If you’ve seen the movie “Spartacus,” you know that quote doesn’t have much of anything to do with the presidential elections. But it was the first thought that came to mind when I saw the latest Newsweek. Though we’ve come quite far from our barbaric ways of governing, these “diplomatic” debates have been about as bazaar as this cover. While not quite the equivalent of watching a game of gladiators, lately these republican debates have been about as entertaining, making Newsweek’s choice of candidates in loin cloth quite fitting. And if watching Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich fighting like to boys at recess over who lost the last game isn’t entertaining to you, certainly Ron Paul with his high-pitched voice, playing the bobble-head-like referee keeps things interesting. All making fun aside, in these few paragraphs, I don’t wish to sway you right or left but rather would like to observe our reaction and response to the 2012 causcuses. (Don’t you just hate that word?)
If you haven’t seen it, “Spartacus” is a film by Stanley Kubrick about a heroic and rebellious Roman slave, played by Kirk Douglas, during the Third Servile War. (**SPOILER ALERT**) At the end of the film, the Roman Emperor demands that the zealous Spartacus reveals himself in turn for every other Roman slave’s freedom. After Spartacus (Douglas) exclaims “I am Spartacus” everyone else around begins standing and claiming “I am Spartacus,” leaving the Emperor so enraged that every last slave is crucified. The end. I know. It’s grueling. But these debates sometimes feel like that; like a bunch of savages in suits shouting “I am Spartacus,” “I am Spartacus,” “No, I am Spartacus!” Though altogether the film is irrelevant to the elections of 2012, doesn’t it feel this barbaric at time? Like we’re looking for this one, zealous, heroic individual to stand up and identify himself?
As young adults, some of us are more eager to listen and trust all we hear. It can be an impressionable period of life. While it’s ideal to always be eager to learn, there are some people we encounter who have such a compelling presence or a voice so fluent and forthright that we tend to cling to their words like gold (as if man could produce such an element.) And somehow we let the idea of these men build up in our mind to that of heroes and gods. But after you’ve lived enough life (which might not be saying much,) likely, you come to a place where you realize these words, which you clung to like a hidden treasure, were nothing more than words. It’s disappointing when men we’ve held up so high don’t meet up to their word. It’s disheartening when men we admire don’t fulfill our expectations. We have a way of building men up in our heads, and expecting them to be more than they are.
So in comparison to our personal interactions, for these candidates, the stakes are higher. The audiences are much larger. And so their words are inevitably greater than anyone can honestly fulfill. And who knows how much of what they’re saying are even their own words to being with? Inevitably, it will be their word that wins us over and elects the next President. Still, we can’t forget that their word is just a word. And each candidate is just a man. One Psalm delicately puts this matter in perspective for me every time; “Man… is but a breath” (Ps. 39:5.) While the White House has held many men who’ve shaped America for the better, it takes more than a breath to tackle all our Nation faces and win.
While Gingrich and Romney are already fighting to the death in diapers, Obama warms up in the Oval office, and Ron Paul gets pumped up, the words being prepared for these final debates will surely be more ornate and full of life than they will sound after the Inauguration in 2013. We ought to keep in mind, not one man can hold the weight of all we expect and need. And while there certainly may be a right man for the job, even Spartacus dies in the end.