“Et Tu Brute?”

by Ron Cook

“Thou shalt not bear false witness…”

That’s the Ninth Commandment for those folks keeping score. But what does that mean? Why is that such an ambiguous concept today Shakespeare wondered, and the Bible made that an Old Testament law punishable by death, yet today, daily false witness (or, legally, perjury under oath) is just plain common in polite society. What has happened? Inquiring minds want to know!

Julius Caesar was the leader of the Roman Republic just before it became the Roman Empire. Apparently he rose from modest stature to become one of the most infamous leaders of all time. His military conquests throughout the known world extended clear across the English Channel into Britain. In his rise to power, he brought many social changes that threatened the elite of Rome, and reduced their influence. This lead to Caesar being named “dictator in perpetuity” as well as his eventual assassination. It took his best friend, Marcus Junius Brutus, to persuade Caesar to attend an awards ceremony in the senate where 23 senators conspired to assassinate him. His betrayal and false witness by his friend, Brutus, was legendary, yet his final words, “Et Tu Brute?” (“and you also Brutus”) were ones created by Shakespeare to dramatize Caesar’s end.

In Proverbs 22:1 it states that a person’s reputation is more precious than gold and silver. So that implies that when we lie about our neighbor, we steal their most precious possession. That seems pretty serious? Even if our tale is true, if it destroys a reputation it is a kind of theft. It seems that in today’s world telling information about others is used to build up our own sense of self-righteousness. That’s sad…

I know people, especially in Louisiana, who never have a bad thing to say about their neighbors, friends, or even people in general. I’m sure you know good folks like that as well. Talking trash about others just isn’t in their wheelhouse of operation. They cut off negative conversation-starters at the danger-laden pass, so to speak. If we cut through that pass just to diminish someone else, we are more likely to ambush ourselves!

The old saying, “Discretion is the better part of valor,” is worth considering here.
Perhaps the ninth commandment is just a practical extension of the command to “love our neighbor as yourself.” The end of Proverbs 6:16-19 concludes its list of moral abominations with, ” … a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” The bible seems to sum up the commandments with the imperative to love. It even goes so far as to state that if we are not loving our brethren, we are hating them. Not much room for indifference there?

It seems interesting to note how much we have been slip-sliding away from even knowing what the ten commandments are. How many can we name without looking? What relevance do they have in our “alternative facts” world? How important is it to us to respect the reputation of others?

The Golden Rule, as old as it might be, may still be our best guide…”Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Another old Native American axiom is, “Don’t judge another until you have walked a mile in their moccasins.” These are two very good reminders for us if we ever think about judging others. There is a poem that tells you more, “Judge Softly.” Find it online, it’s worth the read, enjoy!

Ronald Cook

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