Et Tu, Brute?

Jun 21, 2017

To the Editor:

One year when I was teaching English as a second language at Southern Regional a student came to me for help with an assignment from her Grade 10 English class. The class was reading Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and the teacher assigned an essay explaining which character was the hero and which was the villain. I thought the assignment was rather difficult, especially for an ESL student who had only been in the U.S. for 1½ years.

But, you know, my Mexican student was able to explain to me the definition of both “hero” and “villain.” She had the intelligence necessary to understand the complexities of those words, and how a character could be both a “hero” and a “villain,” depending on point of view.

In 2012, in Minneapolis, a theater troupe performed Julius Caesar with an actor made up as Obama playing the lead role. Theater does this, music videos do this, art uses symbolism in this way. No fuss was made concerning the Obama character by the then president, his family or his political party. They understood that art challenges the politics of the time.

Recently, a production of this Shakespearian play was performed in New York City. In this version, Caesar is portrayed as Donald Trump. The reaction has been unbelievable. When some Trump followers became aware that the Trump character was stabbed to death by senators (which is what always has happened to Caesar since the 1500s when it was first performed) other Shakespearian companies across the U.S. began receiving death and rape threats. One company in Texas was told they should be cut with “real knives” by ISIS. Eventually, backing by several large corporations was withdrawn from the New York acting group because of fear.

It is at this point the teacher in me wants to scream. Before I retired my main goal was for all my students (both ESL and special education) to learn how to learn. I have a difficult time understanding how Republicans who think can remain silent when this type of behavior is happening. Speak up. Write letters. Text. Tweet. However you choose to communicate, do it.

Local representatives, mayors, teachers, church leaders, speak up. Do you agree with threatening violence? Do you condone it? I don’t, no matter which political party is guilty. This type of ignorance should not be ignored.

Cynthia Inman Graham





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