The death Tuesday of Terry Jones — the actor, writer, director and scholar best known as member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus — brought to mind a few bits of wisdom that apply to our current unpleasantness.
Among the many of his TV and movie lines people were quoting on social media was a particularly useful one from 1979′s “Monty Python’s Life of Brian,” a film that Jones directed and that was widely condemned as anti-Christian or anti-religious, though only by people who either hadn’t seen it or didn’t get it.
Brian (Graham Chapman) is born on the same day as Himself, in the next stable over, and spends much of his life a little behind and to the side of Jesus of Nazareth. Hilarity ensues.
The film is a lampoon of religion, cults, politics and blind followership of one person or belief that can suddenly shift to someone or something else. And of cruel Latin teachers. Yet it never says one unkind or demeaning thing about Christ himself.
Jesus is seen, at a distance, delivering the Sermon on the Mount, as observers who are too far away to actually hear what the man is saying start arguing among themselves as to what his words mean. (“What does it mean, ‘Blessed are the cheesemakers’?”)
Anyway, as was the Pythons’ (and Shakespeare’s) wont, the non-sexy female roles were played by men. Jones was, among many other characters, Brian’s mother. Unpleasant, screeching and just a little bit abusive of her only child. Upset that a multitude of Brian worshipers have gathered outside her window, she attempts to send them off by undermining their faith.
“Now, you listen here," she shouts. "He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy.”
Of course, followers of a cult hate to be told they are followers of a cult. So her admonitions fall on deaf ears.
Now, who does all that sound like?
It’s not that the lying, philandering and treasonous occupant of the Oval Office resembles in any way the meek and confused Brian, who clearly does not desire messiah status and the attention that goes with it. But the willingness, the eagerness, of millions of people to ascribe holy qualities to someone who so clearly has none is the common thread between Brian and our Dear Leader.
It is a Python-like theater of the absurd that modern American Mormons, Evangelicals and likewise conservative religious orders continue to follow the president. And only the fact that they are members of a cult — or living in fear of that cult — explains why, as this is written, not one Republican member of the U.S. Senate has been able to bring him or herself to vote for a real trial on the House’s articles of impeachment.
No subpoenas for documents or witnesses. No attempt or desire to have the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth laid out, for them and for the American people.
Utah’s Sen. Mitt Romney — whose seat is about as secure as anyone this side of Kim Jong Un — and Maine’s Sen. Susan Collins — whose reelection chances go down a little further every time she votes with the president — are among those who so far have voted against the Senate doing its constitutional duty.
It brings to mind another memorable line, also delivered by Terry Jones, also in high-pitched drag, to Arthur, King of the Britons, in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
“Well, I didn’t vote for you.”
“You don’t vote for kings,” a nonplussed Arthur replies.
And, if you are the least bit patriotic or politically aware, from this week forward, unless at least some members of the Senate majority quickly catch a clue, you don’t vote for Republicans, either. At any level. Ever again.
George Pyle, the editorial page editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, is well-steeped in the classics. Monty Python. Bugs Bunny. Rocky and Bullwinkle. Mad Magazine.