SWINDLE COLUMN: Beware the ides of March

Published 10:30 am Tuesday, March 15, 2022

The month of March is the time of year when we are reminded that loyalty is one of the greatest character attributes that a person can possess.

Perhaps the best example of genuine loyalty was when an aging James Baker was asked by a member of the Gore campaign during the 2000 re-count dispute why he would jump back into service for the son of George H.W. Bush. Many people on Capitol Hill were astonished when Baker replied to the Gore aide with just one word, “loyalty.”

James Baker did not have a close relationship with Bush’s son, “W”. However, a careful look at the relationship between H.W. and Baker explains why Baker chose to get back involved.

George H.W. Bush helped his friend during the worst time of Baker’s life; when Baker’s wife passed away too early for her age. Bush stood by his friend and with God’s direction lifted James Baker out of his deep depression by mere friendship and getting him back involved in politics.

Baker did not need money or favors from the Bush family. He simply felt the need to stand by the people who stood by him during the darkest chapter of his life.

Unfortunately, it can be easy and tempting to become disloyal.

On January 10 49 B.C. – Roman Province of Gaul (modern day France) –   Gaius Julius Caesar, one of the most capable military commanders in history, stares at the flowing water of the River Rubicon (the border between France and Italy. The Roman general has been deemed “an enemy of the state” by the Senate and ordered to not bring his legions into Italy.

Later in the day, Caesar steps into the river with only a single legion and swiftly conquers his enemies in the Senate. Brutus and Cassius are spared because of their deep friendship and trust.

Caesar becomes the first Roman Emperor and leads the Empire for five years. Yet, treachery is on the horizon.

March 15th 44 B.C. – Rome – This day on the Roman calendar is called “The Ides of March.” It is a religious holiday celebrated by the Roman upper class. Caesar is due to appear at a session of the Senate as his wife begs him not to go. During the night, she had an awful nightmare where Caesar is murdered in broad daylight. Caesar is also warned by a soothsayer who tells him “Beware the Ides of March.” Caesar briefly hesitates as he walks to the Senate but carries on to attend the session. He believes that his two friends would certainly protect him from any danger. 

The session is short. During the first order of business, one of the senators approaches Caesar with two items; a petition and a dagger. Suddenly, the senator brandishes the dagger and stabs Caesar in the neck. Instantly, a number of senators, including Brutus and Cassius, rush toward Caesar with daggers. He dies after being stabbed 23 times.    As he is dying, he looks up and sees the face of his trusted friend Brutus. His last words are “Et tu, Brute?” (You too, Brutus.) He dies with the knowledge that Brutus and Cassius have betrayed him.  Two years later, Brutus and Cassius commit suicide.    

Although extreme and unfathomable today, The Ides of March that occurred over 2000 years ago still provide the clearest illustration of the importance of loyalty and the possible consequences of disloyalty.