ADRIFT ABOARD THE PEQUOD
“…but let Ahab beware of Ahab; beware of thyself, old man.” – Starbuck
Donald Trump with his metaphorical ivory leg walks the halls of the White House much like Richard Nixon did in 1974, alone and bitter. Trump yells, “Man the braces!”, but there’s hardly anybody left to hear him. It seems inevitable that someone in the Republican Party will gather the few who haven’t abandoned him – or who haven’t already drowned – to make that somber trip to the Oval Office and tell him that the Leviathan has won.
He likely won’t listen to them because, unlike Ahab, he stands for nothing. He needs to go to jail. He’s a shallow huckster, a small, greedy man with no identifiable purpose in life other than consuming dime store imitations of luxury while he gorges on the lives of others. He loves his children only insofar as they agree to go down with his ship. He is a vortex of misspent energy. He is a symbol of nothing. He’s no Ahab, no symbol of the epic struggle to determine whether man is sovereign over nature or whether he is its steward. He speaks neither the loopy ideological patois of the Republican Party, nor the harebrained language of a Libertarian who finally discovers he can grow a beard. He is both a populist hero to coalminers and a pied piper to the Street. He is whatever he needs to be.
How this figure gained power in America is the subject of investigations taking place in Washington, in many states, and among news organizations in America and across the world. The rot is deep. The investigations reveal a ham-handed stab at espionage and treason by a comic book president, and a degree of criminal malfeasance among the Republican Party never before seen in our history.
But understanding why this figure gained power is perhaps the question that should occupy our thoughts now and probably will continue to do so for decades to come. To answer that question, we need to examine what the Republican Party is; who the plutocrats are that embody Ahab’s unquenchable desire for dominion over the whale and over the Leviathan.
There are many threads that have led us to this confrontation. Today’s immigration disgrace stretches back to the Civil War and to the question of who has rights to citizenship. Some lead directly to the ideas of the antebellum South, tying the “makers “and “takers” ideology of early America to Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queens” of the 1980s. The “deconstruction of the administrative state” of today is a thread that leads back to the founding debate concerning the virtues of limited government.
While these debates have defined American democracy since our founding, what we see today is a Tower of Babel where these formative ideas have become useful code language for a country at war with itself. Each side is convinced of the absolute virtue of its argument, but neither is aware of how these arguments have been hijacked by the plutocracy that controls our elections, our taxation, our media, and our future. Our economy has gone global, and so has our politics. There is a profound disconnect between businesses in America and American business. We pay, and they get to play. We assume the risk, and they bet the farm. Our politics has flown beyond the constraints placed upon it by our Constitution. We are in laissez faire territory now, and the groans you hear are coming from those left behind.
Donald Trump isn’t Ahab. He’s merely the figurehead, the bow ornament, on our modern-day Pequod. As Ahab looked back from his whaleboat to see his ship being shattered by Moby Dick, he screamed, “The ship! The hearse! – the second hearse! Its wood could only be American!”
So, shall we continue to fight the last war as we have for 5 decades, or must we rebuild our ship of state by re-imagining our Constitution and equip it for modernity? Can we chart a path that will take us together – in all our beautiful diversity – into the unknowable future?
Image from Wikimedia Commons
Deborah Long is a Principal at Development Management Group, Inc. and founder of several non-profit charitable organizations. If you find her perspectives interesting, controversial, or provocative, follow her at: https://www.facebook.com/debby.long.98499?ref=br_rs