Qui Tacet Consentire Videtur

Qui tacet consentire videtur is Latin for “he who is silent is taken to agree.” Thus, silence gives consent. Sometimes accompanied by the proviso “ubi loqui debuit ac potuit,” that is, “when he ought to have spoken and was able to.” The maxim is probably best know as the defense given by Sir Thomas More during his trial for treason and was dramatized in A Man for All Seasons (play 1960, film 1966). If you are not familiar with the event, the play, or the movie, A Man for All Seasons depicts the final years of Sir Thomas More, the 16th-century Lord Chancellor of England who refused both to sign a letter asking Pope Clement VII to annul Henry VIII of England’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon and to take an Oath of Supremacy declaring Henry VIII Supreme Head of the Church of England. For his refusal, More was put on trial for treason with Thomas Cromwell as the prosecutor.

In the trial scene Cromwell asks More, “Yet how can this be? Because this silence betokened, nay, this silence was, not silence at all, but most eloquent denial!”

To which More replies, “Not so. Not so, Master Secretary. The maxim is “Qui tacet consentiret:” the maxim of the law is “Silence gives consent.” If therefore you wish to construe what my silence betokened, you must construe that I consented, not that I denied.”

Cromwell then asks, “Is that in fact what the world construes from it? Do you pretend that is what you wish the world to construe from it?”

And More responds, “The world must construe according to its wits; this court must construe according to the law.”

More, relying upon legal precedent and the maxim understood that he could not be convicted as long as he did not explicitly deny that the King was Supreme Head of the Church, and he therefore refused to answer all questions regarding his opinions on the subject. Cromwell brought forth Solicitor General Richard Rich to testify that More had, in his presence, denied that the King was the legitimate head of the Church. More characterized the testimony as highly dubious but to no avail, and the jury took only fifteen minutes to find More guilty. He was sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered (the usual punishment for traitors who were not the nobility), but the King commuted this to execution by decapitation. The execution took place on 6 July 1535.

You might be wondering the reason behind this post and the retelling of this bit of history. It has to do with my personal Facebook account. I rarely, if ever, discuss politics on Facebook. I use it to keep in contact with my family, my friends from graduate school, and various coworkers, past and present. I broke my no politics rule on Monday and shared a Facebook post that I saw on I Should Be Laughing which addressed the question, “Why do liberals think Trump supporters are stupid?”

I knew when I posted it, it would be an incendiary post and anger some of my friends and family. Only a few replied with comments disputing what I had shared. They claimed it was all from liberal media sources. I pointed out that every time a conservative sees a piece of news they don’t like, they try to discredit it by saying its from the liberal media and is fake news. Surprisingly, more of my friends and family liked the post. A few left comments in support. I shared that post because I can no longer be silent about the atrocious behavior of Trump and what he’s done to our country. Qui tacet consentire videtur ubi loqui debuit ac potuit. Trump’s behavior everyday gets more and more unacceptable. I cannot in good conscience remain silent.

George F. Will, who for decades has been at the intellectual center of American conservatism, called for Americans, and especially Republicans, to vote out Trump in November. Will wrote, “The lesson of Donald Trump’s life is: There is no such thing as rock bottom. So, assume that the worst is yet to come.” He had harsh words for Trump, but he saved his true condemnation for the members of Congress who have enabled the President. He wrote in the Washington Post article, “In life’s unforgiving arithmetic, we are the sum of our choices. Congressional Republicans have made theirs for more than 1,200 days. We cannot know all the measures necessary to restore the nation’s domestic health and international standing, but we know the first step: Senate Republicans must be routed, as condign punishment for their Vichyite collaboration, leaving the Republican remnant to wonder: Was it sensible to sacrifice dignity, such as it ever was, and to shed principles, if convictions so easily jettisoned could be dignified as principles, for … what? Praying people should pray, and all others should hope: May I never crave anything as much as these people crave membership in the world’s most risible deliberative body.”

As if to prove Will’s point, Senate Republicans raced to defend Trump’s “law and order” speech on Monday night and his decision to clear out protesters from in front of the White House so that he could stroll across H Street to hold up a Bible in front of St. John’s Church. “You can characterize it the way you want, but obviously the President is free to go where he wants and to hold up a Bible if he wants,” Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican in the chamber, told CNN.

He mocked all Christians with his Monday night’s stunt. But, of course, sacredness has never been a concern of Trump’s. He didn’t open the Bible he was brandishing for the cameras, because he had no use for its text. He didn’t go inside the church he was using as a backdrop, because he had no interest in a sermon. To Trump, the Bible and the church are not symbols of faith; they are weapons of culture war. And to many of his Christian supporters watching at home, the pandering wasn’t an act of inauthenticity; it was a sign of allegiance—and shared dominance. And that, my friends, is the saddest thing of all: the fact that their pro-life beliefs, hatred of Democrats, and the notions of Christian nationalism are used to justify everything that Trump says and does. It’s not only sad, but it’s also frightening and disgusting. If people truly want to make America great again, then they must vote Trump and his lapdogs out of office.

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Meditation XVII

Meditation XVII
By John Donne
From Devotions upon Emergent Occasions

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

The Background

“No Man Is an Island” is neither a proverb nor a poem. It’s a famous line by the English poet, John Donne in his “Meditation XVII.” John Donne wrote a famous prose work titled Devotions upon Emergent Occasion in 1624 which contains “Meditation XVII.” The work is a series of reflections which he wrote as he recovered from a serious illness. Each part of the work is divided into Mediation, a Prayer and an Expostulation. Mediation XVII is a part of the entire prose work which contains the quote: “No man is an island.” The phrase sounds like, and is, an old proverbial expression. Oddly, although it was coined in the 17th century, it only began to be used widely in the second half of the 20th century. This usage started around 1940 but was probably accelerated by the release of a film of the same name in 1962.

In “Meditation XVII,” Donne compares mankind to a continent. He sees each person as part of the continent and not as an island. He maintains that when a clod breaks off from any continent, such a continent becomes lesser than as it was initially. By this assertion, Donne is referring to the effect of death. When someone dies, mankind which he sees as a continent becomes shortened by that death of the individual.

“No man is an island” is the first of two proverbial phrases from “Meditation XVII.” The second was the inspiration for Ernest Hemingway’s 1940 novel For Whom The Bell Tolls. Just as Devotions upon Emergent Occasion is regarded as one of Donne’s greatest works, For Whom The Bell Tolls likewise is regarded as one of Hemingway’s best works. There’s some debate about what precisely what Donne meant by the phrase “for whom the bell tolls.” Some think that Donne was simply pointing out people’s mortality and that when a funeral bell was heard it was a reminder that we are nearer death each day, that is, the bell is tolling for us. Others view it more mystically and argue that Donne is saying we are all one and that, when one dies, we all die a little. This isn’t as bleak as it might sound, as the counterpoint would be that there is some part of the living in the dead and that we continue a form of life after death.

From the above, we can deduce some interpretations. “Meditation XVII” suggests that human beings should not live in isolation. We’re all interconnected to one another. No one stands alone like an island that is surrounded only by the sea. We need one another to survive in life. At a time like this, we should all remember that every human life is sacred.

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A Little Mad Sometimes

There is so much happening right now. Very little of it is good. Cities are burning as people protest the senseless death of another black man killed by the police. A pandemic is still raging, though in some places it’s getting better while in other places it’s getting worse. And our president, instead of doing anything productive, is feuding with Twitter. Good for Twitter for doing something about his insane and damaging tweets, but they need to do more. It’s been a longtime coming.

The only bright spot seems to be that NASA was able to send American astronauts into space in an American made rocket. That’s been a longtime coming too. NASA hasn’t sent astronauts into space on an American spacecraft since 2011 when they retired the space shuttle program.

That being said, with all the terrible things going on in America, a quote, which is probably not that appropriate to the situation, popped into my head. It’s from the 1960 movie Psycho in which Norman Bates says, “ She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven’t you?”

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And Do

Let all your things be done with charity. (KJV) ( 1 Corinthians 16:14 

When people think of the way you express your love, what would they think of? Possibly by faithfully recognizing birthdays, or caring for extended family and taking them under your wing, or ensuring visitors leave with food and providing for their needs. How do you want to be remembered by those you love? Are you creating those moments of love you desire to express to others? 

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Moment of Zen: Sweet Tea

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Charlie Smith; Single Man, ensorcelled, unreliable narrator, ravenous reader, love child of Jane & Paul Bowles, borne by surrogate, Little Edie Beale, devoted catechumen of Her Grace, Duchess Goldblatt; now living a life of Love & Light, shining from the social-media-free exile of my own personal mirage of Tangier, the Grey Gardens in the Elba of my imagination, here, where I am, going.