Lately, I have been getting the news watching Stephen Colbert monologues on YouTube. I can only swallow the strangeness of things occurring in the USA if they are accompanied with irony. On February 6th, Colbert, host of The Late Show, changed his usual tone. He talked about the importance of honoring an oath.
Colbert was responding to the unexpected act of the American Republican Senator, Mitt Romney, who voted in favor to convict the sitting president of the United States for abuse of power. Romney explained his vote by arguing that the oath he took before God demanded it from him.
Colbert quoted Thomas More, the main character of Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons to explain the significance of taking an oath. He describes More as “the only individual opposing Henry VIII, a bloated, golden child, who none dared to gainsay.” Colbert continues “(...) In the play More says to his daughter, ‘When a man takes an oath, he’s holding his own self in his own hands, like water. And if he opens his fingers, then, he needn’t hope to find himself again.’”
The action that some might see as futile or inconsequential, has the potential of aligning oneself with our self of the past, present and future. Taking an oath seriously, Colbert seems to suggest, strengthens our character (or maybe not).
Death can also be an agent of transformation. Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” tells the story of an old lady who has an epiphany moments before, the Misfit, a fugitive, kills her. In her final moments, the woman witnesses the murder of her family members with whom she was traveling in a rural road of Georgia by two of the Misfit’s accomplices. These horrific acts happened as she and the Misfit talked. The Misfit tells her about his conviction for a crime that, apparently, he did not commit. At some point of his recount, his face changes to express despair, frustration, anger. Upon seeing this manifestation of humanity in a man she once judged as ruthless, transforms her up to the point of claiming him as one of her own children. Is her compassion the result of goodness or fear?
“CHICXULUB” by TC Boyle, is a short story about destruction on a small and big scale. The story has two parts, in one, the narrator uses a technical fact, Tuguska, the asteroid that blasted hundreds of kilometers of trees in Siberia in 1908, to signal that our world could end any given moment. Part two deals with the pain of a parent who lost a child. This scenario could very well be seen as the end of the world too.
The correlation between reality and fiction in the stories allow us to see the pain in a very real way. They confront us with our own mortality. Thus, the importance of being at one with ourselves, as Colbert suggests, is significant because at any minute, our life could end or change completely.
By Lily Olivas