothing on it. Is white ok?
Eric Trump: Hell yea, it’s my favorite color. I can’t remember where we were, let’s wrap this up. I’m on Tucker Carlson’s show tonight. It’s going to be amazing.
Hunter Biden: Cool. What’s the topic?
Eric Trump: We don’t like to coordinate that kind of stuff. Fox just calls and says you can’t get more Trump than a Trump. Will you give us the Trump? I say sure. Hell, they’re covering my room at the Trump Hotel. I disagree about the burgers. Mine come in that Happy Meal Trump box.
Note: I’m not holier than them. I’m an average white dude who owes just about everything to the foresight, hard work, sacrifice, and privilege of his grandparents and parents. Privilege. That word often upsets people. It shouldn’t. Sometimes I think there could be a better word for it, but privilege is fine. It is not an attempt to negate, discount, or cancel your (the universal your) hard work. You worked your ass off. Take a moment of well-earned pride when you crack that Hamm’s (I like Hamm’s) at happy hour. But also take a moment to think about the gazillions of things you never had to worry about. Could you get your kids into that school zone, or were the red lines still in place? My boss is racist, do I have an equal shot for this promotion? I just want to browse the comic books, why are two of the shop employees following me around? I’m sure my colleague didn’t mean anything when he said fucking ragheads. Hey man, you’re silly, I can’t shove Shari’a law up my ass, it’s a concept, in a holy text, about as common as the enforced laws of Leviticus, not a physical entity.
Almost forgot the plea: Please stop watching cable news and mindlessly battling on Twitter. It’s not helping. Find good journalists – they’re increasingly rare, but they exist.