Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Peace and Good Wool

            Lysistrata’s extended metaphor comparing war and politics to a spool of wool sheds light on interesting parallels between the shared issues facing ancient Athens and the modern day United States of America.  Lysistrata helps concretize the grandiose issues of political instability and warring factions by comparing them to the domestic issue of tangled yarn. Lysistrata proclaims, “If, when yarn we are winding, It chances to tangle, then, / as perchance you may know, through the skein / This way and that still the spool we keep passing till it is finally clear all again” (56). Lysistrata explains that when conflict arises while trying to work with other nations, such as war and in this case the Peloponnesian war, changes must be made in order to have a “clear” useful piece of wool.
Lysistrata suggests that increased communications and diplomacy are the changes necessary to have a situation you can work with and not a “skein” which is both “a length of thread of yarn, loosely coiled and knotted” or “a tangled or complicated arrangement, state, or situation” (“skein”, Oxford Dictionary). America faces a current period of diplomatic and civil unrest. Lysistrata suggests that “ambassadors out on all sides we will send / … / -- soon you will find that the War has end” (57). However, America has a tried and true policy not to negotiate with terrorists. Our main war at hand is that against terrorism and the ISIS movement and attempts to negotiate with this group has lead to brutal, publicized beheadings. Though Lysistrata is correct in the power of negotiation and diplomacy, our nation faces an issue at hand that can not be negotiated away. This raises the question as to whether war and violence truly is necessary at times to deal with diplomatic and international affairs. Though brutal and costly, war and violence seems to be the only current solution to our issue with ISIS.

Lysistrata also proceeds to mention how the wool must be purified and cleaned. She states, “Well, first as we wash dirty wool so’s to cleanse it, so / with a pitiless zeal we will scrub / Through the whole city for all greasy fellows” (56-57). With the main intention of weaving a “strong Cloak of State” (57), it is vital that the wool itself, the very fabric of society, be pure and strong, every fiber. Lysistrata suggests that the “burrs” and “parasites” must be removed, those leeching off society for their own personal gain without providing anything in return.  A major political issue at the moment is whether the welfare program is necessary and whether it being taken advantage of. Many individual are proponents of mandatory drug testing to participate in the program while others oppose the issue. Lysistrata, apparently, would be opposed to such a welfare program in general and would most likely support mandatory drug testing. Many individuals fail to recognize that a large majority of welfare recipients do use the system for its intended purposes. Most recipients use it in conjunction with their regularly earned income which is not enough to support their family. Lysistrata also emphasizes the making of a “great common basket” in which both “disenfranchised or citizens, allies or aliens” can be united; “pell-mell the lot of them in we’ll squeeze” (57). This rings especially true at a time when Syrian refugees stand at our doorstep and certain political candidates suggest walling them off and barring them out of the country all together. Just as America was established as a melting pot, and Lysistrata wants to form a “great common basket”, America today needs to stand by its principles and help  those abroad in need. Though set over a millennia ago, may issues still ring true in ancient Athens and modern day America.

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