Bully for Teddy, Bully for America! or Bully for the American Bully!
By Roy Charles Henry (b. 1938)
This play is #1 in this 3-part trilogy. In this play, the “real” characters’ actual highlighted words were taken from the book Honor in the Dust (2011) by Gregg Jones which we in turn purloined from the February 19, 2012 book review by Candice Millard in The New York Times Book Review.
This theatre piece/parable was inspired by Thornton Wilder’s (1897-1957) The Skin of Our Teeth (1942) a profound and brilliant metaphysical play about the human condition which transcended time and place and was paradoxically set in every time and every place. It was in short about the omnipresence of Simple Reality and human heroism in the face of unconscious existential suffering.
After surviving Armageddon, the dysfunctional Antrobus family, ever hopeful, has a chance to treat each other differently; will they take it?
Without understanding the influence the shadow and the Other as well as the human behavior known as projection have on our experience, we cannot hope to avoid the tragedy depicted in the following short drama. First, we unconsciously attribute our suffering to and then project our emotions, desires, attitudes, and problems onto individuals or groups. These people then become the Other and receive our blame, anger and the reactions associated with our inability to understand what is really happening.
This daily tragedy is so common as to be invisible, and so horrific that most of humanity quickly denies that it happened or looks the other way. Denial in these cases is indeed not a river in Egypt.
Millard in her review of the book Honor in the Dust about America’s shadow projection onto the Other in the Philippine Insurrection (1899) says this about the book: What is striking “is not how much war has changed in more than a century, but how little. On nearly every page, there is a scene that feels as if it could have taken place during the Bush and Obama administrations rather than those of McKinley and Roosevelt. American troops are greeted on foreign soil as saviors and then quickly despised as occupiers. The United States triumphantly declares a victorious end to the war, even as bitter fighting continues. Allegations of torture fill the newspapers, horrifying and transfixing the country.”[i]
The quotes in bold which follow are taken from historic newspapers, biographies and the Congressional Record.
Cast of Characters:
- The Presiding Judge of the Kosmic Court of Perfect Justice (J)
- The Attorney General for the Global Village (AG)
- The Counsel for the Defense (AD)
- The Bailiff (B)
- Samuel Clemens (SC)
- William McKinley (WM)
- Henry Cabot Lodge (HCL)
- Teddy Roosevelt (TR)
- 007 (007)
- Senator George Frisbie Hoar (SH)
(The Judge enters the courtroom)
B: All rise! (People in the courtroom stand) Hear ye! Hear ye! The Kosmic Court of Perfect Justice the Honorable Implicate P. Order presiding will now come to order. (The Judge nods to the AG who stands and approaches the bench.)
AG: (Attorney General for the Global Village) “If I may your Honor, as the Attorney General for the Global Village, I would like to read the indictment against the accused, hereafter known as “Them.”
J: (Presiding Judge of the Kosmic Court of Perfect Justice) “I wish you would counselor, pretty please.” (If the reply isn’t dripping with sarcasm it is at least damp with dismay.)
AG: “The accused, the people of planet Earth, are accused of willfully and with, if not premeditated malice, at least boneheaded cluelessness, have started and conducted ridiculous and pointless wars since forever and have behaved as if they enjoyed sticking sharpened # 2 pencils in their eyeballs.”
J: “Counselor, I am sorry if your career in the theatre went belly up but in this venue, you do, I trust, realize that you are in a court of law, the court would ask you to eschew the theatrical metaphors and give us something a little more concrete. This jury is a cross-section of humanity, and they don’t know from up about Jungian archetypes, or the neurotic human behaviors occasioned by the so-called Freudian id.”
AG: “Certainly your honor, I beg your pardon, my training was as a method actor, and I feel a deep responsibility to honor the plaintiffs in this case with an assiduous prosecutorial endeavor.”
J: (Yelling) “Assiduous prosecutorial endeavor? Didn’t you just hear what I said about the make-up of the jury? These are average run-of-the-mill folks, imagine that this is an American jury, a group of people who have a deep history of anti-intellectualism. You are not doing your case any favors by parading your 50-cent words before graduates of the Five and Dime University (brief pause) if you get my meaning. Even if we had a Doctor of Philosophy on this panel he would grunt and scratch his armpits to gain the approbation of his peers. Notice (brief pause) how they are all pretending that they don’t know what I just said.”
AG: “Your Honor I recognize the wisdom of your advice and I now know how to prosecute this case with vigor.”
J: “Vigor is all well and good counselor, but this is a simple case, just plain-spoken presentation of the evidence will suffice, proceed.”
AG: “Your Honor the indictment accuses Them, all 7 billion of Them, with capital crimes, a lot of ‘em. You can scarcely imagine how many.”
J: “Ahem! Just the facts if you please.”
AG: “Sorry! The prosecution, to simplify this case, will use the behavior of the United States at the turn of the century, that is to say, over 150 years ago, as an example of universal and typical human behaviors. The behavior of Americans, although they would be quick to deny it. (Smirking) American exceptionalism they call it, has been over time no different than other nations, empires, tribes and clans. (Speaking to the jury) Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, if you can find the prototypical American guilty of promoting violence on this planet, you can be assured that you can find humanity in general guilty of the same crimes. In short, any one of Them acts pretty much like any other one of Them.”
J: “What? Never mind, proceed counselor.”
AG: “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury.” (Ahem! The Judge interrupts.)
J: “To save time just address them as y’all counselor.”
AG: “Yes your honor … uh … y’all, we intend to show that Them Americans … uh … that part of Them that were Americans … uh … are Americans. (Ahem! the Judge interrupts.)
J: “Just “Them” counselor, they are all “Them,” if you will please.
AG: “Yea sure, sorry your Honor. (Pause) We intend to show that Them … uh … They were guilty of willfully choosing to create and prosecute unnecessary wars, wars that were not wars of defense but wars of aggression.”
J: “Thank you counselor and now we will hear from the counsel for the defense after a brief recess. (The Judge motions for counsel to join him in his chambers.)
(This intermission will allow the audience to absorb and discuss the unorthodox beginning of this play thus facilitating their ability to go with the flow into the second act … or not!)
Act Two – Scene One
(The play resumes in the Judge’s chambers where both the AG and the AD are present.)
J: “I have just received a note from the chairman of the jury. It reads as follows: ‘We the undersigned are unanimous and in complete agreement that we do not know what the heck this trial is about and since we cannot deliver a verdict on something we can’t understand, it makes no sense for this trial to go on to a mistrial. P.S. We do have a PhD and he is from Bob Jones University, and he says he does not find anything scriptural in these proceedings and neither do the rest of us and one of us is Hindu, (pause) and one a Muslim, a variety of folks, but all of us are confused. Besides we have other important stuff to do. For example:
- ‘Juror # 4 is Russian and due to start alcohol rehab next Wednesday.
- ‘Juror # 8 promised to take his son to an important NASCAR race this weekend.
- ‘Juror # 9 is Hassidic (some kind of Jew) and is due in Jerusalem for an important protest march on Monday. (He already has his tickets.)
- ‘Juror # 2 is a Muslim and sometimes seems to be glaring at Juror # 9.
- ‘Juror # 7 is from Bulgaria, and we don’t think he is understanding his headphones and we can barely understand him. We could go on, but we want to respect your preference for brevity—keeping it short. With all due respect—the Jury.’”
J: “Counselor get the bailiff for me.”
AG: (leaves to get bailiff while Judge and AD confer.)
(AG and bailiff return.)
J: “Do either of you have anything to say about this note?”
(AG and AD look at each other and then back at the Judge and shake their heads no.)
J: “Bailiff I want you to deliver an oral message to the jury, let me know if you can’t remember what I tell you. Y’all enjoy the benefits of living in the global village, and you earn that privilege by performing jury duty. I find your excuses flimsy. You will do your duty, by God, and quit your whining, or I will sequester the lot of you for the duration of this trial. Leave out the ‘by God’ part.”
B: “Yes your honor.” (Bailiff leaves the Judge’s chambers.)
J: “Gentlemen we are going to have to simplify this trial for our jury—no cross-examination of witnesses, agreed?” (Both attorneys nod yes.)
(The attorneys and the Judge return to the courtroom. The jury files in looking somewhat cowed and confused.)
Act Two – Scene Two
J: “Before we resume our trial, I want to be assured that the jury and you out there (gestures to the theatre audience) understand where we are in this case, so I will give y’all the following clarification. The court accepts for purposes of simplifying the task of the prosecution, the basic assumption of the prosecution, that Americans can act as stand-ins for the whole of humanity, for other nations, tribes, clans and even feuding families and if found to have consistently committed acts of gratuitous violence, that is to say whacking anyone for no good reason, throughout the course of its history, that is to say if Americans can be said to have done this, and can be proved to the satisfaction of the jury and this court to have done it, then everyone throughout human history can be said to have done it. Is that clear y’all? Jury? Raise your hands! You out there? (Gestures to theatre audience.) Raise your hands!
(Both the AD the AG turn to each other and mouth the word “What?” with puzzled expressions on their faces.)
J: (Turning to the AD) “Counsel for the defense—proceed with your opening statement to the jury.”
AD: “Thank you your honor and now y’all, (obsequious body language and ingratiating smile directed toward the Judge proud of having remembered the Judges instructions) the defense will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt (turning to the judge again) if this case is even allowed to proceed, that the accused, the so-called Them which is all of us, that this trial is absurd. Whoever heard of everybody, and I beg your pardon your Honor but that includes you … everybody … being guilty of violence toward everybody. I frankly don’t get it and I don’t blame the jury for being confused, PhD or no PhD. Therefore, I respectfully request that this case be thrown out of court your honor.
J: “Request denied, although I tend to sympathize with the counsel for the defense. Nevertheless, I think we ought to hear the evidence first. Am I to understand that you have no witnesses for the defense then counselor?”
AD: “We have one your honor.”
J: “Well this is highly irregular but since I have a feeling that the prosecution is going to have more than one witness it might be easier on the jury (turning to the jury and with sarcasm), and since the jury is on the verge of being overwhelmed with the (with sarcastic emphasis) in-e-luc-table complexity of this case, let’s get your witness out of the way so to speak so we can focus on the prosecution’s veritable deluge of evidence.”
AD: “Yes your honor, counsel for the defense calls Mark Twain … err … Samuel Clemens, to the stand.” (All in the courtroom gasp as Mark Twain enters the courtroom. The theatre audience, on the other hand, realize this is theatre not reality—at least they hope it’s not. Sam Clemens as he was known in Hartford is sworn in.)
AD: “Samuel Clemens, were you aware of rumors during the war in the Philippines, of American soldiers torturing Filipino insurgents and slaughtering civilians—surely these were lies circulated by the anti-imperialists, people like Andrew Carnegie, President Grover Cleveland and other cowardly liberals.”
SC: “There had been lies, yes, but they were told in a good cause. We have been treacherous, but that was only in order that real good might come out of apparent evil.”[ii] (The Judge and both counselors look at each other and mouth “What?” with quizzical faces.)
AD: “Your honor further questioning will reveal the value of our witness for the defense. Mr. Clemens, in 1901 you wrote an essay for the North American Review. Will you read that portion of the essay that we agreed upon previously?”
SC: “From my aforementioned essay I quote myself: ‘And as for a flag for the Philippine Province, it is easily managed. We can have a special one—our states do it: We can have just our usual flag, with the white stripes painted black and the stars replaced by the skull and crossbones.’”[iii]
AD: (With a confused and embarrassed body language.) “Err … uh … thank you Mr. Clemens, that … uh … that will be all.”
SC: (Leaves the witness stand with a wry smile.)
J: (Asking rhetorically) “Counselor, are you sure that Mr. Clemens was on your side?” (Turning to address the AG) OK counselor, the ball is in your court, short and sweet if you please.
AG: “The prosecution calls to the stand President William McKinley” (WM is sworn in.) “Mr. President what was your opinion of the War in the Philippines during your administration?”
WM: “I was against the war in the beginning, but the American people were caught up in the war fever generated by the Hearst newspapers and by my esteemed colleague ‘Bully Teddy.’ I said at the time, since I had fought in the Civil War, I have been through one war, I have seen the dead piled up, and I do not want to see another.”[iv]
AG: “By ‘Bully Teddy,’ you mean Theodore Roosevelt, is that correct?”
WM: “Yes that’s right, he was keen on going to war.”
AG: “Would you kindly read your own words spoken at the start of the war?” (AG hands WM a piece of paper.)
WM: “Certainly, ‘It was the Filipinos’ liberty and not our power, their welfare and not our gain, we are seeking to enhance.’ ‘If old Dewey had just sailed away when he smashed that Spanish fleet, what a lot of trouble he would have saved us.’”[v]
AG: (Handing WM another piece of paper.) “And your words during the election year of 1900 after, shall we say, the American people were beginning to feel a little greed, a little power and looking for a people to project their collective shadow upon.”
J: “Whoa! Whoa! Counselor, no one in this room is schooled in Jungian psychology. Strike that bit about the collective shadow and members of the jury y’all disregard that reference. Please continue Mr. President.”
WM: “I was only speaking what was commonly believed at the height of the so-called Age of Materialism … err … I mean Imperialism.”
J: “Strike that last thing and members of the jury you disregard that Freudian slip. Go ahead!”
WM: “Territory sometimes comes to us when we go to war in a holy cause. Shall we deny to ourselves what the rest of the world so freely and justly accords to us?”[vi]
AG: “Thank you Mr. President, that is all.” (McKinley leaves the witness stand.)
AG: “The prosecution would like to call Henry Cabot Lodge. (HCL is sworn in) “Mr. Lodge you have had acquaintance with what your friend Teddy Roosevelt and others came to call ‘large’ foreign policy, am I correct?”
HCL: “That’s correct.”
AG: “Would you explain what the term “large” foreign policy means to you?”
HCL: “Certainly! With our protective tariff wall around the Philippine Islands, its 10 million inhabitants, as they advance in civilization, would have to buy our goods.”[vii]
AG: “The jury will note the rather mercenary rationale for U.S. foreign policy by a respected and highly-placed official of the American government. You may step down Senator Lodge.” (HCL leaves the witness stand.)
AG: “The prosecution would like to call Teddy Roosevelt to the witness stand.” (TR is sworn in.) “Mr. President we have heard in this courtroom that President Grover Cleveland, Andrew Carnegie, President William McKinley–until bowing to public pressure–and I think maybe Mark Twain were opposed to putting American troops on the ground in the Philippines. Do you remember it that way?”
TR: “Yes and Mark Twain was just trying to be funny, you never know what that guy is up to, but you can bet he’s up to no-good.” (Peering over his spectacles at Twain seated at the prosecution table.)
AG: “What did you think of this anti-war faction?”
TR: “I had nothing but contempt for the unintelligent, cowardly chatter for peace at any price.”
AG: “And would you read this phrase which you wrote at the time?” (Hands TR a piece of paper.)
TR: “I remember this, I wrote ‘this country needs a war.’”[viii]
AG: “What did you mean by that?”
TR: “I was born a small, sickly and fearful child who experienced constant bullying. I learned to box, punch cattle out West, ride, shoot and endure the hardships of life on the open range. That made me the man I am today and the same goes for a nation. You have to show the rest the world what you’re made of, or they will bully you.”
AG: “Thank you Mr. President, that will be all.”
TR: “But I have some more that I would like to say.”
J: “I am sorry Mr. President, but the rules of this court cannot allow that and I’m sure you respect the laws of jurisprudence.” (TR leaves the witness stand grumbling.)
AG: “Your honor I would like to call an expert witness on interrogation techniques and instructor of information acquisition at a black site who will, of course, appear in disguise.” (The Judge nods his assent, and the witness enters the courtroom and is sworn in). “How should I address the witness your honor?”
J: “How about 007 counselor.”
AG: “Good idea! 007 will you give us a brief description of the interrogation technique called the ‘water cure’ used in the Philippine Insurrection.”
007: “The technique, which was perfected during the Spanish Inquisition, produced in its victims the simultaneous sensations of drowning and of being burned or cut as internal organs are stretched and convulsed.”
AG: “You’ve described the effects now tell us how it was done.”
007: “Well, for example in the particular war you’re talking about, American soldiers captured a Filipino mayor that they suspected of helping insurgents. They tied his hands behind his back, put him face-up under a large water tank, propped his mouth open with a stick and turned on the spigot. The soldiers then pounded on his stomach which was full to bursting forcing the water from his mouth and nose. Then they would do it again and again until they got the confession that they wanted.”
AG: “Thank you 007. You may step down.” (007 exits the courtroom)
AG: “The prosecution would like to call Senator George Frisbie Hoar to the witness stand. (SH is sworn in) “Senator, you were serving in the Senate in 1902 during the war in the Philippines, the so-called Philippine Insurrection. Is that correct?”
SH: “That is correct.”
AG: “Do you remember the remarks that you directed toward President Roosevelt on the floor of the Senate that year?”
SH: “Yes I do. I remember every word.”
AG: “Could you repeat them for us?”
SH: (Turning to face TR who is seated at the defense table, raising his hand and pointing his finger at each accusation) “I said: You have wasted 600 millions of treasure. You have sacrificed nearly 10,000 American lives—the flower of our youth. You have devastated provinces. You have slain countless thousands of the people you desire to benefit. Your practical statesmanship has succeeded in converting a people who three years ago were ready to kiss the hem of the garment of the American and to welcome him as liberator … into sullen and irreconcilable enemies, possessed of a hatred which centuries cannot eradicate.”[ix] (All in the courtroom are stunned into silence.)
AG: “Thank you Senator, you may step down.” (The Senator leaves the witness stand.)
AG: (Facing the Judge) “My closing statement your honor.” (Turning to face the jury) “Y’all, have heard compelling evidence that neither your heart nor your mind can resist. The cumulative evidence … err … the evidence all added together, cannot be denied. The United States of America, the foremost democracy, the paragon of freedom is guilty of a non-defensive war of aggression, using horrific torture and, in the words of the original indictment, performed acts of gratuitous violence or, for the benefit of the jury, whacked people for no good reason. I urge y’all to find the defendants guilty as charged.”
J: (nodding to the AD) “Counselor, your closing statement to the jury.”
AD: “Y’all please find a way to come to a unanimous verdict, I couldn’t go through this again.”
J: “This court is adjourned while we await the verdict.”
Act Three – Scene One
J: “Have y’all reached a verdict?”
Jury foreman: “Yes your honor, we find Them guilty.”
J: “Very well we will immediately proceed.”
AD: “Your Honor, speaking on behalf of the accused who are the same people as the plaintiffs, in other words ‘Them,’ I ask the court to consider probation without a fine or without community service.”
AG: “Objection your honor, what was the point of this whole trial if no sentence is forthcoming even after a unanimous guilty verdict.”
J: “Counselor, you did, after a slow start, present a compelling indictment of the accused with the facts that I asked for but consider the following: The plaintiffs and the defendants are the same people, are they not? In recognition of this unavoidable reality, I hereby sentence all of Them (pause) … all of us to suffer the relentless Karma of unconsciousness, to stagger about this stage of fools, this platform of despair, as if we were bewildered thespians, reading from the worst scripts imaginable with no qualified director and experiencing the continuous reactions and unmitigated suffering occasioned by our bad acting. Indeed! All are punished.”
AG: (Shaking head yes.)
J: “In our perfect universe, justice is also perfect and immediate. Those who insist on self-destructive behavior experience immediate suffering and ultimate self-destruction. As Shakespeare said (turning to the jury) … Jury, disregard this literary reference. In Romeo and Juliet at the end of everyone experiencing so much violence and revenge and suffering one of the characters remarks concerning the reality that ‘All are punished.’ That seems to be the situation in this case. I see no point in punishing the victims or avenging the avenged. All are punished. This court is adjourned.”
Judge brings down his gavel—whack!
[i] Millard, Candice. “Looking for a Fight.” The New York Times Book Review. February 19, 2012, page 13.
[iii] Lind, Michael. “From Isolation to Intervention.” The New York Times Book Review. January 29, 2017, page 19.
[vi] Millard, op. cit., page 13.
[vii] Lind, op. cit., page 19.
[viii] Millard, op. cit., page 13.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in printed books by Roy Charles Henry.