“If you are in the hanging mood, you may tuck up Sir Elijah Impey, without giving anybody the smallest concern.”

– A blunt Lord Cornwallis on Sir Elijah Impey, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Calcutta, 1788

On Hamilton & Pence

So you get someone with whom you vehemently disagree to come and see a performance, to hear a message that convincingly contradicts his apparent existing worldview. And your response is to make him feel unwelcome and unwanted. To effectively punish his willingness to come and hear the message. To discourage it from happening again.

To the point the show is repeatedly interrupted. To the point the actors have to tell you to stop booing him. To the point you drive him to leave the theatre as the actors beg he stays to hear their post-show message.

This is now my 22nd year in theatre. My senior thesis focuses on the impact of theatrical spectacle in achieving global constitutional and humanitarian reforms by convincing even the most ideologically-hardened of men to empathize with others in a way they never previously considered. The legacy of one such instance of that phenomenon? A significant aspect of the United States Constitution. The Constitution for which Alexander Hamilton fought so unceasingly.

You don’t have to agree with someone. You can think them utterly despicable. You can think whatever you’d like. But when that person, whose hardened ideology you so despise, shows up on your doorstep to hear your message — when you have an opportunity, however slim, to make him reconsider — and you respond by effectively punishing that willingness…all you accomplish is the discouragement of future dialogue. You lock him out of your world and assure he stays in his. That’s wrong.

And when he will soon be the second most powerful man on the face of the Earth, and one heartbeat from the presidency, it’s counterproductive.

Let the incredible message of the art speak. Don’t drown it out by punishing opponents for listening.

Telling their story matters

This has been the focus of my past two days. Transcribing pages of barely-legible handwriting that often requires writing, rereading, rewriting, research, context clues — just to read what it says. I have a headache and my eyes are tired.

But it’s still a cool project. Because what this is is the court testimony of witnesses to the 1831-1832 Great Jamaican Slave Revolt. They have been rarely studied and have never been transcribed. We’re doing it as a class effort to provide a basis for individual original research.

Sitting there working word-by-word, you lose sight of the bigger context. It’s not until you read it all together that you’re reminded of its importance. It’s the record of the desperate fight by slaves for their right to freedom. While they lost the immediate battle, and paid with their lives, they ultimately won the long war.

That they lived matters. Why they died matters. Helping to tell their story matters.

“I would rather die upon yonder gallows than live in slavery.”Slave rebel leader Samuel Sharpe, prior to his execution by hanging in May 1832.

The Poet-President of Brazil

With the August 31st vote of the Brazilian Senate to convict President Dilma Rousseff on corruption charges, interim President Michel Temer assumed office for the remainder of Rousseff’s term, which was scheduled to end in January 2019. Temper assumed the responsibilities of the presidency back in May, when Rousseff was suspended pending trial, and immediately replaced the cabinet while reducing the number of cabinet ministries. Temper has indicated he will continue to push for a series of reforms.

Prior to his political career, Temer — the son of Lebanese immigrants — was a state prosecutor and constitutional law professor. Of particular interest, however, is his “career” as a poet. A sample of his work, courtesy of the New York Times:

Of red
Fiery flames of fire.
Brilliant eyes
Which smile with scarlet lips.
Fires
They take hold of me.
Of my mind
My soul.
All mine
In heat.
My body
On fire
Consumed
Dissolved.
Finally
Ashes are left
That I spread on the bed
To sleep.

The poetic aspect of his biography has drawn ridicule from opponents and praise from supporters. Temer naturally concedes the negative reaction, even outright ridicule, is the accepted product of living in a free society. It’ll certainly be interesting to see if he continues to put verse to paper in the months and years ahead, as he struggles with his administration’s scandals and those of his, now two, immediate predecessors.

“It wasn’t until the wheels on the EgyptAir jet were up and he was settling into his seat over the Atlantic Ocean, bound for one of the most isolated and repressive nations on Earth, that he was able to relax.” – Once a Bucknell Professor, Now the Commander of an Ethiopian Rebel Army (NYT)

Book Recommendation: Burke

Book recommendation: Edmund Burke and the Conservative Logic of Empire by Dr. Daniel I. O’Neill. (University of California Press. 2016.)

Dr. O’Neill is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida. His monograph focuses on the ideology that guided Edmund Burke’s defense of empire from America to Ireland and India. His prose is wonderfully clear and the work is an easily-manageable 177 pages (excluding footnotes).