” For ’tis the sport to have the enginer
Hoist with his own petar; and ‘t shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines
And blow them at the moon: O, ’tis most sweet,
When in one line two crafts directly meet.”
William Shakespeare, Hamlet
I’ve always wanted to understand Shakespeare. All those intelligent people applauding his clever wit and ability to turn a phrase. But I daresay that for the most part there is little written in the English language, aside from the directions for assemble yourself cabinets, that I understand less. And so while others extoll the literary genius of the Bard, I always feel a bit like the little boy in “The Emporer’s New Clothes”. Like most of the passages of Shakespeare that I do understand, my understanding of the above passage is enabled by the subsequent usage of the idiomatic phrase. So, to some extent at least, I understand that when someone is said to have been “hoisted with their own petard”, it means they have been caught in their own devices, which casts some light on Hamlet’s musing on how he had turned the tables on Claudius.
Following the news for the past couple of weeks, and seeing how all the investigation of Russian interference with our elections is yielding scandals in surprising places, not the least of which being the very people that have been driving the narrative, I was reminded of the quote about being hoisted with one’s own petard. I will admit that before researching the phrase for this post I had no idea of exactly what a “petard” was. I assumed it to be a spear, a sword or a pike that someone might by some turn of events have inflicted on themselves; but as perhaps the more learned Shakespeare fans among you are already aware, a “petard” was what the french called a small gunpowder bomb, used to blow holes in walls or gates. So when one is hoisted with their own petard, it means blown up with their own bomb!
With the news of the Uranium One deal, the fake Trump dossier deal, the Donna Brazile revelations… like Wile E. Coyote, the Democrats have found that their “collusion bomb” has landed at their own door. I suppose we can always dream, but despite the obvious corruption apparent to all but the most naive partisans, there is little chance that the chants of “Lock her up” will ever find fruition. The Clintons have always been called “Teflon”, because despite their endlessly suspicious and outright deviant behavior, nothing ever seems to stick. That being said, teflon eventually wears down and must be discarded; it is also unlikely that Hillary will ever be considered for public office again. Shakespeare’s intentional misspelling of the word “petard” by dropping the “d” is a vulgar reference to the french word for flatulence which comes from the same root. And so, Hillary may not have been blown up with her own petard, but with her own “petar”, with such a stink emanating from her that even her friends no longer want her in the room.
I am reminded of the origin of the Jewish feast of Purim; the story of Mordecai, Haman, and Esther. Haman was a noble in the court of the Persian King Ahaseurus, and Mordecai a lowly Jew in the captivity. Mordecai, because of his religious devotion would not bow down to Haman, which enraged the noble. Not content with the the destruction of Mordecai, Haman plotted to annihilate the whole of the jewish people in an ancient holocaust. Unbeknownst to Haman, and even the King himself, the King’s beloved wife Esther was herself a Jew, and the niece of Mordecai. Haman erects what is probably mistranslated as a “gallows” on which to hang Mordecai; but since hanging was not used by the Persians, this was more likely what I once thought a petard was, a long sharpened post on which to impale someone… in this case a very large post, 75 feet high. He also issues a secret decree for every Jew to be killed as well. In the end Esther exposes the plot, risking her own life to do so, Haman is hoisted on his own petard, and the Jews are rescued. The rage of the enemies of President Trump, that like a cancer has metastasized to his supporters, and all things conservative, is a bomb ready to blow… but sometimes bombs return to their creators.
As a prime example of rage clouding good judgement, I submit one of the most despicable campaign ads ever made. Supporters of Ed Gillespie in the Virginia gubernatorial race, as well as Tea Party supporters in general, are represented as a homicidal redneck in a pickup truck with a confederate flag trying to run down children of color with his truck. It was thankfully pulled after the NYC Home Depot truck incident, but likely not before the damage was done; not so much to Gillespie’s chances, but like Hillary’s ridiculous “basket of deplorables” comment, this might be an insult so offensive and without justification that it dooms the very candidate it was trying to support.
Rage is seldom a useful emotion. The lessons we learn from the political, we would do well to extend to the personal. When we are governed by rage, our anger, even if justified, is magnified beyond reason and control. We devise destruction that often results in collateral damage to those undeserving of your rage. Often the bombs you try to hurl explode at your own doorstep. And say you do drop your bomb of rage, you have your vengeance, you strike your target and fly away; how have you yourself been changed by the fruit of your rage? How have those around you, your friends and your enemies, been changed? We would do well to consider the words of Oppenheimer as he considered how the development of the atomic bomb he helped create would change the world; he quoted from the Bhagavad Gita:
“I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
Is that who we want to be?