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A tragic figure from the Trojan War foretells events in our times:
Hang-up Behaviors in Washington

[An Allegory]

"Once Cassandra had been cursed by Apollo to prophesy the truth but never be believed, Troy was doomed. Countless times before and during the Trojan War Cassandra predicted what would come of the war, but no one believed her. Always it was Cassandra who recognized a face, who predicted a fateful occurrence, who ran around the ramparts of the city with her hair flying around her shoulders, crying and spouting oracles that no one understood. Most people considered her insane and tried to subdue her, but she was only trying desperately to warn her people of impending disaster." [Laura Fitton]

Cassandra was a messenger if not a prophet.

"One of the apparent causes of the Trojan War was the abduction of Priam's sister, Hesione. She had been taken to Greece by Telamon the Aeacid, and Priam sent Antenor and Anchises to Greece to demand her return, but they were rejected and driven away. By this time Cassandra was already predicting the tragic end of the Trojan War, but of course no one believed her. Priam was upset by her raving and had her locked up in a pyramidal building on the citadel to avoid anymore scandal. He ordered the wardress who cared for her to keep him informed of all her "prophetic utterances". (as related in Graves p626)" [Laura Fitton]

In our modern times, this is called shooting the messenger. Some in FBI headquarters talked of charging Colleen Rowley with a crime for blowing the whistle on organizational problems, several of which are still not fixed.

"In [the Roman poet] Vergil's account of the fall of Troy in the Aeneid, Cassandra fled to the temple of Athena and clutched the wooden image of the warrior goddess, sometimes called the Palladium. There she was found by Little Ajax of the Greek side, who tried to drag her away from the statue, but she held on so tightly that he had to take it with him when he carried her off to slavery. The outraged Trojans attacked Ajax, and a skirmish ensued (Aeneid ii.402-413 Lewis translation). The narratives differ at this point as to whether or not Ajax actually carried off the image of Athena along with Cassandra, which few sources note (Pseudo-Apollodorus p2.239, E.5.22, n3). The most interesting difference is whether or not Ajax actually raped Cassandra. Most sources agree that he dragged her off into slavery, but none actually say that he raped her." [Laura Fitton]

Various works of art depict Cassandra's plight. In their interpretations, much has been made of whether or not she was raped by Little Ajax. That question misses the main point: The all-conquering warrior could rape her if he wanted to.

This is the timeless message of the victor in war. In too much of the world, this is still reality in war time.

Fast forward to the Qur'an

4-24 "And all married women except those whom your right hands possess (this is) Allah's ordinance to you; and lawful for you are (all women) besides those, provided that you seek (them) with your property, taking (them) in marriage not committing fornication. Then as to those whom you profit by, give them their dowries as appointed; and there is no blame on you about what you mutually agree after what is appointed; surely Allah is Knowing, Wise."

"...those whom your right hands possess..." includes female captives (Cassandras, virgins, married women) captured in war. Islam at war amounts to acting out Ajax.

Fast forward again.

It now seems quite certain that Iraq was knowingly invaded under pretenses selected for the level of fear they would evoke rather than on any real information. That Bush and Blair would both stuck their necks out in this way says a lot about their veracity.

Either way, the message is clear. The arrogant bully has now made his point. Uncle Sam can do as he likes. Now he gets to live with it.

Of course, the moral of the Cassandra allegory is that when people don't listen, they get into trouble as the Trojans did [Who failed ot heed the multiple warnings of airline hijacking the 9/11 Commission uncovered?]. Virgil invoked Apollo for an attitude known today as a defense mechanism or more simply a hang-up. And arrogance can have the same disastrous effect. There is plenty of it around the White House, and other places too!

For examples from our times, hang-ups that might fit the Iraqi situation include:

Hang-up: A person exhibits arrogant behavior, knows it all, punishes criticism, demands obedience, glosses over morale issues as an "attitude."
    [Exemplified by the treatment Colleen Rowley of the FBI received from Washington. Organizations can take on a hang-up, and this one seems to have J. Edgar Hoover's stamp on it. Such people are in "denial."]

Hang-up: A person attributes or projects his/her own traits or motives onto others in spite of evidence to the contrary. This is the most common hang-up in politics today.
    [Exemplified by thinking that the Iraqis and the Middle East would welcome democracy as we know it with open arms. In fact, Islamic fundamentalists see no need at all for secularism in government, let alone equality among people. Bush was using "projection" on Iraq, and so was Rumsfeld.]

Hang-up: A person finds "acceptable reasons" to justify his/her behavior. Such rationalization is also most common in the political world.
    [Exemplified by the rationales invoked to excuse the war in Iraq: Hussein was a monster and had to go, never mind the many others like him; never mind the lack of world sympathy for war in Iraq, never mind the fact that the UN did not back the idea. Before the Iraq War Bush justified the invasion by saying Iraq was on the verge of nuclear weapons, had bio weapons at the ready, with links to al Qa'ida. His later rationale reveals his hang-up, "rationalization."]

Hang-up: A person appears not to feel any pain or anxiety when most people would.
    [Exemplified by the calm, cool, carefree behavior Mr. Bush is claimed to to have exhibited over the Iraq war issue. Such people sometimes seem to be a little out of touch with realty, but they are not. What they are not in touch with is mostly themselves. In denial in other words.]

Each of these hang-ups amount to denial and have their origin in the human psyche which never seems to forget insults endured in the process of growing up. The psyche has an amazing ability to adapt to the hurt by 1) erasing such events from consciousness and 2) going on autopilot with the coping behavior learned to be effective in dealing with the insult. In such cases, the owner of the hang-up is unaware of its existence. This of course compounds the problem in later years when the coping methods that worked so well in the home, on the play ground or street are no longer appropriate. Very few people are totally free of significant hang-ups. Most people can honestly deny the possibility that their personalities might be distorted by one (or more) hang-up(s) because they are unaware of memories and responses long since gone underground. Yet denial is at the root of the above actions and reactions.

Politicians who rely on image instead of substance are especially prone to denial. And shame on voters who vote for image over substance. We need to get away from thinking about how Ajax treated Cassandra and get on with figuring out what is really going on.

Times have changed; human nature hasn't. We neither listen to wisdom nor learn from history. Barbara Tuchman, in her March of Folly, had that one right. Hang-ups are at the root, and that is what Cassandra is all about.

To speak in allegories makes great literature. But how many people (including our teachers for that matter) have the insight to understand it? Too often our school systems force feed literature to their students, leaving fundamental meaning aside. It is no wonder that the essence of this allegory escaped most people for too long a time.

This brings up a final coin and its flip side. Yet another hang-up is to displace individual anger in "safer" directions. Is it possible that the American electorate has displaced their anger at politicians off on the folks of Islam, with Mr. Bush their surrogate?

This could partly explain why the Iraq War remains popular. Mr. Bush made the electorate feel better by punishing the Iraqis even though no weapons of mass destruction have appeared of any kind; not even a connection to al Qa'ida has been shown.

The other side of the same coin is Mr. Bush's behavior. There is no way to see inside his head, but his actions after 9/11 are typical of yet another hang-up. [This is the one where the little kid gets beaten up several times by a bully. The little kid, seething, goes home and kicks his sister or the dog, and feels better.] Bin Laden was nowhere to be found, so Hussein served as the dog to be kicked. This is classical displacement behavior.

Of course there is no way to know for sure what Mr. Bush's real motives were. But hang-ups are largely at the root of the Authoritarian Personality.

Nevertheless, and in any event, the Bush administration is behaving as if it has some serious hang-ups.


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