What is past is prologue. At least that’s what Shakespeare cautions.
I can feel the disproving glance of my long dead English professor even now. In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, a Donald Trump character is using his personal history, his own Art of the Deal, to rationalize the murder he is about to commit.
The past is prologue. Look where the past has led me! I have no responsible choice. God has given me no choice but to take this opportunity.
We look to history because we don’t have much else to guide us. And there isn’t much from the past that could have prepared us for Donald Trump. The Information Age has blossomed from a new sort of mustard seed.
Aggression in the good old days was at least immediately identifiable. Hitler wanted Poland. Mussolini wanted Ethiopia. Armies marched. Ethnic populations were rounded up for extermination. Everyone pretty much could see it happen.
Now, democracy is overtaken by internet trickery. Republican websites come at us from former Soviet satellites. Conservative fake news is authored deep in the burping bowels of what once was Putin’s KGB and becomes the basis of Trump administration dogma.
Donald Trump is easy to photoshop into images from 75 years ago. For some reason, he proudly mimics the aggressive posture and stern scowl. He has become a beloved Benito to much of contemporary conservatism.
The reality is, at this stage, much more limited. Cell phones didn’t exist in World War II Italy. And it is not easy to imagine El Duce huddled over his personal ham radio as the rest of Italy sleeps. Would he really have devoted late night insomnia to sending forth tearful diatribes against imaginary insult?
Military technology and the largest economy in history does give President Trump the ability to hurt many more people. It is always possible that millions from decades ago will someday be compared to billions. But history, technology, and the democratic process has imposed constraints. And there is a quantum difference in magnitude. Hitler’s place in future textbooks is cemented by an evil so towering that our President’s tiny malevolence is made into a scale model of itself.
The world knew Hitler. And Donald, you are no Hitler.
History doesn’t seem to offer better choices. Nero? Caligula? The Borgia clan? Really?
Fiction may provide more fertile ground. Archie Bunker’s demented bigotry comes to mind. Walter White has been suggested. The rapid descent into pure evil is obvious, but White’s moral deterioration is aided by intellectual brilliance. The staggering intelligence that allows his survival also enables him to rationalize all he does. Our president seems closer in mentality to the loud drunk at a neighborhood corner bar.
The great internet blogger driftglass has joined a few others in suggesting Captain Queeg. The paranoia is certainly there, and the President’s riveting attention to trivial details.
Ahh, but the strawberries that’s, that’s where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt and with, with, geometric logic that, that, that a duplicate key to the wardroom icebox DID exist, and I’d have produced that key if they hadn’t of pulled the Caine out of action. I, I, I know now they were only trying to protect some fellow officers…
…and the Captain’s voice trails off into prolonged silence.
But Captain Queeg, as portrayed by Humphrey Bogart is a serious man who, over years, has incrementally fallen into his own strange universe. While President Trump seems also to have gone into another reality, it is difficult to see him as ever having been a serious individual. He propelled himself to national office by sharing with enough fearful voters a common hatred of vulnerable minority groups.
I have my own candidate, a fictional character that I think fits the strange individual who now occupies the White House.
Impatient, with an inability to focus for more than a few moments on anything other than self.
A real character in a position of power has no more concentration …
I don’t have to be told – you know, I’m a smart person – I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years.
…than someone from fiction
But get on with it!!
An individual prone to accusation
A fiery meeting in the Oval Office, where there were, quote “a lot of expletives.” In fact, we have video from outside the Oval Office which shows an animated conversation with Trump and his top aides.
coincides with a fictional counterpart
What do you know of this unfortunate affair?
A ruler who, in furious rage, accuses others for what goes wrong
We’re told the president accused his staff of fumbling the situation.
and a fictional ruler who reminds us of someone we see on the news
Off with their heads!!
The mercurial personality who currently holds office accepts as fact fanciful conspiratorial speculation with no evidence beyond what is confirmed by a fearful, trembling staff.
But there must be a verdict first.
Sentence first. Verdict afterwards!
We have walked with Alice through the looking glass.
We find ourselves ruled by a red-faced Queen of Hearts.
May God save us.
May God save the United States of America.
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