Falling from above
By Matthew Fraser, Opinions Editor
The will of the people should hang over the government like the sword of Damocles. Ready to drop with an awesome and terrible fury at any moment.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about Cicero’s parable The Sword of Damocles. Damocles was a court jester under King Dionysius who had been overcome with jealousy; King Dionysius tells Damocles to lay on his golden couch and orders the other servants to serve him a feast. While Damocles eats, the king tells another servant to go and bring him his sword which he sharpens and hangs above Damocles by a single horsehair. Damocles now turned king is overcome with fear, he can see the sharp sword above him, and he knows the hair may well break at any second leaving the sword to fall directly on him. Terror washes over him, and Damocles begs to get off the throne as the opulent life of a king could not distract from the looming spectre of death.
I personally believe that in a democracy the voice of the governed should be loud, taken seriously, and well respected. The governed should make their will known to those who seek to govern them, and that will should weigh heavily on the minds of those who seek to stalk through the halls of power as if it were their personal fiefdom. The will of the people should hang over the government like the sword of Damocles, ready to drop with an awesome and terrible fury at any moment.
Had Americans stormed the capitol some time in June of 2020 to demand healthcare and stimulus cheques in a pandemic; had they realized years ago that congress works for them and that the halls of power are filled with representatives beholden and directed by the will of the electorate, not corporate juggernauts, I would not have been surprised, shocked, or disappointed. However, to see so many white supremacist symbols on display, to see people waving Qanon flags, to know that this insurrectionist act was spurned by the foolish lies of an uncouth and lazy con artist tells me that the sword that hangs above is dull and malleable, blunted, and misshapen.
The people’s will should be well thought out, directed, and unsullied by the selfish lies of an attempted demagogue. To be clear, I had little to no qualms about the last summers BLM protests in no small part because I saw the cause as just. When the protests crossed over into riots and looting, I was certainly disheartened, and I do not condone those actions, but the act of burning down a police precinct after the clearly unjust murder of George Floyd and the consistently unyielding pattern of police brutality was to me but the horsehair above drawn thin.
I am not condoning or encouraging insurrections and coups, nor am I taking lightly the threats against politicians lives. I am not pretending as if there are excuses to be made for the actions of the many state players that led to this scandal. I am even willing to acknowledge my hypocrisy for holding differently motivated acts of political violence to different standards (though looting a Target and storming the capitol are VASTLY different). But when government serves corporate interest first and second, when the war machine becomes the heartbeat of a country, when the poor and working class of a country are left to starve while airlines and tech firms get subsidies on top of tailor-made tax plans, a wellspring of public fury will eventually burst.
The political class should be thankful that it was just the foolish, mislead, and ignorant who came. It’s much easier for the rest of us to push them aside and choose not to emulate them, but the next time the string breaks it may not be the neo-Nazis at the steps of the capitol. It could be the students and the working poor; it might be the indebted and exploited. It might be the people whose cause is just.