POLONIUS We are oft to blame in this, –
‘Tis too much proved–that with devotion’s visage
And pious action we do sugar o’er
The devil himself.
KING CLAUDIUS [Aside] O, ’tis too true!
How smart a lash that speech doth give my conscience!
(Hamlet, act 3, sc. 1)
Comments. The massacre at the school in Newton, Connecticut requires no description. It follows, in the same week, another such shooting at a shopping mall in Portland, Oregon with three victims. As (regrettably) usual the media provides non-stop coverage but never an attempt to an explanation, other than over worn adjectives such as “inexplicable” and “senseless”. According to the president, “We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years” but there is no effort to account for events which he himself acknowledges as a persistent feature of American life. And the secretary of education, “School shootings are always incomprehensible and horrific tragedies,” he said. “But words fail to describe today’s heartbreaking and savage attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School.”
We may call it ‘gall’, ‘intellectual bankruptcy’, but the regularity of these mass killings expresses a profound sickness of a society, afflicted by social tensions that can find no progressive outlet.
The same public figures who explain the tragedies as “inexplicable” preside over extreme levels of violence both at home and abroad. And Obama is the first US president to openly claim the right to select and order assassinations, including of US citizens.
The ruling elite promotes “perpetual war” (Petreus’ felicitous definition) with trillions of dollars feeding the killing machine. How could any expression of violence in America today be entirely “incomprehensible”?
At home, citizens are ensnared into a culture of violence, from television programming to police shootings and assaults on democratic rights. And while 1% amasses unspeakable profits, growing numbers of working families are plunged into poverty.
To cry over the children of Newton Connecticut while laughing of the Afghani, Pakistani or other nations’ children killed by drones is yet another case of willful blindness or gargantuan hypocrisy.
Tips for Use. Too many examples of application and not enough space for all. Let’s think of how many times the US administration has invaded other countries killing thousands (and millions) to bring ‘freedom and democracy’, that is, to “sugar over” immense evil with “devotion’s visage”
In the Play. Polonius tells Ophelia to read or pretend to read a book while waiting for the arrival of Hamlet. This is part of the scheme to find out what is really bothering Hamlet. The King, overhearing Polonius’ words to Ophelia, finds their dramatic relevance to his own actions.
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