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by Paul Kiser
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Paul Kiser

Article first published as The Quality of Mercy on Technorati.

William Shakespeare’s play, The Merchant of Venice, tells the tale of Antonio, a wealthy merchant who can’t lend money to a friend in need because his money is leveraged until his ships return to Venice. To help his friend, and having no other options, he goes to a moneylender named Shylock who despises Antonio, but surprisingly he agrees to lend the money without interest. The only condition is that if the money is not paid back in full by a certain date, Shylock will be allowed to take a pound of Antonio’s flesh.

In Act V, Antonio’s ships have apparently been lost as sea and he is arrested and brought before the Duke of Venice and Shylock. The moneylender is adamant that the contract is valid and he should be allowed to collect on his debt by taking the pound of flesh ‘nearest Antonio’s heart’. The root of the issue is not about the loan contract, it is about the long-standing conflict between Antonio and Shylock.

The Tea Party is playing the role of Shylock in American politics. Feigning some fictitious abuse in order to convince others that something horrible has happened to them, when in fact the Tea Party doth protest too much. Next Tuesday they seek their pound of flesh from the rest of our country and unfortunately they will likely get it. Sadly, the village idiots have told their lies enough that many people are starting to believe them.

It strikes me that our political uproar caused by the alleged ‘anger’ of the Tea Party and other extreme conservatives has nothing to do with the state of the economy, healthcare reform, higher taxes, immigration, nor government regulation. Like Shylock, it is the desire to destroy that drives the Tea Party, not rational thought. No rational person would accept:

  • That our economy is worse today because of a Democratic majority.
    • We were on the brink of complete economic disaster 18 months ago. Through brilliant use of tax money and government intervention disaster was averted. Ironically, we are making interest from some of the money invested.
  • That the 2007-09 Recession was caused by government regulation.
    • The 2007-09 Recession was caused by unethical business men and their practices, NOT because of a lack of government regulation.
  • That healthcare reform is bankrupting businesses.
    • Most of the reforms passed will not even take effect until 2014 and no one can offer a rational argument to support the doomsday prediction.
  • That the Democratic majority has increased taxes.
    • Wow. Taxes have been lower for 95% of Americans in 2009 and will be again in 2010, if the Republicans stopped holding the rest of us hostage unless the richest Americans are allowed to only pay tax equal to the poorest Americans.
  • That illegal immigrants are destroying our country.
    • Where’s the proof? I have heard the same ‘incidents’ used over and over. Undocumented workers lead a quiet, low profile life in this country… they have to. Yes, there are a few incidents that involve undocumented workers, but when a 21-year old, white, male attacks a woman in Denver because he ‘thinks’ she’s a Lesbian it is obvious we have bigger problems with stupid white men.

      Angle: Manning up in stupid

I don’t mind a good debate and reasoned argument, but there is nothing I have heard out to the Tea Party rhetoric that is based in reality. US Senate candidate Sharron Angle runs from the media. She and her supporters make baseless and absurd accusations of voter fraud, puts out flyers saying her opponent voted for death panels, and send out fake emails saying that her opponent’s great Uncle was hanged as a horse thief. It’s as if Richard Nixon’s ghost has returned.

At the end of Shakespeare’s play a character makes a plea to save Antonio with a speech known as the ‘Quality of Mercy‘ speech. Shylock is unmoved, but in the end Antonio is saved and the moneylender’s plan is thwarted by rational people. For us, not so much.

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