Trump’s Tiresias - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1698056

Trump’s Tiresias

They say that when the forces of natural calamities baffle human beings without answers, they revert to gods and superstition.

Well, we are at that point in our lives when we are realizing that we’ve got some of our fundamentals wrong. We were planning to explore life on Mars without ensuring life on earth, dreaming heliocentric adventures without putting universal health care in place. We were not prepared for everyday life. Lacking any knowledge to cure the virus, we are being forced back to predictions and superstitions and, of course, religion.

Tiresias is the soothsayer in Sophocles’s famous Greek tragedy, “Oedipus Rex.” Oedipus, the king of Thebes, was confronted with the biggest challenge of his rule: a pestilence was killing his subjects every day by the hundreds. Nobody knew how to stop it.

Oedipus tried every means available to him to prevent the disease. Nothing worked. Torn and bewildered, he took it upon himself to find an answer. But he lacked the knowledge. He was good with the sword, had enormous courage; in peaceful times, he was even a just ruler. But, here, he was a defeated man.

Someone in his kingdom suggested he talk to Tiresias, the blind soothsayer who could see into the future. Desperate, Oedipus ordered Tiresias to be brought to him.

The blind soothsayer came and told the king immediately that he knew why Thebans were dying from the pestilence, but he wouldn’t tell him the answer. “You don’t want to know why, King,” he warned, “for you will regret hearing the cause of your subjects’ death enormously. There is no way back.”

Oedipus was dangerously insistent, pointing his sword to the old man’s chest. Then came the blind man’s answer: The people of Thebes were dying because the gods were angry with Oedipus. Inadvertently, without knowing, he had slept with his mother, Queen Jocasta, and had children by her. He had to pay for his sins.

Oedipus took responsibility and banished himself to the desert, blinded, forbidding Thebans to give him even a drop of water. He died in the desert, thirsty and hungry.

The country was free from the pestilence.

Our Oedipus, President Trump, is luckier. According to him, he has committed no crime and even has answers for coronavirus. His solution? Open up businesses, let people go back to work, and both save his presidency and enrich his pockets.

He also has his Tiresias, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warning him to refrain. But will Trump listen? Like Oedipus, he suffers from hubris. Unlike Oedipus, he is a fool.

Oedipus saved Thebes at his own expense. Donald Trump needs to do the same. He should be banished to his own desert of real estate.

Shivaji Sengupta



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