Masks were worn in the Greek theatre for a variety of reasons. One was to enable a single individual to play multiple roles simply by changing a mask.
Masks were also used as a sort of portable microphone system, with its built-in megaphone. It was quite an effective “technology” for the huge amphitheaters before which the actors played. Actors in the Greek theatre were also men only, so they could change their gender simply with the change of a mask.
These masked actors were called hypokrites, the ancient root of our word hypocrite – an actor who wears a mask. The mask covered the real person and showed you only a pretender, a character.
It’s an apt word that describes much of what we observe today. Particularly in the form of people who pretend to be more righteous than they actually are. Or who pretend to be acting with altruism.
The word that gets hurled most often at people who today claim to be religious is this word hypocrite. The reason? They say one thing and do another. Behaviors like lying, fraudulent behavior, mistreatment of the poor and disenfranchised, misogony, and sexual deviancy, to name a few.
The political realm is not without its hypocrites either. Folks too often campaign on a platform of helping their constituents, poor and rich, but after the election is over they begin to govern for self-interest.
The influx of many young, minority, and female electeds into the House of Representatives is a refreshing and hope-filled development. The salvation of our democracy, the return of faith, and the defeat of cynicism depend on the integrity and determination of these new leaders.
May they remain untarnished by their self-aggrandizing, lying, and conniving co-leaders and show the way forward with courage, nobility, and clarity.