Shakespeare and One Medal Too Many

Medal of Freedom - Shakespearean quote, What a god is gold, That he is worshipp'd in a baser temple Than where swine feed“What a god is gold,
That he is worshipp’d in a baser temple
Than where swine feed!”

Timon of Athens, act 5, sc. 1

This week, with the customary pomp and circumstance, Obama bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom on 18 recipients. It is the highest civilian honor in the Unites States.

On reading an account of the ceremony by a brilliant writer, David Walsh, I came across the following,

“In an astonishing development, five of the recipients refused their medals and read out a public statement—to the obvious consternation of the president and his staff—that said, in part:
“We cannot in good conscience accept honors from a president who speaks about our having made America ‘wiser, and more humane, and more beautiful,’ but who has presided over ‘kill lists,’ launched drone strikes that have murdered thousands of civilians, embarked on new wars behind the backs of the people, and persecuted defenders of constitutional rights such as Edward Snowden.”
The five then departed as one, placing their medals in a heap on the floor of the East Room and leaving the audience of dignitaries and journalists in considerable disarray…”

Of course, I could not believe my eyes, and I was correct in my disbelief. There are indeed many soldiers of all recent wars who have thrown their respective medals (for valor) in a heap, to protest against imperialistic wars and their victims. Many veterans have organized themselves in various associations, and they express frequently and publicly the same sentiment.

But in the instance, it would be indeed heroic of the recipients, to become the heroes of Reason and behave accordingly.

Among the honored, however, there was one who, by accepting the honor, should puzzle  the rational, or at least, those who draw inevitable conclusions from undisputable premises. The honored character in question is Isabel Allende, cousin of Salvador Allende, the democratically-elected Chilean president overthrown by a CIA-organized coup in 1973, during which he committed suicide.

She is to literary fame what Obama is to Civil Rights. The ruling cabal chose Obama to spread the illusion – among the “blunt monster with the uncounted heads” – that racial or class discrimination was over. And in no way the cabal could have chosen Obama, were it not for those who gave their life during the Civil Rights movement, including, of course, Martin Luther King. Martin Luther King, whose message, now that he is past and cast in stone, can be altered, twisted, excised, interpreted. misread and redacted, to suit any tale told by the ruling cabal, and “proclaimed at market crosses and read in churches”.

I have no time to read Isabel Allende’s writings. I would need more than two lifetimes to read all that I wish to read and she is not in my priority list. But I will not dispute whatever value or literary skill Allende may have. Still, it is reasonable to assert that her chances of reaching the limelight would have been dramatically dimmed, were it not for her name and its associated weight of history and tragedy.

It is a case of notoriety built on blood. In the instance, the blood of her family and the blood of the thousands killed, tortured or “desparecidos” thanks to Pinochet’s US-inspired, freedom and democracy.

In the past, among celebrities invited at the White House there have been cases when they were spirited and courageous enough to speak out. Notably Eartha Kitt who, in 1968, told Mrs. Johnson, quite undiplomatically,  what she thought of the Vietnam war

Not now, but why did Allende accept the medal? And why did the others?  Here is another Shakespearean answer, out of many,  “… gold were as good as twenty orators and will, no doubt, tempt them to anything.”

In the play. Timon’s reaction at overhearing the schemes of the poet and the painter to extract money from him, who is now a recluse in the woods.

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