Language, like the flow of a river, changes and evolves over time. Words or phrases that may have had one meaning at a particular point in time may have its meaning or message change as society and norms changed. It is because of this common process that certain words used today to describe varias events or people vary greatly from their original intended use or description. One of the most common words used today that differs from its original definition is the term tyrant. This term is used very often in modern society to identify those whose power and greed has corrupted their character so much that they are willing to enact downright atrocious and oppressive laws and ideologies in order to secure their dominance and power over others. Further more, the word tyrant is currently defined in the dictionary as a cruel and oppressive ruler by nature, and this definition has held true for over hundreds. However, despite the possible disbelief of much of society and those of societies through the last couple thousands of years, the word tyrant was originally the title given to a ruler in ancient Greece prior to its conversion to democracy. These rulers, or tyrants, were individuals who rose to power without hereditary within the Greek city states. These rulers were not automatically considered sinister or terrible as there were many good tyrants who ruled Greek city state as well many who were not good leaders. It was not until Greece had a line of bad tyrants, as well as damning prophecies and oracles,did the word tyrant take on such a negative stigma.
Though the word tyrant has changed from being the equivalent to that of a king to that of a despicable dictator, it is still important to acknowledge the parallels between the two versions in order to adequately assess its use in modern times. For example, an article published Monday, February 3rd 2020 discusses the leadership of a Sheriff in Benton County in Eastern Washington. Sheriff Jerry Hatcher, age 56, has been compared to that of a tyrant by his constituency as a result of accusations of poor actions and a flawed leadership style.
A two page letter written by those who work for Sheriff Hatcher outline their concerns about their trust in Mr. Hatcher and his self serving interests. The letter states that Sheriff Hatcher sees himself above those who work for him, accuses him of tampering with the witness proces, and goes on to state that, “Hatcher does not hold himself to the same accountability as a deputy” (Associated Press). The department also fines Hatcher unworthy of his title as he is in the middle of dealing with an assault scandal/accusation by his estranged wife claiming that he had strangled and threatened her back in 2017. This case was dismissed however on the account that the prosecutors did not gather enough evidence, but the case can still be refiled at a later date (Kraemer, Kristen M.).
Though the fate of Benton County’s Sheriff is still uncertain, the accusation of being a tyrant can be assessed. After reviewing two articles that discuss Mr. Hatcher as well as information in regards to how the courts handled the assault claims against him, I believe that Sheriff Hatcher does not fall in the realm of a tyrant by either definition. If the accusations of his conduct turn out to be accurate, then I would say Sheriff Hatcher more or less fits the modern definition of a tyrant. However, given his position of high status and decision making power, I would argue that Sheriff Hatcher, by the nature of the responsibility and control of the position of sheriff, places him closer to the original definition of a tyrant as he, within his community and the police department, carries much control and protective power. Furthermore it is his role as sheriff to govern over the wellbeing and safety of Benton County, Washington.
-MIDN Christopher Hisey Word Count:658
Associated Press, KEPR-TV News. “Benton Co. Deputies Vote ‘No Confidence’ in Sheriff, Label Him a ‘Tyrant’.” KOMO, KOMO, 3 Feb. 2020, komonews.com/news/local/benton-co-deputies-vote-no-confidence-in-sheriff-label-him-a-tyrant.
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Kraemer, Kristin M. “Prosecutors Dismiss Criminal Charges against Benton County Sheriff Hatcher.” Tri, Tri-City Herald, 16 Oct. 2019, http://www.tri-cityherald.com/news/local/article236339593.html.
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