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The Truth, Mainly - 10/23/2006

Time for the Lysistrata remedy?

And so President Bush's war goes on and on—with 73 of our troops killed in October by last Thursday.

And who knows how many Iraqis? Some estimates put the total Iraqi dead as high as 655,000, although the Bush folks scoff at such a large number.

Should we be scoffing too? At the number? Or at the Bush folks?

And how will we know when the war's over? What's our goal?

Executing Saddam? Getting Iraqi oil under the control of U.S. oil companies and on the way to the U.S.?

Are we still interested in finding Osama bin Laden, the presumed architect of 9/11? Or have we lost interest in him?

Are our goals best kept as secrets? Or should we all know about them? And if enough of us disagree with those goals, should we impeach the President for all the unnecessary blood that's been shed? You know, the way we impeached President Clinton for lying about his consensual relations with That Girl?

Or does our current President's public piety get him off the hook for doing things that others holding his office might be ostracized for? I'm a male, and it seems to me that males are more likely than females to tolerate our President's missteps. And I just had an epiphany. Here it is:

We should take a lesson from a Greek comedy called "Lysistrata" by Aristophanes that was first produced 2417 years ago. That's right: two thousand four hundred and seventeen. It's about a war between two Greek city states, Athens and Sparta.

And so you won't be shocked later on, let me warn you: it's also about sex.

Coincidentally in the Oct. 15 Journal-Star, on page 3E, there was a story by Steven Dudley that explicitly talked about a small-scale sex strike in Pereira, Colombia, by a "half-dozen Pereira women" who "decided to withhold sex from their boyfriends—many of whom authorities say belong to gangs—until they dropped their weapons and found a new way of life." And David Broder, on page 5E of the same issue, wrote about the increasing political clout women are having in U.S. politics. Both pieces reminded me of "Lysistrata" as it was translated into modern English by Charles T. Murphy.

Lysistrata is the name of the Athenian woman who, like a lot of other women down through the ages, was offended by rulers who sent the women's husbands off to kill and be killed in what was then modern warfare. Her name, "Lysistrata" means "she who disbands the armies." The armies she particularly wants disbanded are the ones from Sparta, and from Athens.

And after the Spartans and the Athenians have fought—and killed—each other for some time, Lysistrata comes up with a wonderful plan which she reveals to the wives of both Spartan and Athenian soldiers. After several minutes of making bawdy sex jokes, she gives the wives her plan:

The Truth, Mainly


"My friends, if we are going to force our men to make peace, we must do without."

"Without what?" one of the wives asks.

"Will you do it?" Lysistrata asks.

"We"ll do it," one of the women says, "if it kills us."

"Well then," Lysistrata says, "we must do without sex altogether."

That explanation results in much consternation, but finally their desire for peace overwhelms their desire for making whoopee and they agree to forego sex with their husbands—until in an amazingly short time (five days), the warrior-husbands agree to end the war.

Which Lysistrata does with this proclamation:

"Come then, since all is fairly done, men of Sparta, lead away your wives, and you, Athenians, take yours. Let every man stand beside his wife, and every wife beside her man, and then, to celebrate our fortune, let's dance. And in the future, let's take care to avoid these misunderstandings."

And as the final stage direction puts it, "All go out singing and dancing."

Post-Lysistrata casualty figures for both sides:

Sparta: Zero deaths. Vast humiliation for males—which they may have overcome by now. Immense sense of newfound power and dignity for their wives.

Athens: Ditto, and a little more power and dignity for Lysistrata, who had knowledge of just how little dignity males have under certain conditions.

Now tell me: Doesn't that beat to kingdom come our incomprehensible efforts to end our present war?

So next time you get indignant about what's going on in Iraq, think about what kind of Lysistrata remedy we might come up with.

Hey, if it worked 2417 years ago….


Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail address is: leonsatterfield@earthlink.net.


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