HOW AN OLD LEGEND/NOW T.V. HIT IS A METAPHOR FOR RELIGION & POLITICS
I have made it no secret that Merlin is one of my favorite show to watch, everything from the cinematography to the excellent acting performances. Today, I thought it would be quite appropriate to read the mythical story of Camelot into the U.S. American Camelot that was the Kennedy presidency. Let us try to imagine that everything you heard about the legendary Camelot was true (from the storybooks), and that King Arthur was a just and noble king, and that the wizard Merlin really did work to overcome the dark magic of Morgana. Well, in the show Merlin, while it keeps the fantastical nature of the legend in tact, there is a subtle difference. You see, Camelot, at least before Arthur is crowned, is an orderly kingdom, where all the dragons have been either put down or imprisoned away from sight. All sorcery is banned, and the penalty for the practice is death. No, the purpose is not for religious reasons for in the world of Merlin, g-d is not mentioned. Magic is suppressed for political reasons, for it give a person more power than the clueless yet brave Uther Pendragon (Arthur’s father).
Fast forward to the 1960s: John Fitzgerald Kennedy is the first of his generation to become president, and the first Roman Catholic. His victory is seen as monumental, his rhetoric brings people hope, since his speeches are filled with promise. But after the progressive jargon, there are some dragons chained to the caves in Washington, D.C. Lyndon Baines Johnson was not without precedent for sending troops into Vietnam; yes we can say they were just military advisers, but the path was set for the USA to go to war. And what about the sorcerers, who were part of the U.S. American underclass? In his inaugaral address, Kennedy talked as if he was going to speak up for the oppressed. Yet there is a dirty little secret that liberals do not want you to know: the fact is, Kennedy remained on the fence in the struggle for freedom. Well we can say he was running for office and had to win the South, and therefore excuse his moderation as we wallow in hero worship. But his predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower, stood against the will of the segregationists. The idea that it took the stabbing of American Camelot’s own Merlin, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for Kennedy to take sides is telling.
Certainly, there is a lot to commend in Kennedy’s Inaugral Address. He even goes far as to quote the prophet Isaiah,
“Let both sides unite to heed, in all corners of the earth, the command of Isaiah — to “undo the heavy burdens, and [to] let the oppressed go free.”
Yet, the call to blind loyalty to the nation-state is both heretical and unjust. The implications, as one can see later with LBJ fulfilling the foreign policy of JFK show, that that path leads to destruction. Yes, we can continue the Founders’ vision, as JFK suggested, but guess what, that vision must be renewed with each generation. It should not remain some stagnate fantasy propagated by the privileged few. Yes, defending freedom is a good idea, but freedom for who? Is it freedom for your circle of friends, that may include a few mafia members? Also, freedom to do what? You mean freedom to take over other countries on a whim while violating the very principles and founding documents the nation was founded upon?
On peace, JFK said this,
“To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support — to prevent it from becoming merely a forum for invective, to strengthen its shield of the new and the weak, and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run.”
Uh, no, I am sorry, but not even a nice big organization such as the UN has proven to be peaceful. Our last true hope for peace is Christ, whose presence is witnessed in the community called the Church. To the extent that the UN, the WTO, the INternational Bank, etc., claim neutrality on matters of religion, they confess a different g-d, namely neo-colonial corporatism (a society ran by corporations, whereby policy is determined by their narrow interests). But this is the peace that JFK declares, eh? Peace at the expense of a warlock getting beheaded.
At this point, I must ask, really, “What is the significant difference between JFK and George W. Bush?” Bush talked about human freedom too. They both were born with a silver spoon in their mouth. It seems to me both parties claim to speak for the oppressed. Maybe the GOP definition of the oppressed consists of the rights of the unborn and many citizens in the 2/3s worlds that live under dictatorships while maybe the Dems see the marginalized as those who do not have enough funds to get a decent education or healthcare. Whatever their definition, what remains true is this: it remains on lip service, a false sense of peace. Camelot, in the world of T.V.’s Merlin seems to be at peace, from the point of view of the Pendragon family. But Merlin the Magician, whose life is always in danger, knows that the world is not as friendly as Uther and Arthur think it is. Like JFK, we can talk about civility for both sides all we want, but the truth of the matter is that the economic reality of the poor ain’t so civil.