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The legends of ancient Rome tell the story of Lucretia. It tells how the age of the Roman Kingdom ended and the age of the Roman Republic began. It is the story of why the last Roman king, a true tyrant, named Tarquinius Superbus (Tarquin the Proud, as in “the arrogant”), was finally overthrown. It also shows the powerful public outrage over the wrongful death of a virtuous woman.
The legend goes that, one night, a group of Roman nobles was getting drunk and bragging about whose wife was the most virtuous. To settle the argument, they rode to each of their houses so that the others could see just how their wives spent their idle time. All of the wives were found feasting or relaxing, except for Lucretia, the wife of Collatinus. When the nobles arrived at the house of Collatinus, Lucretia was found busily spinning wool. Her virtue and her beauty caught the drunken eye of Sextus, the son of King Tarquin.
On the next day, while Collatinus was away, Sextus returned. Since he was a cousin of Collatinus, Sextus was received by Lucretia as a relative and as a guest. Sextus then threatened, blackmailed, and raped Lucretia. Later, when Sextus had left and Collatinus had returned, Lucretia told her husband what Sextus had done, and then, to preserve her honor, she drew a knife and killed herself. Immediately afterward, Collatinus, Brutus, and others swore an oath that the evil Tarquin family could no longer be allowed to rule over Rome. They spread the news of the outrage of Lucretia’s death far and wide. Tarquinius Superbus and his family were soon exiled and the Roman Republic was born.
The legend of Lucretia is one of the examples that I reference to illustrate the second of my three political aphorisms: Never create a martyr.
If you accept that aphorism as true, and if you also accept as true the premise that, contrary to current politically-correct opinion, we as a species are necessarily and evolutionarily predisposed to grieve the deaths of wives and daughters more than those of husbands and sons, then how much more true must that aphorism be when the martyred wife or daughter is virtuous (not at fault for the circumstances of her death)? When the husband or father actually is witness to that wrongful death of their wife or daughter? When that husband or father is powerless to prevent that wrongful death? When the wife’s or daughter’s last words are pleas to her own honor or simply, “help me, dad?”
The hallmark of a tyrannical state is the enforcement of two codes of law. Collatinus, Brutus, and the other Romans who took that oath to oust the Tarquins must have known that Sextus would be favored, that he would never face the same justice that the unfavored would. And while some people might bear a two-code standard for a while, a martyr, especially a wife or daughter, thoroughly exposes that rotten system to the light.
And rotten systems of two codes of law are not just the stuff of ancient legends: Congressional exemption from Obamacare, IRS targeting of conservative groups, conservatives prosecuted for process crimes while others get a wrist slap for felonies, application of Due Process based on party allegiance, and jury nullification based on the political endgame. And, sadly, neither is martyrdom. Facts that favored enclaves like a San Francisco Superbus might well want to consider, but probably never will.Published in