Sunday, September 11, 2016
In the movie, El Cid, starring Charlton Heston, the story is about a knight, a strong and courageous knight who was above all righteous and honorable. He was, according to the movie and legends, above all a pure knight, a man who was honorable and willing to put his life and his fortunes on the line for honor and truth.
I will not go into all the historical discrepancies and conflation and stick to the myth at the center of the movie and of El Cid's legend.
In the last decade of the 11th century, Don Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar fought with the Spanish Moors who had made a home in Spain after previously conquering much of the southern part of the country. The Spanish Moors (similar to our modern day Muslims) were being overwhelmed as the more militant arm of Islam responded to Allah's call that all infidels were to be converted or murdered and beheaded, and that included Moors who had assimilated into the countries they had previously conquered. The Pope in Rome called a series of Crusades to take back the Holy Land (Jerusalem) from the evil and murderous Moors and Christians killed and burned Moors wherever they found and defeated them even as Moors beheaded and forcibly converted Christians, Jews, and infidels who would not pay homage to Allah and convert.
The areas in Spain where Moors were prominent were areas of beautiful architecture where education was extended to all comers, including women, though the women must remain veiled. Toledo, Seville, Badajoz, and Valencia were part of the Islamic controlled areas and their buildings and works remain even in the 21st century as some of the most beautiful architecture. In the 11th century, Toledo, Seville, and Badajoz were bastions of learning where advanced medical practices were taught as were mathematics and the literature and science of Islam. Though the Moors came from Mauretania originally, they became a part of Spanish culture that echoes still throughout the centuries.
Into this blended culture where Muslims were reviled by the Christians as the Christians were reviled by the Spanish Moors came Don Rodrigo de Vivar. Rodrigo's father was the Spanish king, Fernando's, champion. When he was slain, Rodrigo took his father's place as the king's champion. No doubt, Rodrigo had killed and burned many Muslims as was the custom, but when he heard of a new jihad coming up from Africa into Spain for the sole purpose of destroying all Christians and Christian rule, Rodrigo thought more for his country than for himself. He was acquainted with some Muslims and, as the king's champion, stood for honor and right, and the honor and right he saw did not include continuing to kill Muslims that had assimilated into Spanish culture in the face of a greater horror, a new jihad that put the Spanish Moors at as great a risk as the Christians. The Spanish Moors were a strong force in Spain and had continued and improved the Roman roads and aqueducts, but they were considered too tolerant of infidels and must be eradicated if they would not turn back to true Islamic worship and policies.
An alliance was formed between the Spanish Moors and Rodrigo, who had been cast off by King Alfonso after Don Rodrigo made him swear on the Holy Bible that he had no killed his brother, King Sancho, with whom Alfonso shared the kingdom. King Alfonso banished Don Rodrigo for publicly embarrassing him and making him swear he had had no hand in King Sancho's death.
Don Rodrigo had only his unsullied reputation and his strength of arms, but men followed him in spite of King Alfonso's edict that any who gave aid and comfort to Don Rodrigo would themselves die. The Spanish Moors respected Don Rodrigo's strength as a warrior and his honor and called him The Lord (El Said, which became El Cid). They allied with Don Rodrigo whose growing army followed him on foot, on horseback, anyway and anyhow they could to fight the invaders, even to being willing to fight alongside the Spanish Moors to repel the gathering horde of Islamic invaders, the Almohades, coming from the Atlas Mountains of Marrakesh to unite Spain under Islamic rule and destroy the Spanish if they could not be converted and subjugated.
El Cid and the Spanish Moors fought the Almohades for years, eventually resulting in a fatal wound that cost the Cid's life. The Spanish were so close to victory and Don Rodrigo's death so close to victory would look as if God had abandoned the Spanish and give new life and strength to the Almohades, even though King Alfonso had relented and joined forces with the Cid, providing a united front against the invaders. There was only one remedy for the dire situation and that was to strap Don Rodrigo to his charger so that he might still lead the Spanish forces against the Almohades and send them to Hell or back across the Straits to Africa in utter defeat.
El Cid was fastened to his horse and rode out against the Almohades who fled in terror from a man they believed was dead and they were routed.
I remember my tears and the smile and the feeling of pride as El Cid rides out against the jihadists in the above last scene from the movie, El Cid, starring Charlton Heston. I cried for his decision when El Cid could have been saved, for his honor and his dedication to Spain and King Alfonso and the men he led against the jihadists. I was young, but old enough to see that a man, even in a movie, willing to lay down his life for his country and his people was a great man who put his country's needs before his own, even when it meant he would leave behind his wife and children. I cried as they strapped El Cid onto the horse and fixed his banner in his mailed fist unsure whether he was clinging to life with his waning strength or already dead. When he rode through the gates of Valencia and against the jihadists so certain of his death and their victory, and as they scattered in terror before the man they believed already dead, my heart was full of admiration for his sacrifice and sorrow for his death. That is what the director wanted everyone to feel as they saw Charlton Heston ride forth against his country's foes. The hero rides against the villains and triumphantly into history.
I know the story that was created for that movie is a blend of lies, half truths, conflations, and murky history, but it is the thread that Joseph Campbell called the Hero's Journey, the same thread that runs through any tale where the hero faces great odds and triumphs against great opposition with his honor intact. It is as much a great feat to fight against oppression and opposition while clinging fast the ideals that prompted the hero to sally forth in the first place. The hero battles greed, fame, self-aggrandizement, and Faustian deals in his struggle for what is an honorable quest. And the hero emerges changed, scarred, and hopefully humble and willing to sacrifice what is dearest to him.
When I read that it was being considered that Hillary Clinton would use the powerful image of El Cid to show her as the wounded hero willing to sacrifice all to win the election I was appalled. I would feel the same way if Donald Trump ever considered the same maneuver to bolster his campaign. Neither are worthy of even the myth of El Cid let alone the truth of a crusader who fought for his people and held his king to the same honor and truth he demonstrated and which he held in high regard.
No matter the rhetoric and speechifying about how Hillary and Trump will unite us against political corruption and the boogeymen of China, Russia, and North Korea, they are not worthy to clean Don Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar's horses hooves. They have not held President Obama accountable for his actions nor have they acted honorably during their campaigns. Children squabbling over whose turn it is on the swings have more honor than either of them.
No, I do not see Hillary allowing herself to be strapped to a white charger half dead or as a corpse to ride forth against this year's political boogeymen. I do see her making a deal with Satan for more time, more money, and more power as she connives her way into the Oval Office as Commander-in-Chief. The US military might follow Trump into battle and grit their teeth and take the field as Trump slopes off to a safer position far from the killing zone, and they might frag Trump afterwards at their first opportunity. Fragging Hillary would likely happen a lot sooner, if the military will stand and fight for her at all. Hillary's disdain for all soldiers in all branches of the military has been too marked to be mistaken for anything but hatred, and not a little jealousy that they serve and she was denied enlistment.
No, I do not see Hillary as El Cid, not even when she was younger and far more healthy than she is now, nor do I see Trump as El Cid courageously risking his life to save the country. Do you?
That is the question you must ask yourself in the days before the election in November. Do you believe either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump would sacrifice their lives for the sake of the country -- if no money was involved? Forget the media manipulation and the empty speeches and focus on the future. Do you want either Hillary or Trump in control of your future and the future of this country?
Let your answer be your guide as you enter the polling booth to pull the handle to select the next President of these United States.
That is all. Disperse.