Friday, October 15, 2010

Tom Roeser - Chicago's Plutarch

Greece, by the turn of the first millennium, was a sad ruin of its former glory. Mighty Rome had looted its statues and reduced Greece to conquered territory. 1 Despite these circumstances, Mestrius Plutarchus (known to history as Plutarch) lived a long and fruitful life with his wife and family in the little Greek town of Chaeronea.

For many years Plutarch served as one of the two priests at the temple of Apollo at Delphi (the site of the famous Delphic Oracle) twenty miles from his home. By his writings and lectures Plutarch became a celebrity in the Roman empire, yet he continued to reside where he was born, and actively participated in local affairs, even serving as mayor. At his country estate, guests from all over the empire congregated for serious conversation, presided over by Plutarch in his marble chair. Many of these dialogues were recorded and published, and the78 essays and other works which have survived are now known collectively as the Moralia. . . .
Plutarch's plan in the Lives was to pair a philosophical biography of a famous Roman with one of a Greek who was comparable in some way. A short essay of comparison follows most of the pairs of lives. His announced intention was not to write a chronicle of great historical events, but rather to examine the character of great men, as a lesson for the living. Throughout the Lives, Plutarch pauses to deliver penetrating observations on human nature as illustrated by his subjects, so it is difficult to classify the Lives as history, biography, or philosophy. These timeless studies of humanity are truly in a class by themselves.

I looked at a replay of the Kirk-Giannoulias debate on NBC’s “Meet the Press” last night and was struck by the fact that the match-up shows the weaknesses and imperfectability of the human condition when squeezed by the vise of politics as nothing else has.
Nixon. A Success but Still Filled With Grievance.
Comparing it with the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon imbroglio which I have seen (in addition to its initial performance live) four times is fascinating. I am a great believer that experiences, good and bad, show up on people’s characters and faces beginning when they hit active middle age. In 1960 Nixon was 47, 5 feet 11 inches tall. 170 pounds, with wavy hair, brown eyes shaded by black, heavy eyebrows, a prominent ski nose, somewhat sagging jowls and a slightly protruding jaw—a face that narrowly missed being good looking. His health was generally adjudged as excellent but with a tendency to hypertension.
Tom Roeser

Plutrach paralleled the lives of the noble Greeks and Romans of history and myth- Theseus with Romulus, Themistocles with Camillus Cicero with Demosthenes, Phyrrus with Gaius Marius, Lysander with Sulla, Alexander with Caesar, Demtrius with Antony, andDion with Brutus - in all there were twenty three parallel lives.

Tom Roeser has been a public voice and an active civic leader in America from the time that he scooped an interview with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt after WWII, through his work with the Nixon Administration on Civil Rights right up to today's feature in Chicago Daily Observer.

Mr. Roeser wears his heart on his sleeve and speaks with a clarity and simplicity that seems lost on the dodgy and self absorbed columnist icons who bore a hole through Chicago Readers with cant, smarm and agendas.

Tom Roeser offers context and historical fact.

Like the Greek historian of the 1st Millennium Plutarch, Tom Roeser has offered in his Sun Times and Catholic Wanderer columns, as well as his editorials for Chicago Daily Observer, parallel lives of American public figures -FDR/Coolidge; Lincoln/GW Bush; John Brown?Pro Life Activists & etc.

Today, in considering the tepid candidacies of Alexi Giannoulias and Mark Kirk Tom Roeser contrasts those figure with the stark contrast of accomplished men -JFK and Nixon.

Click my post title and give Chicago's Plutarch a read.

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