Don Quixote: A Fable or a Warning?

“Look there, friend Sancho and behold! Thirty to forty outrageous giants, with whom I intend to engage in battle and put every one of them to death. For it is a meritorious warfare and serviceable to both God and man, to extirpate such a wicked race from the face of the earth!”

“What do you mean?” said Sancho Panza.

“Those you see yonder,” replied his master, “with vast extended arms, some of which are two leagues long.”

“I would your worship would take notice,” replied Sancho, “that those you see yonder are no giants, but windmills; and what seem arms to you, are sails; which being turned with the wind, make the mill-stone work.”

“It seems very plain,” said the knight, “that you are but a novice in adventures.”

–Cervantes, Miguel de, The Ingenious Nobleman Sir Quixote de La Mancha, (1603)

The story of the idealistic Don Quixote and his earthy side-kick Sancho Panza has delighted tens of millions for over half a millennium. It is a story of a bored, middle-aged nobleman who has whiled away his life and sanity with stories of knight-errantry. Embarking on a quest to slay dragons and rescue maidens, his only grip on reality is his “squire” Sancho Panza.

As we can see in the passage above, Don Quixote and Sancho see the exact same thing but perceive two very different realities. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is captured by the wily peasant who cannot convince his master otherwise. And so, the gangly, faux but good-hearted knight-errant, goes off to do battle with the windmills. And the laws of physics being what they are, he comes off worse for the wear.

The fascinating thing about this story, especially in light of what’s going on today, is that Quixote cannot be convinced, no matter how hard reality slaps him in the face, that he is wrong. Unfortunately, he is in fact, wrong about everything. The whore Aldonza he thinks is a virginal noblewoman named Dulcinea. The ramshackle inn wherein he meets her appears to him to be a grand castle and its owner is the lord of that particular manor. Thus after each misadventure that befalls him, he gets up and dusts himself off, never once believing that his version of reality is (or can be) false. And so, with his squire in tow, he goes off looking for ever more adventures.

Now, Don Quixote is a fictional novel. One of the greatest of all time. (According to some, the greatest novel of all time.) It works on many different levels in that it is entertaining, inspirational and thought-provoking. The purity of the Lord of La Mancha’s heart is plain to see. It’s in his face and in the mask which O’Toole (I’m referencing the 1960s movie Man of La Mancha here) wears when playing him. It’s boyish, puckish and poignant all at once. Completely innocent and heartwarming. And it stays with you throughout the movie and long after you’ve seen it. Those of who are Orthodox know very well about those saints whom we venerate as Fools for Christ that have that same purity of heart shinning from their faces.

I couldn’t help but choke back a tear near the end when the gallant would-be knight-errant is on his deathbed. He meets his end with every intention of validating his life as he remembered it. In doing so, he proves himself to be the ideal knight: a true Christian gentleman whose heart is pure and whose life is dedicated to writing wrongs, aiding the poor and downtrodden and saving damsels in distress if necessary. One can’t help but want to emulate him even if his actual circumstances were not congruent with his wondrous imagination.

It is in this light that I choose to view Cervantes’ epic tale.

Unfortunately, since we live in a dark age, and since so much of what passes for entertainment is twisted, I have come to the conclusion that if this tale is viewed through our present circumstances, it can also serve as the darkest of fables. Looked at from this angle, Cervantes’ great work is a warning as to what can happen when two people –or two groups of people–can not perceive the same phenomenon in the same way. When one (the peasant) is chained to the reality of the other (the nobleman) and must accommodate his whims, things don’t work out as well as they did in the novel. And when the latter’s misadventures blow up in their collective faces, it is the lowly who must clean up the mess.

So, too, it is in our society, at least since the 1960s when well-intentioned (?) elites went about slaying dragons that didn’t exist, creating new ones which are frankly, unslayable. Lyndon Baines Johnson was our age’s dark, malevolent knight-errant, who should have listened to Sam Rayburn of Texas, the Sancho Panza of liberal pragmatism, who told him “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Instead, this malevolent and confused President went about destroying much that was good about America. Vietnam was merely the icing on the cake. Despite his passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, we choose not to remember his name in the pantheon of presidential eminences.

Today, things are far worse. Now, we have one group which looks at the best scientific research and sees life in the womb, while another –equally educated cohort–sees only “clumps of tissue” which can be flushed down the toilet with nary a care. Where some people cannot see a humanitarian crisis at the Southern border, another sees an disease-borne invasion of Visigothic proportions. And where one cannot see record-breaking economic figures, the Sancho Panzas among us rise from our beds, get dressed and drive ourselves merrily to work.

Today’s peasants are told that their party is “anti-science” by the best and the brightest. Yet these same elites will say with a straight face that there are in fact 38 “genders” and that biological men can, and should compete in women’s sports. This is more than a mere disconnect, it’s a complete delusion, one which cannot be solved by dialogue or debate. Unlike the kind, gentle and pure-hearted knight of La Mancha, these same elites go on their errands leaving paths of destruction in their wake. Think of the average American inner city or our degraded educational system. California, the once Golden State, is well on its way to becoming Thunderdome.

In Cervantes’ novel, the knight, squire, lady, and the other players in this grandiose drama all got along. In the West today, we are not so lucky.

The extreme hatred that is evidenced by those on the left for those of us who don’t see things by their lights is alarming. Indeed, it is getting worse. When a scabrous critic of President Trump (like Trevor Noah) pulls back from the brink of insanity and offers some tepid accolade for the President or Bill Maher offers a trenchant criticism of leftist thought, those even further to the left are driven to greater fits of rage. It’s almost as if there are different bandwidths of Trump-hatred and only those who perceive Trump’s awfulness within their particular range are worthy of life.

Mind you, I don’t know how to explain such a divergence of opinion from reality on such a massive scale. Any particular individual can suffer from delusions and hallucinations whether they be visual or auditory. But two or more people can’t suffer from the same illusion at the same time. Yet in America today, there are millions of people who think that Donald Trump is a hundred-headed hydra who has an IQ approaching that of bacteria. They are absolutely sure that he, his entire family and the 63 million people who voted for him are likewise evil, misguided (or both) and thus not worthy of life. They can be –and often are–beaten up on the street simply because they exist. Is it any wonder then that many of us feel that are probably marked for destruction?

This is why I fear for the future. Don’t believe? Then watch this:

There have been literally hundreds of these assaults which have taken place ever since Donald Trump descended from the escalator four years ago on June 14, 2015. Google them for yourself if you don’t believe me.

My analogy to Don Quixote was just that –an analogy. And a poor one, for which I apologize. It is nothing less than a literary affront to the noble figure of the pure and kind-hearted knight. Quixote, after all, was a wholly sympathetic figure and lived as noble a life as possible given his childlike naivete. On the other hand, there is nothing redeeming at all about these people who see nothing wrong with screaming at the top of their lungs, beating up old people or smashing trashcans through storefront windows. Especially when the economic facts on the ground do not justify such reprehensible behavior.

It’s disturbing that I had to resort to fiction to try and come up with an explanation for this mass derangement. I honestly don’t know if there are any natural explanations that can explain such a divergent phenomenon. At this point, I’m ready to delve into conspiracy theories and posit that the drinking water of most liberals is being tampered with or that they are being targeted by gamma-rays that are emanating from the Mother Ship. Or it could be evil spirits which they picked up from the Ouija boards that they played with when they were little. Honestly, I don’t know. Even if mass violence and/or civil war erupts we may never know what caused such hallucinatory thought in the first place. It’s that bad.

Jesus said that such devils “could only be driven out by fasting”. Yet Jesus would only cure those who wanted to be cured. I see no evidence at all that those who hate the President (and the people who voted for him) believe that they are possessed by such a demonic fury. Even in light of countervailing facts, they are sure that every windmill they see is a hideous giant which must be utterly destroyed. Unfortunately for us who are sane, the hideous giants they see are us.

P.S. In the meantime, if you get a chance, go see Man of La Mancha if you haven’t already. And go see it again if you have, it definitely withstands the cinematic test of time. For all his faults, Quixote was a good guy, of this there can be no doubt. We should all be a little bit more like him at times.

About GShep


  1. Well-stated.  Thank you.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Thank you, Michelle.

      • George why such hatred? I think one reason is you have not public discourse where liberals interview on conservative platforms and conservative on liberal ones so people are exposed to varrying views. The ascent of social media has made this worse.
        You do nor seem to have as in Uk, political discussion programmest with the public with a variery of guests to take questions from the audience.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          I think it’s fear, Nikos, not hatred. You’re non-plussed about Trump, which is fine, but you don’t vehemently attack anybody and everybody associated with him! I have family members that have actually stopped speaking to me because of Trump! When wearing that stupid hat, some guy came of nowhere and hurled insults at George before speeding off in his car. This is bizarre behavior across the board. I call these people “walkers” because like the hit show, The Walking Dead, the brains of these people seem to be infected with some kind of weird virus that makes them want to bite our collective heads off. They’re scary. We weren’t foaming at the mouth when Obama was elected, although we were most unhappy come his second term. We certainly weren’t threatening to put him in jail or hurling expletives at at him. We’re genuinely mystified by this crazy behavior.

          • Estonian Slovak says

            Indeed, Gail. I didn’t have family members turn against me because of Trump. I was, however, percieved as a Trump voter(and therefore, a bigot) at my job. Although those giving me a hard time were white, I noticed that after the election, African Americans who had previously laughed and joked with me, suddenly became somewhat cold towards me. I was already 64 at the time, and decided to quit on my own. I’m now living in an area where someone can actually have a Trump sticker without worrying about their car getting keyed or worse.
                  Also, I was at an Orthodox Conference not long ago. A Greek priest from Canada assured us that things are much worse up there than down here. If a Canadian chooses to identify himself as a plant, for instance, and you don’t respect his right to do so, you can be hauled before a tribunal for “re-education”.
                 Plus, I’m sure you’ve heard of the Orthodox Abbot in Washington State. He was gassing up his car, wearing a cross and cassock. Some man appeared and asked him,”How’s Trump?”, before sucker punching him. I ask everyone to pray for Abbot Tryphon. The TV news that showed a video of the attacker leads me to believe that he may be Middle Eastern. Just saying.

            • Gail Sheppard says

              See, ES, that’s insane that you were labeled a bigot at your job! These people are flat out crazy and crazy people are dangerous. Here is another example:

              • Michael Bauman says

                I have never displayed a political sticker or worn political gear in my life except for a small political pin when I was 18.   
                Being a contrarian, I am almost to the point that I want to buy a 10 gallon MAGA hat, wear the loudest Trump shirt I can find and put a Trump wrap on my car.  
                The only reason I voted for Trump in the first place was the public vitriolic illogical hatred displayed by his opponents.
                Mark Levin a learned lawyer, author and talk show host with political principle based in the Constitution was adamently opposed to the Trump candidacy. He has become a strong, principled defender of Trump’s Presidency because of Trump’s policy stands and the opposition’s campaign to destroy the Constitutional foundation of law and instigate tyranny. I think it is fair to say that Levin knows more about the Constitution and the nature of government than any other public commentator.
                At the same time Levin does not hesitate to criticize Trump as necessary.  
                That being said, Levin’s Enlightenment proclivities lead him into stands I disagree with, he is good to listen to.

                • Gail Sheppard says

                  My experience is the same, Michael. I am not a particularly political person but I find myself feeling confined by these people in a way I have never felt before. They’re not going to put the genie back in the bottle this time.

              • Estonian Slovak says

                Michael Savage does say that extreme liberalism is a severe mental disorder. In my case, I come from a family of leftists. My parents and brother firmly believe that the Tsar got what was coming to him. He did actually, he received a Martyr’s Crown, but that’s not what they meant.
                    Back in the 90’s, I had an anti-Clinton bumper sticker on my van. It appears someone poured brake fluid into my gas tank, possibly because of that. When I mentioned it to my mother, she was more upset that I had an anti-Clinton sticker than that someone vandalized my car.
                     Then my brother caught a rat in one of those humane traps in his home. He then drove 30 or so miles to release the rat into the wilds. He had mercy on a rat, but he’s ok with babies being sucked out of their mothers wombs. How does one come to terms with that type of thinking?

  2. Constantinos says

    I think you may be guilty of special pleading. Barack Obama fanned the flames of racial histrionics. Remember his Attorney General Eric Holder? Remember when Obama shot his mouth off without knowing the facts about the Cambridge, MA police incident involving a black Harvard professor? How about when he said that Trayvon Martin could be his son? Then we have the Black Lives Matters movement. Believe me, it is much more dangerous to be a police officer than a Trump supporter. Of course, the most crooked politician in the US called Trump supporters “deplorables.” Unlike past losers of political campaigns, she is the first loser who hasn’t gone quietly into the good night. So she is the biggest loser, and nothing burger in US Presidential election history.
    Don’t you think the country was more divided when Abraham Lincoln was elected President? Now, there was a true dictator. No President in history has done more to screw up and divide the country than Mr. Lincoln. By the way, speaking of Lyndon Johnson, as the late Warren Brookes stated, they were right as rain on the Civil Rights Movement. If Vietnam hadn’t entrapped him, Lyndon Johnson would have gone down as one of our greatest Presidents.
    You are much too rosy about the economy. With trillion dollar plus deficits every year, this country can’t continue along this path of excessive spending on things like the military, etc. It’s time to close every US military base in the world, leave NATO, and stop acting like the cop of the world. We must also cease all foreign aid. The US is a very sick country regardless of who is the president because multi- culturalism is totally destructive. The seventies hit by Barry McGuire is more applicable than ever. “Don’t you know we’re on the Eve of Destruction?” Just reading my poetic words gives me chills.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Add Holder to the growing list of traitors.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Constantinos, for once you and I read history in a very similar manner. Lincoln was a disaster as a President although if he had lived to complete his second term, our history might well be different.

      I will say this about LBJ though, he was even more corrupt than the Clintons and his Civil Rights legislation was not principled but a cynical political ploy, just like every other thing he did in politics. I vividly remember sitting in the lounge at the student center the night LBJ said, “I will not seek, nor will I accept the nomination of my party for President.” Screams of joy went up all around. Of course, then we got Nixon and Kissinger and that lot, who still haunt us.

      The United States under Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon went through a deeply dark time. In its own way as dark and troubled and destructive as the Civil War.