Perhaps because we feel that the United States is tougher and stronger and more blessed than Donald Trump, we find a sneaking and growing sympathy for the man who is currently doing his best to destroy the nation.
Rather than just screaming every week “Enough!”, we awoke recently to an ironic allegory…no, a parallel in fairly recent history of which even he should be aware.
Russia had never been considered by her neighbors, allies, enemies and friends as a nation of first rank. Since the time of Catherine the Great, and even before, Russia herself was aware of this. As a nation, it fought and struggled to make its influence and importance internationally grow to parity with Great Britain, France, and Germany. Behind every battle it fought, behind every war, was the need to expand, the need to dictate, the need to become sophisticated and cultured in the same way her European neighbors were.
The Great Bear, until the nuclear age dawned, was always half a dozen steps behind everyone else in scientific accomplishment, in building an empire, in sitting as an equal at the table of nations.
The last czar of Russia (the very nation Mr. Trump seems to idolize) WAS above the law on his throne. When World War I erupted, Russia went to the barricades against Germany along with his more stable colleagues. But Russia’s war was a disaster.
In desperation, Nicholas decided to make himself Commander in Chief and actually physically mounted his horse to lead his troops on the battlefield. More disasters. He ignored the advice of HIS generals and his diplomats. He was convinced that he alone was favored by God and destined to become a “winner” by virtue of his position, his background, his imagination.
Modern historians are rewriting the influence of the Russian royal family’s “Advisor,” Rasputin, who some say resembled the advisor Mr. Trump now has in Stephen Bannon.
It may be that Rasputin had the Czar’s family’s interests and welfare at heart in providing guidance and direction on how to rule. Although Nicholas felt Rasputin was his wife’s creature, Rasputin was often the last man to whisper in his ear and perhaps more responsible for the Royal Family’s fortunes and deaths than anyone at the time knew.
In this country, now, Trump is near to mounting his own steed and going into battle. This despite the talent and brain-power of his generals and diplomats for good or ill, Republican or Democrat. Without using the words a czar might about value and virtue and strength and purpose, Trump has demonstrated daily that he feels his power is equal to that of an unelected czar. He can neither control his anger nor his pettiness. His daily “tweets” are the equal of a Russian potentate’s ukases. Nothing he says is to be disputed. Truth resides in him alone.
All of which has led us to our current state of disbelief. Shock and awe were supposed to be reserved for our enemies.
Unfortunately, a lot of what we think we know is going on in D.C. is provided by the national press, who rely and report based on contacts, friends, tea-leaves. It cannot depend on recent events or histories – or on unidentified sources who may be astonishingly prescient – because Mr. Trump neither knows about these nor cares for outward signs of civilized behavior such as we are used to. The president’s attitude seems to be – as it is towards the current health care struggle – let the press write what it will, he alone can deny, persuade, convince the country of its opposite. (Let the millions on Medicaid suffer; it’s no skin off his nose.) Confident of his following – and amazingly right to be so – Trump in effect is daring Congress to try to stop him. In his mind, of course, Congress is composed only of Republicans –on whom he should be able to depend – and a few outliers, Democratic stragglers, most of whom seem caught in his headlights, fearful and craven.
As each day dawns and we awake to overnight ravings and threats, as a nation we are inching towards that moment when it seems to be coming clear that Mr. Trump is more dangerous, more unhinged, more trouble than he’s worth. Inadvertently he has done what he set out to do: shake things up in D.C., prove to one and all its corruption and mendacity, promising the world but giving it nothing but Arpege. Plus make a lot of money.
In the process he has assisted the voters of the United States in disbelieving in government, in feeling embattled and threatened. Some say they don’t care about how we are held in international eyes. Some believe they agree with the president about how the US of A has been “taken” by her allies around the world. This idea does not stop our fellow citizens from buying Japanese cars, inexpensive clothing manufactured in Asia, and gorging on delicacies from Trader Joe’s outlets in the far Pacific. Much like Medicare, of whom many are critical until their own is threatened, people want what they want when they want it and that, of course, is just another promise of an historic personality destined it now seems to ride his own horse onto the battlefield and be carried off on his shield.