A Plague on Both Your Houses!

by Peter Saint-Andre


We all know the story of Romeo and Juliet, that pair of star-crossed lovers who through a series of mishaps and misunderstandings end up committing suicide. Yet amidst the tragedy and the romance we pay less attention to the civic background: duelling families whose constant strife seriously jeopardizes the peace in the Verona of old. Both the prince and the people are fed up with the Capulets and the Montagues; in Shakespeare's rendering, when the prince's kinsman Mercutio is mortally albeit unintentionally wounded by Romeo in yet another street fight, he cries out "a plague on both your houses!"

I suspect this is how many Americans feel about the Democrats and Republicans. Here in Colorado, nearly half of registered voters are independent, yet by design our options at the ballot box are pretty much limited to the two big parties, which in turn are beholden to their least moderate elements. Both locally and nationally, neither party wants to work with their enemies across the aisle, fingerpointing and backstabbing are the order of the day, and good governance is merely a fond wish (why solve any problems when you can use the lack of solutions to rile up your base?). And here we are again with a "choice" between Trump and Biden, whose "leadership" has been rivalled in American history only by the incompetent presidents of the 1850s. It's no wonder that some folks speculate (without justification, in my view) about a coming civil war.

Although I am far from having the answers, I do think political moderation and acting locally are two important pieces of the puzzle, which each of us can pursue both individually and in our own communities. If more people reflect on our situation and decide to model reasonable civic-mindedness, perhaps together we can pull ourselves back from the brink.

(Cross-posted at philosopher.coach.)


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal