My latest post for The Public Humanist begins like this:
I was a Creon until I realized that it put me against Antigone. Now I’m not so sure.
Last week, listening to public radio, I heard about the protests against the burial of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. I nodded in agreement as various voices denounced the alleged Boston Marathon bomber and felt disgust at the thought that his corpse would pollute our state. Then, an undertaker was interviewed and he did not argue that Tsarnaev deserved any special treatment, but said that we debased our own humanity by denying his body burial rites.
That’s when I realized that I was living through Antigone, the classical Greek play by Sophocles and first performed around the time the Parthenon was being built in Athens. As the Academic Director of the Clemente Course in Dorchester, I work to provide college-level instruction in the humanities to a couple dozen low-income adults every year. Antigone is one text that we read regularly, either with our professor of Literature or with our professor of Moral Philosophy.