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Response to the Deerfield Respect Forum III

I saw Medea this past week in the Black Box and thought again about the forum on respect that took place around and across that very same stage the week before. If you caught the production or have read it, you know that Medea tells the grim tale of a woman who will not compromise. But of course, in Greek tragedy, blame is portioned out equally among the cast of variously troubled souls, and Medea’s outcome cannot be the fault of just one character. Everyone is complicit, everyone is responsible. Martin Luther King Jr. writes about the very same stumbling block that Euripides, 2500 years before him, negotiates—one that many of us, enough of the time, refuse to acknowledge: that all of us are “tied in a single garment of destiny.”

As far as I can tell, the remedy for tragedy on a Greek scale (or for the peevishness you feel at the person who tosses down an orange peel as she makes her way between dining hall and dorm) is always engagement, empathy. A willingness to extend yourself, to begin a conversation. Looking around the theater last week at the gathered group of self-selecting students and many of my colleagues, I felt a mixture of excitement and doubt.

King’s life, violently cut short, shows us what happens when we cannot work it out. And Medea does the same. The solution is people talking, people collaborating, all of us reminding ourselves as often as we can manage that we are in this together.

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