The American Emperour: A Righteous Conquest

SCENE I

Readying his coat, reapplying his orange spray tan at the last second, our conquering hero enters onto the stage followed closely behind by his vice president into congress surrounded by his subordinates.

Trump: [Briefly casting a glance at the room full of people kneeling before him to his authority]

You’re fired!

Every single one of you is a liar!

Pence: [Smiling uncomfortably, he begins to nod his head furiously in approval]

The entire congress, pantomiming severe distress, begin to sob uncontrollably and run from the stage in fake exaggerated tears

Pence: Excellent work sir!

Democracy at its finest! That will show the people that it is only you they can trust!

A dictator you will never be! Your rule is just!

Trump: Remember that when you open your heart to patriotism

There is no room for prejudice!

And look at me, a man with no vice!

I am always right!

This is why Pence, you of all people see the light!

We will make America great again!

And I will prove above all lesser men!

SCENE II

After abolishing congress the wise president looks at the line of citizens before him from atop his new throne

Citizen 1: Sir we can’t breathe, there is too much smog in the air!

It is far too much for us to bear!

Trump: I don’t believe in global warming. You are a liar!

Big oil is more than fair!

Begone citizen and serve in the coal mines or you will feel most dire!

Citizen 2: Lord please! Our workers toil and tire, please spare your ire!

Mexico still refuses to pay for the wall and they have set it on fire!

Trump: Fear not whelp for they will pay I swear!

To disobey me they would never dare!

Citizen 3: Sir allow me to stay to feed my family! I fear they may starve!

I was born here and only want peace and a better life!

Do not torture me under the knife!

Trump: You are no citizen of mine!

Return beyond the wall or your daughters will be mine!

Much like Obama you are just a foreigner to scare!

Citizen 4: Lord how just and right you are!

Please provision my army to fight our war!

Forget the schoolchildren you eminently abhor!

Our bullets will continue to soar!

Trump: Education does not need aid!

Continue to raid!

SCENE III

Noble Emperor Trump stands proudly atop the wall, lording over the world leaders he has defeated, planting the flag over the Mexican President.

Mex. Pres: We will never pay!

All my people you will have to slay!

Trump : Much like Rocket Man wanted to say!

This refusal will lead to your last living day!

Rockets fire away!

Pence : [On his knees] Yes Mr. President, tell him how you will have your way!

Mex. Pres: [In death throes] Oh noble president, twas an honor to be cut down

By one so honorable

I praise thy name!

Never feel any shame!

Go forth, and save the day!

Review: This is a parody of John Dryden’s The indian Emperour using a more contemporary controversial figure to similar effect. Instead of Cortez, a man responsible for the destruction of the Aztec empire, Trump is used as a replacing figure for both his privileged use of power and oppression towards what is also now modern Mexico. The absurdist elements that were present in the original are changed in favor of a more easily relatable and immediately relevant approach, but the overall level of exaggerated absurdity is maintained in order to elicit a strong empathetic response from the audience. The parody serves to illustrate the propaganda effectivity of The Indian Emperour more directly via direct quotations from the current president. Similarly historical accuracy is completely foregone in favor of more flashy and emotionally evocative drama which is immediately superficial in nature. Due to brevity, the cast of characters was made more concise to directly emphasize the one-dimensionality that is President Trump. He is presented a strong and just ruler by surrounding characters much as Cortez was. The president of Mexico is used as a substitute for Montezuma to reassert this effect. Much like Dryden’s version, this play critiques government administration by implying it’s numerous shortcomings as opposed to directly stating them. Despite making numerous claims that are correlated with atrocities, Trump continually gains approval and respect from even his most confrontational opposition in order to facilitate critique of his policies through a masque of nobility, similarly to how Cortez was well respected by Montezuma, who thought him fiercely. At fundamental levels, both versions maintained fairly consistent rhyme schemes and this helps to facilitate the level of faux gravitas the characters present. They are treated as Shakespearean even in the most nonsensical of scenarios to draw the reader’s attention and deliver the many present themes.

-Kevin Martinez

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Another Stringy Blog Post

     Henry Derozio’s “The Harp of India” reiterates the symbolism of the Irish harp to a similar cultural dividend occurring in India in order to not only convey the significance on why he harp is such an ubiquitous and culturally significant symbol in Irish culture, but also to illustrate that culture can be degraded in any country. “Of flowers still blooming on the minstrel’s grave:

Those hands are cold” pays homage to the tradition of Irish bards that carried on the traditions behind a Gaelic harp by evolving their stylistic use of the harp in order to adapt to a changing cultural and musical style preferred by clients. The final line “Harp of my country, let me strike the strain!” is integral to this interpretation as the nonspecific “my country” can be reassigned to refer to any nation that wishes to demonstrate nationalistic pride through a cultural rebirth, the symbolic culture here being the traditional Irish harp. It’s very firmly ingrained significance returning is both a provocative emulation of a formerly thought extinct and later revitalized culture and a unique antiquity that sets Ireland apart from other nations and survived in spite of colonialist rule against all odds. The title alone makes the clarification as to what nation the poem is referring to, but the ambiguity in the poem itself also mirrors the ambiguous nature of the harp itself. It begs the question as to why the harp is used specifically as opposed to a more traditionally Indian symbol, and it may be the post-colonial British rule that affected both countries is being referenced as an oppositional force, because it is both a subjugating affect and a diluter of tradition via intermingled colonialist adoption and appropriation of culture. The reason it is the harp specifically however is because it exemplifies both something artistic and beautiful, but able, like the nation itself, to persevere in spite of insurmountable odds.

-Kevin Martinez

San Fernando 2019

Lended through a municipality’s streets

Parallel to impoverished groans

Sun dried faces burnt and disheveled lead treats

Worn complexions, aching bones

In every hand a dried cement

In every house an apathy erect

In every voice; every individual lament

An entombment of unreleasable debt

Lessened patrons pry

As collapsing residences imply

And unfeasible mortgages rend dry

Flows downturned to an ashy sky

But a forsaken railway astray

A pittance of commerce

How graffiti would incur everything stray

And trapped in an economic hearse

-Kevin Martinez

How NOT to Destroy Nature with Romance

“Lines Written in Early Spring” although brief, encapsulates a broad aspect of the romantic movement in the final two lines of the first stanza with the narrator’s claim that while reclining in a grove, “In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts bring sad thoughts to mind”. With the final two lines of the subsequent stanza echoing “And much it griev’d my heart to think what man has made of man”, an emphasis on the picturesque nature that is the grove is accompanied by a bittersweet lamentation of what man’s impact on the natural landscape is. The idea that “pleasant thoughts bring sad thoughts to mind” is possibly rooted in the narrator’s anxieties at the capacity for man to manipulate nature and the conflict that may arise from it. When examining the poem through the lens of the painting Evening: Landscape with an Aqueduct, made by Théodore Gericault in 1818, during the romantic movement, we are exposed to a unique perspective. The colors are muted with old ruin like structures blocking the primary source of light from the sun, and this in itself can present a bleak introspection on how humanity eventually succumbs to nature with the roots encapsulating and attempting to reabsorb the old structures. Although prominent, this is not the center focus of the painting. Rather the focus is the aqueduct itself, and although the palette is muted, the aqueduct is bathed in a bright hue and has a strange warmth to it. The setting itself is tranquil and serene, which actually represents an integral aspect of romanticism; that the movement itself is not centered entirely upon the conflict between humans and nature, but it also encapsulates how humans can responsibly enjoy nature. The aqueduct, although somewhat obstructive, does not disturb the tranquility of the scene. The aqueduct, a product made by man that represents what the narrator grieves about, a work of man that has the capacity to distort or even destroy nature, can actually survive harmoniously in tandem with nature as opposed to being in direct contrast to it.

-Kevin Martinez

Improving Lyrical Ballads

Iron Maiden’s version of the ballad evokes similar sensational imagery as Coleridge’s original version in addition to retaining the same themes revolving around the conflict between humanity and nature. This is successfully done in spite of the notable gaps of lyrics detailing the tumultuous sea voyage in the original. Structurally, the two are not too dissimilar, as they are both composed of almost exclusively four to six line stanzas, and the heavy metal version emulates the gap between stanzas and parts with lyrical pauses in favor of solely playing a melody. In addition, due to the innate rhyme scheme of ballads and the traditional denotation that they are passed down orally from person to person, the heavy metal version in certain senses not only presents the poem in a traditional fashion because of its accompanying musical components but because it is a translation designed to be expressed orally as opposed to read, it improves upon the medium.

The primary distinguishing factor between the two versions are the lyrics themselves. The Iron Maiden version simplifies the lyrics slightly in favor of using a more contemporary form of English which is more easily palpable to modern audiences regardless of whether they have higher education or not. This lyrical simplification is no degradation however, rather it is possible that because the themes and literary power of the work are still present, (if slightly muted by having slightly less of it) the song version is a literature of power. It provides an important and meaningful message in an easily accessible package. The tone of the musical version also amplifies the aspects of romanticism in the work, because music conveys powerful emotions in ways that words are incapable of conveying. A rapid tempo mirrors the tumultuous nature of the sea voyage, while a slower melodic pause mirrors the deep introspection of the lyrical speaker.

-Kevin Martinez

Addendums

The Interesting Narrative does not solely serve as Equiano’s autobiography, but as a carefully planned rhetoric to indict the atrocities of slavery. To this end, he references the bible and various English texts for a dual purpose. He first wants to distinguish that he is not dissimilar from Europeans so that the reader is more inclined to listen to what he has to say. Secondly, after establishing himself as worthy of basic humanity, he establishes himself as honest and intelligent so that his words are accepted more readily as truth.

To this end, Equiano describes his home before slavery and likens his country men and their customs to the Jews before they reached the Promised Land. This reference specifically, is not only an attempt to humanize his oppressed people, but in likening his people to the Jews before reaching the land promised to them by God, he not only humanizes himself, but takes a stab at the hypocrisy of European religiosity. Despite emphasizing morality based on the bible, they themselves are oppressing the equivalent of the Jews. In doing this, Aquino is attempting to make himself a Moses like figure trying to guide his people out of the desert of slavery.

-Kevin Martinez

Circular Reasoning

The cartoon quite literally makes a monkey out of Pope and his words hang over the ears of an ass. This in simplistic observation, is trivializing his intelligence and accusing him of being a figurative animal and insulting his intelligence. The irony here is the hypocrisy this perpetuates. In calling him a fool and overly generalizing the satirist, the cartoonist satirizes himself. The Dunciad can be considered an oversimplification for providing very vague criticisms. It writes:

Beneath her foot-stool, Science 10  groans in Chains,

And Wit dreads Exile, Penalties and Pains.

There foam’d rebellious Logic, gagg’d and bound [25]

It is very straightforward. Rationality itself is being stifled in the world, but by the cartoonist’s derivation of Pope’s work, he is just perpetuating a generality. He is simply making a literal ass out of him. By interpreting or criticizing the passage in its most general direct form, the cartoonist is simply proving Pope’s point. Part of the satire in The Dunciad revolves around the overgeneralization of rationality itself. By lumping all distinct criticisms as a whole, the whole perpetuation of trivializing collective reasoning is cyclical. The irony is this post itself presents a very generic discussion on generality, which in turn makes me an ass of myself, but I cannot fully represent the generalized satire as a whole otherwise.

-Kevin Martinez

Apess’ Answer for Allowance

Excerpt of transcribed recording of William Apess’ sermon in response to Mary Rowlandson’s ordeal:

The plight endured by some held captive by my brethren [native americans], although painful and at times brutal, reflects on the character of the individual whether they be white or colored. I ask on whether the actions of an individual reflect on their entire people? Similarly to whether seeing but a tribe of refugees reflects solely on the character of native peoples in all breadths?

In same a way as a man of color faces trials and tribulations, is not through irony the persecution of a white woman amongst them reflective of the injustices faced by indigenous peoples? Similarly to how some in captivity may suffer, as abhorrent as it is for any innocent to suffer needlessly, is it not also the case that the unfettered suffering of an entire people is an even greater injustice? Her suffering was shared amongst my brethren around her, both through bitterness and starvation, but as she was treated with compassion by a select few, and as some shared the last morsels of food they had with her, so too should we all not use this as an example that we should show love to one another?

As a fellow Christian I can relate to Rowlandson’s crisis of faith, but she is misguided in her assertion on what the precepts of Exodus entail her. Does being a refugee amongst the masses make one akin to Moses, despite not in any form leading or guiding them? But rather, does not being lost amongst a people in the same desert teach temperance and familiarity with their fellow lost? It is fortunate that none need atone for their father’s sins, and rather in unification of her and my brethren’s struggle should we use this example as a lesson.

Does not suffering of a temperate woman warrant attention and concern? So should not the primary cause of such distress be addressed? And as a consequence, should not the repression of an entire people be addressed if that would continue misaligned harm to befall more innocent people?

-Kevin Martinez

Don’t Slander

Rowlandson’s narrative certainly adds to the complexity of still prevalent issues between colonialist invaders and indigenous peoples. Often history portrays the past very one dimensionally. In certain instances almost akin to Dryden’s “Indian Emperor”, the leadership and guiding motivation of imperialist powers is portrayed as a noble and honorable venture, such as President Trump’s efforts and all too infamous slogan “Make America Great Again” being propagandized to reinforce discrimination towards minority groups and incessant efforts to promote a very nationalistic and nativist climate. Inversely, the equally modern villainization of Christopher Columbus and the rebranding of his namesake holiday is a consequence of enveloping the entire character of Columbus as a herald of mass genocide. Although relegated to 17th century history, Rowlandson’s journal still provides pertinent insight on conflicts and treatment between indigenous and minority groups and colonists alike. Rather than emphasize the scope of these conflicts as a whole, Rowlandson exhibits insight into how these conflicts were shaped at an individual level.

All throughout the narrative it is present that the violence and conflict between natives and colonists were not solely black and white. Some natives murdered her daughter and brother- in-law, whereas others shared their limited rations with her despite being on the brink of starvation themselves. At an individual level, natives had different perspectives and priorities on matters of the guerrilla war. Similarly, combat that occurred between natives and colonists was not necessarily one-sided. Although the native population in what became the United States was completely decimated, this was a consequence of foreign disease more than immediate bloodshed. Were it not for smallpox the world would look astronomically different today. This is not to trivialize nor justify any of the atrocities committed on either side, but rather reevaluate that the purpose behind colonial conflict, both past and modern, was not entirely one-dimensional. The history of intolerance has never been justified, but as Rowlandson shows, it is more nuanced than most people tend to believe, and in the modern world these strictly polarizing perspectives will only continue to reinforce this history and climate of intolerance.

-Kevin Martinez

Disagreeing on how to Rule the World

Dryden’s preamble to the play begins with an immediate contradiction. The narrator claims to have “neither wholly followed the story, nor varied from it”, but this statement is both entirely accurate and completely inaccurate. The play itself is about conflicting ideology.

It is completely ahistorical, and and the creative liberty Dryden took makes the conquest Cortez led appear more superficial by portraying the general as a staunch and one-dimensional hero bound entirely by honor, but this one-dimensional superficiality is precisely that much more indicative of what colonialist ideas were at the time. The conquests Spain led were entirely one-sided and done under a guise of enlightening savages. The namesake Indian Emperor, Montezuma, was in direct opposition to Cortez, but rather than be foils to one another, the two men leading their respective factions were indelibly staunch in their principles and refused to concede them. This ultimately led to Montezuma’s demise and Cortez’ continued glorification. By humanizing the natives, Dryden serves to criticize this glorification and in turn not only criticize the effects of colonialist Spain, but emphasize a sense of moral superiority within the English audience.

The hero of the play is infallibly honorable, and although Spanish, by being infallibly honorable the English theater audience are able to both empathize with and criticize his character. They are able to promote their own notions of building an empire under a misnomer of honor, while simultaneously criticizing Spain’s atrocities. This is why Cortez and Cydaria were given an ambiguous ending to their relationship. Despite a requited romance, the two were on juxtaposing sides and cannot be together unless they entirely reconcile their differences. Similarly to how England and Spain clash ideologically, so too do the Aztecs and Spanish. Because motivations and execution differ so dramatically, the two cannot reconcile and the audience is forced to accept this.

-Kevin Martinez