Daily Letters

A selection of letters received.


June 25, 2004

Lady Macbeth washes her hands

Dear George:

I know that you are not a fan of movies or plays or books or most anything that looks for a deeper meaning in this cockeyed world in which we live. Word has it that the arts weren't a big part of your fraternity life back at Yale. I can certainly understand that beer and baseball held a higher calling for you. Hey, who doesn't love a big mug of cold, frosty beer and a lazy afternoon of baseball? I certainly do.

After college, your return to Texas certainly would not have whetted your appetite for sitting down in a cozy leather chair next to a big roaring fire and dipping into a volume of Henrik Ibsen or Anton Chekhov. That's not really the Texas way, now is it? Oilmen aren't really ones to discuss the vagaries of Truffaut, Kazan, Fellini or Godard in between bites of a two pound grilled T-bone. It's just not done in the Lone Star State, and there was certainly no reason for you to go against the grain. You had an oil business to build.

Businessmen, and oilmen in particular, have other things that they worry about. Time must be utilized effectively or profits will be diminished. Profits, as we all know, are the holy grail. I know that, sadly, you never really faced this problem of profits in your days as an oilman since sadly your company never successfully achieved any profit. That's a bit of history best left forgotten. Even as you were floundering, you still held firm in your business school credo that art and literature and music and film do not really belong in your world - - and that resolve is commendable. Hell, you launched a whole new career on convincing people of your resolve.

The reason that I write is that I do believe that now, in your new profession, you may want to reconsider your resolve, your aversion to the arts. There is a play by Shakespeare entitled “Macbeth” that I think is a must for your summer reading list. I'm sure you probably were assigned this play in high school or college, but probably opted for the Cliff Notes in order to write your paper and it did not have much of a lasting impact. However, now might be a good time to take a crack at it. I think there may be, and don't take this the wrong way, some fascinating parallels to your own current situation.

The character you may identify with most is Lady Macbeth. Now don't get all defensive, George, because of the comparison to a female character. We all know that you, George Bush, are secure in your manhood. Nobody could launch two wars in just over a year and not be a real man.

The interesting thing, you see, about Lady Macbeth is her lust for power. She convinces her husband to murder Duncan, the king of Scotland and then assume the thrown. The genius is that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth then lie and blame the murder on the guards standing outside the dead king's bedroom. The plan is foolproof: blame others for a horrible crime and then reap the benefits for your own agenda (sound familiar?). As sure as you can say “greeted with flowers and sweets,” the intricate plan goes completely awry and many, many more deaths ensue.

In the midst of all this, however, Lady Macbeth begins to see things. Yes, she is hallucinating. She sees blood on her hands (I know that it is an obvious plot device, but I'll be damned if Shakespeare doesn't make it work, believe you me). Lady Macbeth washes her hands, washes her hands some more and washes her hands yet again. You can feel the raw, prune-like skin jumping off the page. Nothing removes those bloody red spots. I believe that she was probably the first obsessive/compulsive character in literature, but I could be wrong.

Now everyone knows that the blood is symbolic for her guilt and that Lady Macbeth is losing her mind due to the fact that she has been a part of something so diabolical, so insidious, that she has snapped. It is sad and yet somehow just.

After the disaster in Iraq (and it is a disaster, George. We all know it), the question I have for you is, have you seen blood on your hands recently? Do you feel a need to wash your hands often throughout the day? In the middle of the night? Do you carry those single-packet moist towelettes whenever you are going to one of your fund raisers for the super rich and about to give one of your humble and humorous speeches.

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, maybe there is a lesson for you in the story of Lady Macbeth. It might be a good time to pick up a copy of the play and read it cover to cover. It could be entertaining and enlightening, two for the price of one. I'm sure Laura, as an ex-librarian, may have an old copy in a box she has stored down in the basement.

It really is a rollicking good read, George. I hope that maybe your aversion to the arts might change in the future and you may be interested in reading other classics that could have an impact on you. It might be more illuminating than you think.

Or maybe not. Maybe you don't want to search the deep recesses of your psyche and you want to keep those lazy afternoons of beer and baseball just like when you were in college. I know that beer is no longer part of the equation, but a non-alcoholic O’Doul’s and a baseball game could make it seem just like it was the late-sixties when life was so good. Ah, those were the days. Screw Shakespeare.


Age 45
New York City



Please do not use comments for personal attacks. One of the goals of this project is to allow these open letters to foster civil (and civic) debate, so please keep personal attacks to yourselves, even if you disagree with the letter/comments here. Better yet, write a letter yourself.

  • At 4:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Another mind twisted and brainwashed by our liberally biased news media. Congratulations, you're an idiot.


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