I ran across this phrase today when trying to find a quote from the movie “The Undefeated,” believe it or not. It was in a list of images that were tagged with the word “undefeated” and showed this quote on a sweatshirt. Intrigued, I looked it up and was quite taken with the phrase. Why? Well, I’m glad you’re curious.
First off, let me digress for a moment to offer this: if you, like me, are a person who likes to sprinkle things into conversation to make people pause and look at you (and who doesn’t?) then here is the official Mirriam-Webster pronunciation of the phrase itself: http://www.merriam-webster.com/cgi-bin/audio.pl?fwoder01.wav=oderint+dum+metuant
Now that that is done, on with the blog. The history of the phrase itself is interesting, in that it was attributed to Lucius Accius, a Roman tragic poet (I presume that means he wrote poetry in the tragic style, not that he himself was a tragic poet; I had images of him writing poetry and suddenly falling off a cliff or something) who lived somewhere around 170 BC. The line was, later, adopted by Caligula, who was perhaps one of the most infamous and downright “drive your funny car RIGHT OVER the screaming cliff of insanity” emperors that Rome has ever known. Translated, the phrase means, approximately, “Let them hate, so long as they fear.”
O.k., I see you edging for the door – yes YOU – I’m pointing at YOU – put that phone down. You do NOT need to call the authorities to come get me. Let me explain why this phrase hit home with me today. In our society, taking a stand that is unpopular often brings hatred of the most virulent kind. If you don’t go with the flow, the popular sentiment of the time, the trend in PC, or the wishes of those “in authority,” you are liable to be branded as every slanderous term known to man. I have encountered it, personally, and seen others go through it. Yet, I encourage them to keep on, as I keep on, and encourage you to do the same. Why?
This phrase explains why. When you take a stand for what is right; note that I didn’t say what’s popular, what’s considered acceptable, I said what’s RIGHT, people will hate you. I say let them – so long as while they are hating you, they FEAR you. If they fear what you can do; the pressure you can bring to bear on them, the fact that you won’t be silenced, won’t be cowed, won’t back down, won’t be intimidated, then let them hate you. Continue to stand for what is right, and let them hate. Their fear shows you all you need to know.
Captain America, the comic book character, said it best, I believe, when he said:
“Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world — ‘No, you move.'”
Oderint dum metuant.
God bless, my friend.