“I’m sorry, if you were right, I’d agree with you.”
By Alex P. Vidal
NEW YORK CITY — Three big historical events in February, March and April juxtaposed in the calendar of topics Professor Jozef Copernicus wanted to discuss with me one breezy afternoon in the blizzard-drenched Central Park.
First was the February 22-25, 1986 “People Power” EDSA Revolution in the Philippines; second, the March 15, 4 B.C. “Ides of March” in Rome; and third, the April 15, 1865 assassination of Abraham Lincoln in Washington D.C.
In the first article, I narrated to Prof. Copernicus why the Philippines had a bloodless revolution and how prayers worked wonders and averted heavy casualties in EDSA. February topic settled.
For March, Prof. Copernicus came out swinging: “Who were the conspirators in Julius Caesar’s murder and why it was dubbed the ‘Ides of March’?”
I quickly recalled the effervescent Brutus.
“Brutus!” I muttered. “Brutus and Cassius.”
“Who else?” chortled Prof. Copernicus while rushing forward, his left eyebrow twerking.
APV: “As many as 60 senators conspired to kill Caesar but not all of them participated in the actual assault inside the Theater of Pompey.”
Prof. Copernicus: “How about Brutus and Cassius?
APV: “According to William Shakespeare and Plutarch, while the senators and Cassius were starting to stab Caesar, who was caught unprepared, he backtracked and tried to seek refuge when he saw Brutus hoping the latter would shield or defend him. All of a sudden, Brutus stabbed him in the back. Surprised, Caesar turned his back and chided his adopted son, ‘Et tu, Brute?’ or ‘you also, Brutus?”
Prof. Copernicus: “Right. Caesar died on the spot. Nobody saved him?”
APV: “He slumped dead in front of Pompey’s statue and Mark Antony, his trusted bodyguard who was outside, failed to save him.”
Prof. Copernicus: “And the Ides of March?”
APV: “A soothsayer had earlier warned Caesar would be harmed in (or before) the Ides of March. He laughed off the seer’s warning and proceeded to the Theater of Pompey.”
Exit March and Rome. Enter April and Washington D.C. Conspiracy to kill Lincoln.
Prof. Copernicus: “You said Lincoln’s murder was a result of conspiracy? All I know is he was assassinated inside a theater by an actor, a lone gunman by the name of John Booth.”
APV: “John Wilkes Booth was the gunman but up to 10 people were hanged in public after trial when they were found guilty of conspiracy.”
“The execution of the conspirators became controversial,” I proceeded, “because a woman named Mary Surratt was among those convicted and hanged. She protested her innocence up to the last hours and became unruly, refusing to be hanged simultaneously with the nine others.”
I added: “Her only crime was she owned the boarding house used by the conspirators to plan the assassination. I learned about this account in a book I read inside the Barns and Noble bookstore in windy Chicago in 2008.”
Prof. Copernicus: “It’s not yet clear to me if it was a conspiracy. You mentioned the name Mary Surratt. She was hanged also? Honestly, I didn’t know it was a conspiracy and a woman had been meted a death penalty. To settle the confusion, can you Google Lincoln’s assassination and check if it was really a conspiracy and if a Mary Surratt was among those convicted and hanged?”
APV: “Yes, professor. I will do that now.”
I took my mini iPad and Googled “Conspiracy Lincoln assassination.”
APV: “Here, professor. It’s a conspiracy and (I pointed to him) here’s the name of Mary Surratt: (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/biography/assassination-co-conspirators/)”
Prof. Copernicus (reading the link on the mini-iPad): “OK. You just taught me a piece of history. You are right. You win.”