When Roman senators shanked Caesar on the Ides of March, it wasn’t the first time that politics turned violent in a seat of government. Nor would it be the last. But it was certainly the most theatrical instance at the time.
Tyrannicides are always worth dramatizing, and Shakespeare made the most of this one. Antony’s funeral oration is one of the finest political speeches in history, and has made its way into our modern vernacular, my friends, Americans and countrymen.
And the act altered the course of Roman history.
Violence in the capitol isn’t confined to Europe. In 1856, Congressman Preston Brooks – a rabid pro-slavery, states rightser – beat the snot out of Senator Charles Sumner on the floor of the U.S. Senate with a cane. Sumner had given an abolitionist speech a few days before, to which Brooks took violent exception.
Brooks’ loss of temper brought the country one step closer to civil war. And it resulted in Brooks being showered with dozens of new canes, gifts from his confreres in Dixie.
This sort of stuff is what happens when public officials lose faith in the power of words to change things. It happens when they get tired of talking, and let emotions override intellect. It happens when political ideology trumps reason.
It makes for bingeable political theater, but it doesn’t get the work of the people done.
Just like gladiator shows in the Roman Colosseum, events like these serve as the “bread and circuses” that keep the rabble’s minds off their government. After all, nothing draws the public’s attention like a good bloodbath.
Even out here in The Big Empty, we in Wyoming are not immune to mayhem in our capitol building. Just last week, it was reported that Senator Tom James was bushwhacked by Senator Ogden Driskill on the floor of the Wyoming Senate.
Driskill, who fights for the Good Ol’ Boy Gym out of the red corner, was accused of invading James’ personal space with a ninja-quick attack that came out of nowhere. James and his entourage were quick to cry “foul” and protest the match.
James, a light heavyweight fighting for the Western Wyoming Full Gospel Gun and Glee Club, out of the other red corner, was – according to initial reports – expected to make a full recovery from the onslaught.
There is certainly no love lost between the two camps. James and the other Young Turks of the Wyoming Republican Party have, for years, been poking and prodding at the Good Ol’ Boys Club, probing for a weakness in their stranglehold on politics. Up until now, the conflict between the two has been merely rhetorical.
But, something caused that simmering pot to boil over the other day, and the carnage on the floor of the Wyoming Senate was the result.
A security video of the incident (see below) has recently been unearthed. Fair warning, it is not for queasy viewers or the faint of heart. And don’t let the kids watch.
While the video is a bit grainy, it is clear that Senator James is very fortunate indeed to have escaped with his life. Violent savagery like Driskill’s shock and awe attack simply take the breath away!
The gore and viscera that covered the Senate floor after the smoke had cleared in the aftermath of battle should make us all want to send thoughts and prayers to the victims.
And it should prompt us to insist that our elected representatives leave their daggers, canes and other hardware home; and to remind them that they are in Cheyenne to do the people’s work in a respectful manner.