Tonight I teamed with Cheryl again on a caper that took us to CAN-TV, the Chicago Cable Channel 21 to do a live call-in show. We were joined by Ben Marquez, a Weekend Program student who’s been at Shimer for a year and a half now, and came in part by way of service in the U.S. Army. Ben also happens to belong to three American Indian Nations, Navajo, Hopi and Cherokee. He and I were on the cameras talking about the question “Can warriors come home?” I thought this might be of interest to viewers today, as it was Veterans Day. The question seems to me one that we’re asking a lot in the U.S. these days. It's also one that we entertain every year at Shimer in a variety of ways through our curriculum, but perhaps most centrally and poignantly in our classes on Homer’s Odyssey. I’ve led classes on the Odyssey many times. One of the questions that always gets discussed is when exactly Penelope, Odysseus’ mate, recognizes him once he's returned home from the war in Troy (as recounted in the Iliad, of course). One is led to think in many ways that she knows who her guest is - though he is at first disguised as a beggar from Crete - once Odysseus has slaughtered all of the young men who had taken up residence in his home during his twenty-year absence and were courting Penelope (and through her the position of headman in Ithaka). But Penelope even then plays a very emotionally-charged game with Odysseus, testing him through a series of questions about her husband and dropping hints at how things have changed in Ithaka and with her since he'd been gone. Finally, Odysseus becomes enraged, but I will let you read how. I just wanted to indicate that it would not seem to me strange if a similar tale could be told by many a homecoming warrior and their mates.
And this was the sort of thing I thought we might be able to talk about on tonight’s show. In addition, Ben had brought a lot of other materials to discuss, including quotations from Senator Fulbright on the costs of the Vietnam War, and some ideas about Plato’s Republic, which is founded, arguably, on the idea that war and a warrior class become necessary to us once we decide to live in a certain way beyond what is most essential, or necessary to us, i.e. once we look to a life of "relish" and luxury. Of course, such a life also seems to make philosophy possible - and necessary - but that's just opening a can of worms that it'd be hard to get control of in a half hour slot.
But even so, much as we tried to stay on point and offer we hoped inviting but serious points for discussion, we didn’t get a single caller! Not a one (well, one, but they just called and hung up as the show was ending). Anyway, Ben and I had a chance to chat, and it was a gas, so we plan to do it again. So if you’re in the Chicago area, keep an eye on CAN-TV, and we’ll be thinking about a question to propose about Thanksgiving or Christmas, maybe.