What the GOP and a Greek tragedy have in common | Lloyd E. Sheaffer

Today’s partisans in the MAGA movement are little more than actors in an updated Greek tragedy directed by an unqualified, power hungry, dissembling, narcissistic, demagogic, would-be despot

June 29, 2022 6:30 am

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District (C-Span screen capture)

They have a word for in in Greek: ὑποκριτής.

It’s pronounced  ‘hoop-ok-ree-tace.’ And this word needs to be on every voters’ proverbial radar every time they hear a MAGA-touting political advertisement on media or listen to a yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flag-waving nominee.

The original meaning of this word was “an interpreter from underneath,” since it first referred to actors who wore large masks in ancient Greek drama; thus, it described one speaking from underneath a mask.

Soon, however, its meaning moved from merely referring to an actor to naming a “dissembler or pretender,” the definition that has remained its primary one ever since. Additionally, in its early evolved usage the connotation of ὑποκριτής was “implying arrogance and hardness of heart, utterly devoid of sincerity and genuineness.”

Most people are familiar with this term in its current English iteration, hypocrite. And, oh my, does it fit many of the mountebanks seeking political office and power today.

As moronic as it is, calamitous reverberations from the 2020 election still rattle the general psyche. Remember how inaccurate voting machines all over the country were, thus denying the far-right’s candidate for Despot of the United States the clear victory he deserved? 

Well, the rebellious Red contenders who won in the recent primary election have not raised a hue and cry over the counts from these same machines. 

For instance, chief Trump sycophant, Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano (MAGAstriano?), has not contested the voting machine results or the validity of mail-in ballots in his electoral victory as the ultra-right aspirant to the governorship of Pennsylvania. I guess the system, as well as machines, is broken only for Republicans who lose to Democrats. ὑποκριτής?

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On another matter, Mastriano touted his version of Christianity on his sleeve right under his colonel’s shoulder marks.

As I noted in a previous column, in typical Christian Nationalist style he had the audacity to proclaim in a speech, “We have the power of God with us. We have Jesus Christ that we’re serving here. He’s guiding and directing our steps.” 

Well, if that is so, I guess Mastriano missed the meeting when his “campaign director” commanded, “You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.”

Or the nominee for governor must have stepped out when his guide reported, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” If he claims he is following Jesus, Mastriano should do likewise instead of holding anti-immigrant and pro-wall views

Or else he should wear another patch labeling him “ὑποκριτής.”

The Republican Party has always been proud to be viewed as the “Law and Order” faction of our political spectrum; heaven knows we need law and order to function in society. Unfortunately too many of today’s camp of the Right have moved so far right they have fallen off the platform and become the “Law-doesn’t-apply-to-me and Disorder” party. 

Look at U.S Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, for instance.

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The ongoing revelations from the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol have offered plenty of information showing that Perry was an active party to the unlawful and insurrectionist campaign to upset the 2020 presidential election results.

His involvement was so odious that he was subpoenaed by the committee, yet he has defied responding to the legal writ; he has determined that this lawful proceeding does not apply to him.

One wonders what Perry is hiding behind his mask of self-righteous indignation that keeps him from responding to this opportunity to present his side of the story and show that he was right when he joined the cabal formed in order to overthrow a legal and bona fide election.

“Talking out of both sides of your mouth” is an old saw that typifies a hypocrite; the Janus-faced speaker will say one thing to a particular crowd or in one setting but then say the opposite to another gathering.  The result of such behavior is distrust. While this bearing is  de rigueur for many politicians of every stripe, lately a good many on the far right have honed this skill to mask their true intentions.

A local example comes via state Rep. Barbara Gleim, R-Cumberland, who has parroted proposals from the far-right group Moms for Liberty in the past, including encouraging conservative parents to serve as substitute teachers in public school classrooms as a way of monitoring what teachers are doing and teaching.

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In a recent Facebook post, Gleim wrote that, “we also need conservative eyes and ears in the schools. If anyone can substitute even one day a week, the teachers who are activists and indoctrinating children can be revealed . . . If the conservative group has concerns, they could be the eyes and ears through substitute teaching, and other means as well. Everyone concerned may benefit from each other’s experience.”

In April of this year, Gleim introduced the “Anti-Indoctrination in Teaching Act” (House Bill 2521), a bill about which she says, “The goal is to teach students to be independent thinkers and discerning consumers of information and different viewpoints.” 

In the text of the bill, she writes, “Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the discussion of ideas and history of the concepts described in subsection (a) or shall be construed to prohibit the discussion of public policy issues of the day or ideas that individuals may find unwelcome, disagreeable or offensive.” 

So far so good. Coming from the left side of her mouth, her words imply that all topics, controversial or not, can and should be discussed in the classroom.

“The best way to defeat bad ideas and destructive ideologies is to introduce students, and teachers in a few cases, to better ones, Gleim said, according to her hometown newspaper, The Sentinel, of Carlisle, Pa. “Once passed, this bill will provide a comprehensive framework to root out critical race theory and its destructive derivatives from our children’s classrooms.”

If something is “root[ed] out” of a curriculum, then it cannot be discussed. Independent thinking comes from hearing, researching, and debating all sides and “different viewpoints” of an issue. 

Gleim and her ilk claim they are working for transparency in our public school systems. Where they should be demanding transparency is in their own reactionary intentions. Otherwise, the only brand they should wear is “ὑποκριτής.”

Hypocrisy is duplicitous. It is dissembling. It is knavery. Hypocrisy is a form of corruption. And today’s version of conservatism is rife with such unscrupulousness. Even conservative pundit and journalist Michael Gerson recognizes this is happening in his Washington Post piece “The Moral Hypocrisy of Conservative Leaders Is Stunning.”

He writes, “People who talked endlessly about respecting the Constitution affirm absurd slanders against the constitutional order. People who claimed to be patriots now spread false claims about their country’s fundamental corruption. People who talked of honoring the rule of law now jerk and gyrate according to the whims of a lawless leader . . . Conservatism is supposed to produce the best of citizens — lawful, loyal and respectful of the Constitution. In some quarters, it is now producing the worst — fractious, resentful and cynical. A large portion of the responsibility rests on conservative leaders, who have sold their convictions cheap.”

The masks worn by the adherents to today’s morally corrupt, ultra-conservative, dissembling, hypocritical political coalition must be ripped away to reveal their true colors: “ [an] arrogance and hardness of heart, utterly devoid of sincerity and genuineness.”

Today’s partisans in the MAGA movement are little more than actors in an updated version of a Greek tragedy directed by an unqualified, power hungry, dissembling, narcissistic, demagogic, would-be despot.

If open-minded, truly patriotic citizens do not challenge and confront and conquer these misguided attacks on our democracy, then we all are ὑποκριταὶ.

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Lloyd E. Sheaffer
Lloyd E. Sheaffer

Opinion contributor Lloyd E. Sheaffer, a retired English and Humanities teacher, writes from North Middleton Township, Pa. His work appears monthly on the Pennsylvania Capital-Star’s Commentary Page. Readers may email him at [email protected].