The American Alcibiades
Alcibiades may have been the greatest Athenian of his times, certainly the greatest military and naval strategist and the greatest military and naval hero, and probably the one most unfairly treated by his compatriots, so much so that he became one of Athens’ greatest traitors as well. But whether that speaks ill of Alcibiades or of Athens may be subject to debate, and if I were an arbiter, I’d have no doubt that I’d decide in favor of Alcibiades.
Slandered, defamed and robbed by the Athenian state while he was in the midst of battles protecting her interests, I could not blame him for repudiating her. If reincarnation is real and if history repeats herself, Americans have their own Alcibiades, their own most brilliant strategist and courageous military and naval hero whom they also felt compelled to betray, continuously, and then to be amazed that he abandoned them.
Perhaps, except for Alcibiades, no noble hero was more unfairly treated by those for whom he sacrificed and by those to whom he assured victory than was the American Eagle: Benedict Arnold, the hero of Quebec and Montreal, of Lake Champlain and Ticonderoga, and most important of all, the hero of Saratoga which turned the tide of the American Revolutionary War, and did so by insubordinate violation of his commanding officer’s orders to retreat.
Not all that different from today’s Congress, especially as personified by its two Democratic leaders, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, Alcibiades and Arnold were consistently betrayed by the self-serving and self-aggrandizing politicians who did little if nothing to help them in their successes and instead, awarded their laurels to undeserving others. That seems the nature of politics, whether 2,400 years ago, 237 years ago or today.
To those who know only the elementary and high school propaganda we refer to as history, I recommend William Sterne Randall’s Benedict Arnold: Patriot and Traitor. Read it and then reflect on just how duplicitous our political leaders tend to be. And ask yourself, just who are the real heroes and who are the real villains, and had you the talent and the courage, who you would have been.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2017; all rights reserved