Multiple terrorist attacks on innocent people in the last few weeks have shaken the world. In the wry and funny play, Mojada or Medea in Los Angeles, written by resident playwright Luis Alfaro for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, a re-write of Euripides tragedy, Medea shakes up the audience. This is theater in its truest sense. The play is set in current time, in LA, among Mexican immigrants with an administration that scorns illegal immigrants. A timely piece you might say. The eery quality is that the story of Jason and Medea produced as a tragedy in 431 BC is relevant in our time. In the original play Jason in search of power, wealth and security for his offspring, forsakes the values of love and loyalty. In a male dominated society the woman treated as a slave or possession has no power but her love, her cunning and her revenge. Each of the main characters in the play ends up being pushed with their back against the wall because of cultural traditions and the Darwinian push for survival of the fittest. Nobody wins.
When I hear working class Trump supporters say on NPR that the Democratic party didn’t listen to them, didn’t help them with their situation and that they support a man who speaks their language, who says he will change things for them for the better, i.e. give them jobs, let them earn money again, I hear Jason in the play (Lakin Valdez) explain to Medea (Sabina Zuniga Varela) that he has to say yes to everything his (female!) boss asks of him if he wants to secure a future for his family. Trump supporters, including members of Congress, give up their values and say yes to the orange boss to secure a future for themselves. Saying yes to the boss, is how it’s done in America, both the boss and Jason state in the play.
Do we give up on human values for the sake of progress in America? Many people do and I don’t think this happens only in America, it’s a societal problem Euripides pointed out in 431 BC. This is how it’s done in America, Europe, in Afghanistan, in Syria, in Yemen, in Sudan to name a few societies. Enough abuse of power in any of those places will lead to rage and in current time to terrorism.
For Medea, love had been her ticket out of servitude in her ancestral land Mexico. When her beloved sells his love for her, for advancement in society and a future for his son, all Medea has left is cunning and revenge. She uses it to take everyone down with her. She has nothing to lose and becomes a raging maniac. She kills the female boss and her son taking away everything Jason was betting his future on. When the boss, powerful only because she adhered to ruthless business practices, tries to make Medea go away, she comes up against the rage of what she thought was a subservient woman; she meets the Warrior. Sound familiar?
One terrorist attack after another is the echo of power hunger, of self advancement at the cost of others. The boss who sold out her ancestral values a long time ago, i.e. the corporation, is no longer human in her dealings; Jason in his desire for advancement becomes a tool in the hands of the boss, a corruptible politician, a possession like Medea was in the hands of ancestral culture. As a result Medea, at the end of the power chain, becomes the terrorist who takes down the innocent. Medea’s blood curdling scream at the end of the play is a volcano erupting after the pressure becomes untenable.
There is no simple solution for the dog-eat-dog world. I scorn when I hear Teresa May and Trump both in their offices of power, say regarding the terrorist attacks, “this is unacceptable”. They both need to go back to the farm so to speak and live the ordinary life, like the country’s rulers used to do in the beginning of the American Republic. Our government officials don’t go home enough. The current Washington power heads are removed from everyday living, out of touch.
We have a long road ahead to release the pressure on all the situations where power is abused in our world. Though many of us are working hard to create a compassionate world for all, we will hear many more blood curdling screams on the way.