Carlyle Fielding Stewart III

Writings on Democracy, Social Justice, and Religion

“Beyond the Bed of Procrustes”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Bed of Procrustes has come to represent any attempt” to reduce men to one standard, one way of thinking, or one way of acting,” which is not only detrimental to the individual but ultimately undermines any nation, institution or organization which severs all opposing thoughts or actions which augments its long term vitality and continuity.

Procrusteanism says “I believe that everybody should think the way I think, believe the way I believe, and behave the way I behave. If you don’t fit my mold then I will try to convince, coerce, manipulate, or do anything else I can to get everyone to conform to what I think is correct.”

The politics of Procrustes has stifled party politics in America not only in Washington but also in States where politicians guillotine political legislation which benefits all Americans.

It is a repressive political climate thwarting the confluence of ideas and rigorous debate spawning the loss of duality and creative tensions which often test but strengthen the whole.

It is choosing political brinkmanship over true statesmanship which weakens the foundations of American political discourse and American representative democracy.

This new “few-dalism,” halts, manipulates or repeals legislation while abhorring political pushback. It is crying foul of the opposition while itself running afoul of the current rule system. It is the lack of moral courage and the absence of moral outrage.

One recent example is the preemption of Republicans interview of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. Rather than grant Garland a much deserved and long awaited hearing, Republicans treated him like Dick Dastardly or Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.

To be sure, no laws were broken only previous precedents of the selection process. Mr. McConnell and his associates simply ignored Obama’s choice and attributed their actions to a statement presumably made by Vice-President Joe Biden claiming that election year hearings were not the optimum time to review a Supreme Court nominee.


The maneuver creates a new precursor for Supreme Court nominees. Politically invalidate previous procedures and simply do what you want because you have the power to do it.

Procrustes’ rules benefit only himself and not outsiders trafficking his domain. What begins as a quest for hospitality and a safe house for Democracy ends with those failing to meet the political metrics of the party in power tortuously lopped off and “showcased as political cadavers without hope for political prosthesis.  It is what German sociologist Max Weber calls routinization and precipitates a kind of political zombification.

The aim then is to establish one party rule; one nation with one prevailing viewpoint; one driving and overriding ideology, one sole purpose, one bed of orthodoxy which negates all other options and beliefs and catapults the absolute power of the few over the power of the people for all time.

It is the new autocracy shrouded in the new authoritarianism. The movement from vox populi to Agnus Dei opulentos pauci, or simply vocem paucis?

The Procrustean view also suggests that for America to become great again it must realize its destiny by out-sizing the poor, middle class and common folks by cutting them off and dwarfing their future.

It means scaffolding, stretching and skewering time honored truths; it is to delegitimize congressional protests by grid-locking the opposition, revoking the voting rights of black citizens; digitally gerrymandering and red-lining congressional districts.

It means ripping healthcare from the hearts of the people by severing their only forms of life support; it is shredding political precedents which disadvantage the party in power. It is abolishing social security, medicare and medicaid.

It is smashing the moral arch and sacred writs of our American Constitutional Republic by fracking its noble principles of freedom, equality and justice with the anvils of neo-liberalism by always blaming the victim, and never showing compassion for the least of these.

It is the politics of confiscation which glorify predatory greed and idolizes the freedom to be immoral, a moral or unethical which approximates what Robert McAfee Brown calls “structural violence” and Henry Giroux calls the culture of cruelty and violence, thus eviscerating the last vestiges of true humanity in democracy.

Add the imperial fiats of “might always makes right” or “the means always justifies the ends” and there we have the people in Democracy resized to fit Procrustes bed rather resizing the “bed of Democracy” to meet the people’s needs.

Could the statement by Cato the Elder have meaning here, cited at the end of every speech in the Roman Senate but one in particular after visiting Carthage when he realized its increasing rivalry to Rome: “delenda est Carthago,” which means any obstacle that stands in the way must be removed at all costs.

The Roman oligarchs used this form of government for hundreds of years before they replaced the republic with the monarchy of the Twelve Caesars.”

Such politics of amputation and dismemberment maim and do enormous disservice to our country and its people. It alienates the many, stretches them beyond their human capacities by pressurizing, punishing and eventually pulverizing them into tiny fragments.

Needed are the politics of “Democrates; the re-membering of all people to America’s body politic. Perhaps needed is a  “Sleep Number Bed Democracy” of the Athenian type and not the Medieval politics of Procrustes Bed which punish and banish the majority of people in America who do not fit the requisite traits of who should be honored, who is worthy and who is deserving of fair and just treatment in America because they will not take rest in the bed of Procrustes.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *