According to The Blaze, Glenn Beck “predicted Friday that he believes conservative voters will look to Republican presidential candidate Texas Sen. Ted Cruz ‘when it comes down to it,’ because he has the “gravitas” to win the election.”
On The Glenn Beck Radio Program Friday, Beck asked,
“I think it’s going to be Cruz when it comes down to it. When you go in and you have to vote and you’re looking at today’s world, who do you think has the gravitas to really pull this off?”
Of course, he had his own answer.
Gravitas. Ted Cruz.
I think Beck knows not of what he speaks. If he knows the meaning of gravitas, then surely he jests. Ted Cruz is a man known for his tantrums. Why is this important?
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines gravitas as “seriousness and importance of manner, causing feelings of respect and trust in others.” For the ancient Romans, gravitas was a virtue; the British did not invent the “stiff upper lip” or the idea that one must “keep calm and carry on.”
The Romans believed in other virtues a well: fides or fidelity, a measure of how trustworthy and reliable a man was. Ted Cruz has made a living in the Senate lying. He gets a goose-egg for fides as well.
Then there is virtus or manliness, including the martial courage of a Horatius at the bridge, standing off an army alone. Myles McDonell, writing in Roman Manliness (2006) tells us,
The Latin word for manliness is virtus, from vir, meaning man, and virtus designates the activity and quality associated with the noun from which it is derived; virtus characterizes the ideal behavior of a man.
In all accounts of ancient Roman values virtus holds a high place as a traditional quality that played a central part in war, politics, and religion. So close was the identification of virtus with Rome that when virtus was honored with a state cult, the image chosen for the cult statue was the same as that of the goddess Roma herself: an armed amazon. Virtus was regarded as nothing less than the quality associated with, and responsible for Roman greatness, and was central to the construction of the ancient Roman self-image.
Virtus, the Romans believed, was something uniquely Roman (and yes, women could have it as well, and I mention that just for the opportunity to say Sarah Palin lacks it). It made them better men. A sort of Roman Exceptionalism, if you will. If we equate that with some form of American virtus then, no, Ted Cruz doesn’t have that either.
If ever a man had gravitas, it is Barack Obama, weathering seven years of scorn and abuse for being a black man living in a white house who refuses to bow to the bullying of Republicans in the legislative branch. Obama has kept his head held high and persevered. Unlike Ted Cruz, he has never whined.
Ted Cruz’s pastor, Gaylon Wiley, we are assured by Ted Cruz, said of the candidate,
“Ted was just like all the other kids. Except he had the IQ of his father – he was three stages ahead. I baptized both of his parents and had the privilege of baptizing Ted and leading him and his cousin Bibi to the Lord. I believe he is God’s man for this hour, for such a time as this. He is the most constitutional, conservative candidate in either party. The hand of God is on him, and if God’s people rise up, he will be the man.”
He’s got something in him all right. But Cicero said it is proper to consecrate only virtues, not vices. The Republicans have got that all backwards.
Supposedly, Saint Ignatius was brought before the Emperor Trajan in Antioch, the great city in Syria, and was asked about being one who bore Christ in his own person (Christophoros – “Christ bearer”). For Trajan, this did not make Ignatius special, and he said,
“And do you not suppose that we carry in ourselves powers that give us valor and victory over our enemies?”
Obviously, as Trajan pointed out, you can be a good man – even an exceptional man – without Ted Cruz’s God, regardless of what Ted Cruz and his father and his pastor want you to believe. Being Christian bestows no special virtue.
Not being Donald Trump bestows no gravitas. Gravitas is something possessed innately. Being less hysterical in speech than Trump, whom by the way Cruz admires and refuses to attack, does not bestow any measure of gravitas on Cruz, who whines that he wants President Obama to drop all his important work overseas, rush home, and tell him he’s a douche bag to his face.
Ted Cruz is not that important. President Obama was in Turkey for a reason, and thus, when he spoke, he spoke from Turkey. Republicans like Cruz do not stop being douche bags because Obama isn’t in the country when they act out like spoiled children who can’t have what they want.
This is not the sort of behavior and comportment Romans admired. In a speech he gave in 43 B.C.E., a year after Caesar’s assassination, Cicero told the Roman people,
“But virtus usually wards off a cruel and dishonorable death, and virtus is the badge of the Roman race and breed. Cling fast to it, I beg you men of Rome, as a heritage that your ancestors bequeathed to you. All else is false and doubtful, ephemeral and changeful: only virtus stands firmly fixed, its roots run deep, it can never be shaken by any violence, never moved from its place.”
In the sixth century B.C.E., when the Etruscans laid siege to Rome, Gaius Mucius Scaevola entered their camp to kill Etruscan king Lars Porsenna. He killed his scribe my mistake and was caught, and declared,
“I am Gaius Mucius, a citizen of Rome. I came here as an enemy to kill my enemy, and I am as ready to die as I am to kill. We Romans act bravely and, when adversity strikes, we suffer bravely. “Watch,” he said, “so that you know how cheap the body is to men who have their eye on great glory.”
And then he thrust his hand into a fire and held it there without any show of pain.
Ted Cruz won’t thrust his hand in a fire and if he hides from the media how likely is he to face down a king for what he calls his principles? Cruz has no gravitas, and he has no discernible virtus – or any other virtue – either.
When, like Scaevola, he holds his hand in a fire, metaphorical or real, to show his own determination, then we can accept the fact of his own claim to gravitas, and, perhaps, even a little virtus.
Until then, like the Trump Beck hopes he will replace, he is just another whiny, ill-behaved, and mean-spirited Republican.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.