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It’s All Greek to Me

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The Freedom Forum

 

The Parthenon

I’ve been putting off writing this post because it’ll be the last one that I’ll throw up before the 2020 Presidential Election and in 2016, just after Trump was nominated, I posted The Most Hated Man in America. This year, I don’t wanna be right again if that means losing you, however I obviously have the gift of prognostication (a noun meaning “the action of foretelling or prophesying future events”) and anyone who doubts that, just read on. I’ve had a few choice words to describe my feelings about Donald J. Trump through the years, yet who am I to question the leadership of this man? What gives me the right to ask if he’s insane or not? I’m just an ordinary citizen of the United States, at least I was the last time I checked but who knows anymore? In the four years since Donald J. Trump has been our duly elected president, I’ve been right about pretty much everything I’ve said about him (actually since 1988 but who’s keeping score?) and if he’s not the most hated man in America by now whom, pray tell, would grab that crown from him?

Trump has accomplished much as president but most of it is doo-doo in my (humble?) opinion, if anything, Trump has pulled off what Roger Stone only dreamed about in his whiskey binge blackouts, complete with warped back tattoos, Wall Street hookers and America’s ass laid bare for all to see — warts and all. If the greatest accomplishment that Trump ever pulls off is that in being the complete and total jerk that he is, he has revealed so many more for the history books to flesh out, demonstrated with aplomb by the entire GOP. He and his immediate family will walk after the election, free from prosecution so he doesn’t flee to Russia as Rome’s King Tarquin fled to the Latin League in 400 BC, but there will be fierce negotiation and retribution following Trump’s defeat.

I hope Mr. Trump understands that I have nothing against him personally, (except that ‘good’ genes thing, I really can’t get over that) and as he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos back in 2009 about those who lose money in his many bankruptcies, “You know, it’s like on ‘The Apprentice.’ It’s not personal. It’s just business.” The business at hand is governance, however and Trump sucks at that. He’s a fantastic representative of a businessman, (in the Thorsten Veblen sense of the word, more later) and his marketing and deal-making skills is phenomenal. I mean they are phenomenal. Not so much with the governance thing, however. He never understood the difference between the two and now he will suffer the greatest electoral landslide since Nixon — the other way around. If Trump wins a state, I will NEVER visit that state again until the year 2050, if God gets us through this shitstorm of ineptitude, greed and racism. Massachusetts was the only state to go for Senator George McGovern in 1972, so Nixon voters, you’ll be allowed visit the Bay State again in 2022.

As the greatest Greek historian Thucydides once wrote in 480 BC, “My work is not a piece of writing designed to meet the taste of an immediate public, but was done to last forever” and some things never change with know-it-alls and although I’m not a great historian like Thucydides, who’s to judge? He would recognize the likes of ‘Donald the Fake’ in ten seconds, no doubt and in that I’m certain. I thought about a few titles for this post before the one I ended up with this because the title ‘Mea Culpa’ came a close second until I found out it was the name of Trump’s ex-personal attorney Michael Cohen’s new podcast. The title of his show is from the Latin meaning, “My fault,” which makes it an Italian word, but where I’m starting from Ancient Greece in thinking about democracy (from the Greek word for ‘demos,’ or the people) I thought better of it and then remembered the great football analyst and oddsmaker (a kinder word for a ‘bookie’) ’Jimmy the Greek’ born Dimetrios Georgios Synodinos in Steubenville, Ohio in 1918, he was one of the greatest prognosticators of our age until he got canceled in 1988. Jimmy lost his job on the NFL Today because he was recorded while drinking (not a surprise, but with no big glasses on this time), basically bringing up slaves and slave owners as to why African-Americans are so good at most sports compared to slow-footed white people.

Jimmy’s first bet wasn’t on sports but on politics, winning big after he took Democrat Harry Truman to beat Republican Thomas Dewey in the 1948 Presidential Election because, “no one trusts a guy with a mustache.” Since 1950, can you name a politician who sports the style? Hitler’s goofy looking ‘stache made them passé forever and after that, Jimmy parlayed his ‘sixth sense’ into a career in prognostication which ended up paying him millions of dollars. He needed every penny of that money it turned out, because three of his children would end up dying from Cystic Fibrosis, the awful inflammatory lung disease that has no cure. If Jimmy were alive today, I’d predict that he’d pick Joe Biden to win this presidential election on November 3rd because no one (truly) trusts Donald Trump, now do they?

The Seven Sages were ‘sophists‘ [little quotes, “I love thee too much” say the parentheses] from Ancient Greece, men and women (Sappho Rules!) also spoke and wrote about mythical, apocryphal stories as if they were true. The best of them were based on reality, such as Homer’s epics and we use them today to divine actual, real history. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle would begin to break free of the tradition of ‘bending the truth’ in making good arguments while getting paid (also called ‘being a lawyer’) and these ‘philosophers,’ as they would come to be known, figured it all out and created knowledge, democracy and the institution we know as a republic. And lawyers too! There’s still a lot sophistry around today, of course (Rudy Giuliani, Ted Cruz, Sean Hannity etc.) and yet Donald Trump is the greatest sophist of them all (to date). The greatest Homeric sophist of all time, actually the poet Homer himself was the most famous sophist before Trump came along and where archeological remains have been found in Greece hinting about Homer’s true existence, this find indicates that he was probably born on the island of Chios, Greece where Thucydides once wrote,

When any stranger comes and asks who is the sweetest singer, they are to answer with one voice, “the blind man that dwells in rocky Chios; his songs deserve the prize for all time to come.

This does not necessarily say that Homer was a Chian, but it fits my story so I’m sticking with it. Sorry, Smyrna. Homer’s great fame and tourism potential aside, the connection to Chios, with an archaeological site known as ‘Teacher’s Rock’ that can be visited today (very popular with the cruising set, I understand and visitors should follow the signs guiding you to the ‘Sanctuary of Kyveli,’ enjoy!) where the blind Homer wrote about the so-called ‘Trojan War,’ with the Greek Helen getting ‘abducted’ by the swarthy Paris, (heh, heh) but enough with the afterthoughts, a battle between these Greek brothers called the Peloponnesian War, or the Attic War as the winning Spartans called it would follow just after the Persian invasions of Greece, where King Darius and his son Xerxes put Sparta and Athens on the same team. Athenian statesman/general (strategoi) Themistocles meaning ‘Glory of the Law’ won a big naval battle against the Persian empire under Xerxes in 480 BC, resulting in a decisive victory for the outnumbered and outgunned Greeks, he was a populist and his base of support were the lower-class Athenians, generally at odds with the nobles, he was elected to be an Archon in 493 BC and convinced the polis, or the citizens of Athens to increase the naval power of the city-state during the first Persian invasion of Greece, where he also fought at the famous Battle of Marathon. The fabled runner Pheidippides, a messenger from the Battle of Marathon to Athens, ran all the way back home to report the big news of the victory, then died of exhaustion.

Jimmy the Greek Snyder’s family also hailed from Chios and anyone who has ever wondered why a whole family would up and move everything: lock, stock and barrel to a brand new country on a whim, they should look to his ancestors for some clues as to why this might happen — and it still continues to happen. And happen. At the beginning of the Greek War of Independence in 1823, also a proxy war between Russia, Britain, France and Turkey, nearly three-quarters of the Chios population of 120,000 citizens were killed, enslaved or died of disease. Only 2,000 Greeks remained on the island after the horrible Chios Massacre and it’s estimated that nearly 52,000 Chios islanders were sold into slavery after almost 52,000 were killed outright. This war was born from religious and ethnic hatred (with atrocities committed on ‘both sides’) culminating with little children and babies getting smashed up against rocks and thrown into the sea. Chios is only eight miles off the coast of Turkey and this is why Jimmy the Greek was born an American.

According to Sir Isaac Newton, who was also a Classical Greek scholar, ten kings of Sparta reigned an average of 38 years each in Ancient Greece, which can be used as a yardstick to estimate that the Greek Spartan Eurysthenes ruled from the years 1104–1066 BC and he was the father of his successor, King Agis I, founder of the Spartan Agiad dynasty. In Athens, the sophist and statesman Solon was born about 630 BC and died on the island of Cyprus at the age of 80, he argued for all citizens to be admitted into the Ecclesia, or the assembly of male-only, Greek citizens and advocated for the first courts to be formed, drawn from the first citizens of Ancient Greece from lots, the first use of the ancient practice called ‘sortition’ (still done today in jury duty), yet Solon also described Athens as being under constant threat from unrestrained greed and needed to escape Athens more than once to prove the fact.

In 430 BC, after an unsuccessful expedition by the great Pericles against Sparta and after the city was devastated by an unknown plague, Pericles died during the epidemic that also claimed his sister and both of his sons, Thucydides, an ardent admirer of Pericles said at the time that Athens was “in name a democracy but, in fact, [was] governed by its first citizen.” The great historian would also contract the plague yet he would survive the ordeal to tell the story in The History of the Peloponnesian War of the great Pericles’ final Funeral Oration, the annual rite honoring those who died in battle defending democracy said,

While those of you who have passed your prime must congratulate yourselves with the thought that the best part of your life was fortunate, and that the brief span that remains will be cheered by the fame of the departed. For it is only the love of honor that never grows old; and honor it is, not gain, as some would have it, that rejoices the heart of age and helplessness.

After Pericles died, the dishonorable Cleon, a strategoi from a wealthy background and another populist, was primarily known for his overuse the courts (he sued the great playwright Aristophanes) Cleon used the law to his unjust advantage in creating the ancient practice of ‘sycophancy’ (done today, well, everywhere) and advocated that every man, woman and child on the Island of Lesbos (then called Myteline) be killed as vicious retribution for siding with the hated Spartans. His arguments first won over the Ecclesia and they even sent a ship to Myteline to commit the act before an emergency session of this early Greek ‘Senate’ (Italian word) rethought the brutal decision and then recalled the first ship, with double rowers working all night to catch up, literally arriving as they were about to read Cleon’s verdict to the townspeople. After the usual suspects were rounded up and killed instead, the citizens of Myteline were spared.

Olympus, Greece is nowhere near Mt. Olympus, the tallest mountains in Greece where the hundreds of Greek Gods reside, recounted in dizzying detail by thousands of sophists through the centuries writing odes, however the real Olympia is an actual place, an archeological site discovered in the past 100 years revealed over 70 buildings and the ruins of many of these structures have survived, (although the main Temple of Zeus is only stones on the ground now), it’s a huge tourist attraction and has two sweet museums, one devoted to the ancient games and one to the modern. Located in Southwest Greece, after thousands of years preserved in the alluvial dirt, the Olympian festival area became known as the Olympics, heralded by the great sophists, they met every four years for over a millennium.

This year, we were supposed to have the Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan but the 2020 Olympic Games will wait ’till next year because of the caronavirus, however the original Olympic games that started around 776 BC continued unbroken for over 1000 years, these Ancient Olympiads are the most reliable way of dating Greek archeological finds today, where Thucydides says of the year 428 BC, “It was the Olympiad in which the Rhodian Dorieus [son of Diagoras of Rhodes] gained his second victory,” like us remembering 1976 because that’s the year Sugar Ray Leonard won the Gold medal. Jim McKay always handled the Olympics on TV back in the day, which was always on ABC in the 1970s, thwarting the highly-qualified Brent Musberger, who famously was punched-out by Jimmy the Greek for cutting his airtime, Brent spoke eloquently this year over the loss of the groundbreaking third member of the NFL Today lineup back then, Phyllis George, who passed away in May of this year, the former First Lady of Kentucky was the first woman to break into the all-male world of sports broadcasting. Needless to say, Jimmy and Phyllis couldn’t stand each other. Somehow, though, we all seemed to get along in the old days and we can do better today; people are suffering in a big way and some are even dying while our creaky democracy lumbers along and sways under the heavy load of history. We need democracy now more than ever and if you look for it, we have been through this shitstorm before and will make it work out alright together — or not at all. Violence and factionalism will destroy anyone who continue to practice it and the resulting death and destruction will scatter their families, their works and their culture to the four winds. We have too many examples.

PS: Don’t kill the messenger.

John Underhill

October 22, 2020


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