Lessons in the Age of Trump: The Sick Kite

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Image provided by FreeImages.com

Trump, being a symptom of a larger sickness in our land, proves to me that if there were a public wisdom, that light has been exhausted. We’ve forgotten those lessons of the past and are eager to fail in brave old ways once again. Which is to say, Trump is hardly Trump’s fault. He’s the fault of those who voted for him and for all of us who have passively let our culture slip to such a state that he seems like a reasonable answer to a very serious question: how do we set right the many problems facing modern America?

I don’t pretend to know that answer, but I do know one thing: it wouldn’t hurt to start teaching some of the old things that worked so well to impart a kind of baseline cultural wisdom for so many generations. Things like Aesop’s Fables.

Most of you will remember Aesop’s Fables; they are very short stories told with the goal of imparting some moral, life less, or political understanding to the listener. Indeed, television shows like Leave it to Beaver and the Andy Griffith Show were similar: short, simple stories that could make you laugh and think, but that always had a moral to impart. What I’m going to do is work to find a series of things, like those fables, that can help us understand the world around us and make better decisions.

Fables, of course, won’t save us from the rise of Trumps now or in the future, but maybe they’ll help us understand that rise.

First up is one of Aesop’s Fables (and my apologies for the small changes I’ve made in the language– they don’t change the lessons to be learned). This one is, in particular, for the Trump voters (and Trump) who took so much pleasure in abusing opponents during his rise and now complain that those voters aren’t supporting him in the general election.

The Sick Kite

A kite, sick and dying, said to his mother: “Mother, don’t mourn me, but pray to the gods that my life might be saved!”

She replied, “Alas, my son, which of the gods do you think will pity you? Is there one who you haven’t angered by stealing offerings from their altars?”

Make friends in prosperity if you would have friends in adversity.

We Tell Jokes (But We Can’t Find it In Us to Laugh)

Here’s the joke:

This year, we will elect a candidate to be President of the United States of America either from the Republican or Democrat parties. The presumptive nominees from both parties (according to the most recent, published favorables) is disliked by the majority of Americans. While Trump’s numbers are a bit worse than Clinton’s, neither of them breaks 40% on the favorable side and both of them break 50% on the unfavorable side.

America simply doesn’t like these candidates and feel increasingly abused by their own parties.

Now, this is the good bit. Here’s the punchline:

America will still vote for one of those candidates. America is convinced that the President has to have an R or a D next to their name and would rather despise the person in the White House than to look around for a better, more trustworthy, more qualified option outside of the orthodoxy.

Hah hah hah.

That’s a good one.

Yuuuge Loser

“Donald Trump Fails and Fails Often.”

Enjoy.

Jeb Doesn’t Get It

Jeb addresses his Bush issue and, of course, gets it all wrong.

Jeb Bush said on Saturday that people who have a problem voting for him because of his last name “need to get therapy.”

The former Florida governor has struggled to gain traction in the Republican presidential race in part because many voters are leery of electing three presidents from the same family.

“The Bush thing, people are just going to have to get over it, alright?” a defiant Bush said at a townhall gathering at the McKelvie Intermediate School gym here ahead of tonight’s GOP debate.

“Everybody knows I’m in the Establishment, because my brother was a president and my dad was a president,” Bush said, raising his fingers to make air quotes as he said the word “Establishment” mockingly.

Anyone who knows and understands the history of the United States of America will understand our citizens’ discomfort with dynastic politics. Sure, serial governors and senators and representatives aren’t so surprising, the idea that one family should own the highest office in the country for 3 of the last 5 presidencies makes folks queasy. And it should: most folks don’t consider politics to be a legitimate family business. Sure, a handful of families have made it their business– and made a whole hell of a lot of money in the business– this was just too much. And Jeb’s seeming sense of entitlement just makes it worse.

But it doesn’t stop there, the idea that “people are just going to have to get over it” is arrogant in the extreme. No, Jeb, I don’t have to get over it; no, Jeb, you aren’t the only option on this menu. Indeed, your insistence that people should get over it is part of the problem: your job was to convince us to get around your name issue, not to merely insist on our compliance.

And he simply hasn’t convinced people that he’s the best option in the field.

As I said in a series of Tweets earlier this week:

That Jeb remains in the race is a testimony to something nasty in his personality (vindictiveness? a sense of entitlement?). Realizing this, if Jeb truly wanted to advocate for policies or ideas, he should do so by supporting others not further splintering the GOP. Jeb doesn’t seem to get that Americans don’t want such a bluntly dynastic flavor at the presidential level. He can’t win.

I happily stand by that. The more most of us see of Jeb, the less we want to see of him. The more he insists that we fall in line, the more I know I’ll fight to see someone else in that office.

Read the Article

Grand Jury Sins

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: one of the most important jobs of the informed citizenry is to push back against government excesses. All governments– indeed, all bureaucracies– are inclined to grow fat with power and reluctant to relinquish either the money that they collect or the control that collects around them. It is their nature.

That doesn’t mean that government is evil or only does evil, only that the balance of power should always tip in the favor of the citizens. Government employees and politicians should always be made to be aware that they serve at the whim and will of the people. Protect the people and serve them well, and be safe in your job; serve yourself and you’ll soon need to be looking for a new line of work.

Sadly, it’s damned hard to fire government employees (whose jobs are not only safe, but they have better benefits and pay than their civilian counterparts), and politicians at the national level enjoy retention rates that are ridiculously high (and approval rates that are similarly low).

Gnaw on that fact for a bit.

So, as citizens, we keep rewarding failure at the highest level with more pay, perks, power, and job security. The failures of the United States are not the fault of the political class; they are the fault of the citizenry that refuses to do its job. We have become a trivial people given to worry over irrelevant social policies while our economy continues to falter and the politicians become ever more powerful.

Which is a long-winded prologue to this story of why government, at every level, must be held accountable for their failures and citizens must be protected from their excesses.

Grand juries are supposed to protect us from false allegations, but the old saying that prosecutors could get a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich”reflects the reality that most fail on that front. Instead, as this study from the Cato Institute explains, they’re often used to harass and intimidate.

Read it all and remember: it’s your job to push back against the excesses of government. At every level.

Vote wisely in the upcoming elections.

Quick Read of the Day: Obama and the New Global Instability

Over at Commentary, a quick little article about President Obama’s failure on foreign policy. A tidbit:

Mr. Obama said that if elected his approach would be characterized by “smart diplomacy.” The result would be that he would “remake the world” and “heal the planet.” And during the first summer of his presidency, Mr. Obama said his policies would usher in a “new beginning” based on “mutual respect” with the Arab and Islamic world and “help answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East.”

Some new dawn.

President Obama has not only not achieved what he said he would; the world may well be, as Senator John McCain put it this weekend, “in greater turmoil than at any time in my lifetime.” Mr. Obama’s role in this turmoil depends on the particular case we’re talking about, but it’s certainly the case that (a) his policies have amplified and accelerated some of the problems around the world while failing to mitigate others and (b) measured against his own standards, the president has failed miserably.

And it was all utterly predictable. That’s the hell of it.

I find that my commentary is becoming increasingly bitter. I don’t blame our president at all for following his own nature or for being precisely the politician that I fully expected he would be. No, I blame my fellow citizens for electing him twice to this position, and for leaving our nation open to him. While we debated the trivial (free contraceptives are, truly, trivial in comparison to our economy, the number of healthy Americans who remain jobless, and the dangers of an unsettled world political order), we elected a man who was a measurable failure as president. A failure in nearly every meaningful way.