This is part of a Wednesday series on Goddess spirituality and political activism.
In this country, where the political attention span is somewhat shorter than the average commercial, we largely practice the shiny-object theory of political discourse. Flag pins! Pants suits! Teleprompters! OMG Hillary’s got a tear in her eye! And now let’s see a carefully edited 10-second sound bite from Jeremiah Wright! Meanwhile, deaths continue in Iraq and Afghanistan, an economy crumbles, and people are denied health care because the spread sheet said so.
All of which is inspired by the Goddess of discord and mistress of shiny objects, Eris .
Eris’s most famous story began with a snub: there was a wedding on Mount Olympus, and no one wanted the Goddess of discord there. Of course, Eris will come whether she’s invited or not. She tossed a golden apple into the midst of the party, with a simple inscription: "For the fairest."
All the Goddesses had managed just fine without a golden apple up until then. But now they just had to have it, and the title of Fairest. They began squabbling over the apple, forgetting about their friendships and the happy occasion they were supposed to be celebrating. Finally three of the most competitive had shouted down the others, leaving only Queen Hera , the love Goddess Aphrodite , and the Goddess of wisdom, Athena , who should've known better.
They agreed to have the world’s firs beauty pageant judged by Paris, a human shepherd (who was actually a prince who’d been abandoned at birth, but aren’t they all). Aphrodite and Hera both mangled the interview portion; Hera babbled something about "opposite marriage," and Aphrodite responded to a question about geography by explaining that most people don’t have maps because cartographers kept getting eaten by sea monsters. Athena insisted on wearing her armor for the evening gown section.
Finally, the three Goddesses proceeded to blatantly offer bribes to the judge (and how exactly would this prove who was the most beautiful?). Hera offered wealth and power, Athena offered geniusand military prowess, and Aphrodite offered the most beautiful woman in the world.
Paris said: No contest.
Inconveniently, the beautiful Helen was already married. But under Aphrodite’s enchantments, she left her husband and fled with Paris to Troy. And thus began the Trojan War , ten years of death and destruction, that finally when the Greeks tempted the Trojans with a really large shiny object shaped like a horse.
All for the sake of an apple hurled in spite.
This weekend I was watching the "Real Time" discussion of the Sotomayor nomination, and the one-millionth diatribe about an innocuous sentence she uttered several years ago. And then a funny thing happened: a guest started discussing judicial rulings that she’d made. And I thought: Wait, we’re actually allowed to talk about her record? Since when?
If you haven’t read Digby’s The Art of the Hissy Fit , it’s the single best primer on this topic. The right’s standard operating procedure is to hurl apples, gold-plated falafels and the kitchen sink until something catches the media’s eye. Occasionally the media catches on (the "certifigate" people still don’t know they’re a joke, and please don’t tell them). But more often than not we get dragged into a mini-Trojan War over lipstick on pigs, or bitter people clinging to guns. And the Middle East deaths and the economic meltdown don’t take any breaks in the meantime.
Sooner or later, the Goddesses need to learn to toss the apple back and say, "Get lost, Eris."