“Beware the ides of March.” Act I. Scene II, William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
“The ides of March are come,” Caesar. “Aye, Caesar, but not gone,” Soothsayer.
Are we facing something similar now? Will we respond more appropriately or get stabbed in the back much the same way?
By the time this editorial appears in print in the Jackson Times-Voice’s Wednesday print edition, the ides of March will have come and gone. It is a date in history on which some pretty devastating events have occurred, apart from the date in 44 BC which may well have changed the course of western civilization.
In Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar, Caesar asks, “Who is it in the press that calls on me? I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music, Cry, ‘Caesar!’ Speak; Caesar is turn’d to hear.”
The Soothsayer, which in those times was one believed able to foresee the future, said the now infamous words back to Caesar, “Beware the ides of March.” Caesar asks, “What man is that?”
You and I know it isn’t a man at all. You and I know Caesar would have had every reason to believe himself master of all manhood in his day and would have felt insulated from that sort of threat, though clearly, he wasn’t (Et tu, Brute?).
You and I both know any feeling of imperviousness he felt his position afforded him would be later proven ill-founded. You and I both know, looking back on the events with the benefit of hindsight, the Ides of March would prove to be a very bad day for Rome’s dictator-for-live indeed.
It was a day of treachery. It was a day which taught us something about the difference between a true friend and a poser.
Beware the ides of March. What are the ides of March?
We just past the ides of March, this past Monday. The ides of March have been in the past and still are celebrated on the 74th-day of the Roman calendar. The ides of March are the 15th of this particular month.
Some of you may have missed it. It was Monday.
Prior to 44 BC, it was marked by several religious observances. It was also notable for the Romans as a deadline for settling debts. It became notorious as the date of the assassination of Julius Caesar.
In that act, the Roman Republic became the Roman Empire. Caesar's death was considered the closing event in the crisis of the Roman Republic.
The assassination triggered a civil war resulting in the rise to power of Octavian. Octavian would later be called Augustus Caesar. The month of August, the 8th-month of the year, was named in his honor.
Caesar made it through much the day in 44 BC. He was headed to the Theatre of Pompey, late in the day, and he passed the seer who had earlier warned him. Caesar, chiding him, said, “The ides of March are come.”
He was implying the seer’s prophecy had not been fulfilled. The seer replied, “Aye, Caesar; but not gone.”
You may be wondering what, aside from my lifelong literary devotion, would have gotten me off on this tangent. Well, there is a reason aside from my love of the classics.
There was something else which occurred on the ides of March which will leave an even more profound and indelible impact on human history than Rome becoming an empire. I bet this is something none of you remember, though when reminded, your failure to remember will be of great shame to you.
You see, March 15, 2003 is a day which should rank with the assassination of Rome’s dictator-for-life. It was on that date that the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a heightened global health alert.
After accumulating reports of a mysterious respiratory disease afflicting patients and healthcare workers in China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Canada, the WHO determined there was a new disease. This disease was named, Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome. You and I would know it under its acronym, SARS.
We have been afflicted for little more than a year by a coronavirus which causes the disease COVID-19. This disease was caused by a novel coronavirus not previously seen in humans.
Animal coronaviruses were thought to rarely infect people. Animal coronaviruses were thought to rarely, if ever, spread from person to person.
Two earlier coronaviruses, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV, merged to get us the present disease (SARS-CoV-2) which has killed over half-a-million Americans and counting. It has also changed the course of human history on the world stage.
We have developed multiple vaccines to combat this pernicious illness. Three vaccines have been emergency authorized and are being administered to people across the nation in record time.
I am not going to get into which administration deserves the credit for this. At this point, to heck with credit, they can share in the plaudits for all I care.
The vaccines appear to be working. The spread is slowing, the deaths are decreasing, and it looks as though some sunlight is beginning to appear through the darkest of dark clouds.
In Texas, Florida, and many other states, Caesar is feeling pretty good about himself. Caesar is beginning to believe all this bunk about the ides of March is a bunch of malarky.
“The ides of March are come,” certain Governors seem to be saying to our soothsayer, Anthony Fauci. To which Dr. Fauci replies, “Aye,…but not gone.”
We aren’t yet out of the woods. Our dropping all of the recommended safeguards now, throwing caution to the wind, opening it up full-bore, and letting our hair down may have serious consequences.
We need to have some self-control and get back into the swing of things safely, cautiously, and exercising some moniker of restraint and self-control. Else-wise, we may be walking toward our own Theatre of Pompey with figuratively 60-senators there, wielding knives, waiting to do us in if we aren’t wary.
If only Caesar had been more cautious. If only he had heeded the warnings. If only he had stayed under guard until March 16th. If only…
We don’t want to be found in a similar predicament. At least, I don’t.
This is Fletcher Long, warning you to beware, and reminding you to take this for whatever you find it worth but, THAT’S THE LONG VERSION!
Note: Mr. Long is an award-winning Kentucky journalist recognized for excellence in both writing and reporting by the Kentucky Press Association.