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To Topple or Not to Topple Statues: The Battle between “Come Let Us Reason Together” versus “Abso-fricking-lutely!”

To Topple or Not to Topple, That Is the Question (Alex Waltner – Swedish Nomad)

To topple or not to topple, that is the question. Statues have become the latest battleground in America’s Third Civil War. At this point, it is impossible to determine which statue will be our Fort Sumter. It is reasonable to assume that just as one could not predict that it would the George Floyd murder as the straw the broke the camel’s back, one cannot know which attack on a statue will be the trigger for violence.

In the meantime, last month, Bret Stephens and Charles Blow, columnists for The New York Times, offered quite contrary views on the question of “to topple or not to topple.”

BRET STEPHENS

In his column “After the Statues Fall,” (June 27, 2020, print), Stephens posits four familiar words as a template for answering the topple question: A MORE PERFECT UNION.

Stephens suggests for any given individual, the question should be asked whether that person contributed to the effort to create a more perfect union in the United States. If the answer is “no,” and he includes all Confederate-related figures here, then the person fails the test. The statues should come down and the buildings and military installations should be renamed. Stephens mentions some other examples of non-Confederates who don’t deserve a public building and non-Confederates who do deserve honors on net because of what they contributed to making a more perfect union.

Then he turns the big two: George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. These two slaveholders who were instrumental to the creation of the United States. He doesn’t mention it, but the latter provided the words or ideals upon which we declared our independence and the former made it possible for that declaration not to be stillborn or a dorm-room manifesto. Eliminate them and there is no country. Stephens writes:

If their fault lay in being creatures of their time, their greatness was in the ability to look past it. An unbroken moral thread connects the Declaration of Independence to the Gettysburg Address to Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. An unbroken political thread connects the first president to the 16th to the 44th. It is impossible to imagine any union, much less the possibility of a more perfect one, without them.

Stephens contrasts thinking critically about the past for the sake of learning from it with behaving destructively toward the past with the aim of erasing it. He concludes in favor of debate on whether to topple or not to topple:

An intelligent society should be able to make intelligent distinctions, starting with the one between those who made our union more perfect and those who made it less.

By coincidence such an intelligent discussion was held a few days later. The American Historical Association (AHA) held an online presentation with David W. Blight and Annette Gordon-Reed entitled “Erasing History or Making History? Race, Racism, and the American Memorial Landscape” moderated by AHA Executive Director Jim Grossman, on Thursday, July 2. Whether or not they had read this column I don’t know. If not, then the discussion was even more fascinating. They expressed many of the same concepts that Stephens did. They used the term “criteria” instead for the judging of people on an individual basis with Confederates not passing muster. They even thought several hundred people listening to the online event would volunteer for a national commission.

There you see the problem. Stephens’s template for the evaluation of people works well in an academic setting. It is great for high school or college debates. It could work at some academic conferences. However, the evaluation process is bound to be subjective. There would be legitimate differences of opinions even if everyone agreed on the template. Obviously, it ignores the emotional component. Stephens proposes a solution for an intelligent society in a “come let us reason together” setting. That has nothing to do with where America is right now nor is there any political leader proposing a “come let us reason together” approach. This scenario is great on paper but is not possible in the real world as it exists now.

CHARLES BLOW

By coincidence, the next day, Charles Blow offered a significantly different perspective full of emotion. The title is:

Yes, Even George Washington: Slavery was a cruel institution that can’t be excused by its era (June 28, 2020, online).

In case there was any doubt, the opening line is:

On the issue of American slavery, I am an absolutist: enslavers were amoral monsters.

The very idea that one group of people believed that they had the right to own another human being is abhorrent and depraved. The fact that their control was enforced by violence was barbaric.

Blow’s template is a very direct one: if you owned people you were “abhorrent and depraved.” Period. There is no other evaluation needed. No netting of the good the people-owner might have done elsewhere. If you own people, then case closed.

There is no room for doubt. No uncertainty. And no exception.

Some people who are opposed to taking down monuments ask, “If we start, where will we stop?” It might begin with Confederate generals, but all slave owners could easily become targets. Even George Washington himself.

To that I say, “abso-fricking-lutely!”

Blow presents an all-or-nothing evaluation with removal as the one option.

I say that we need to reconsider public monuments in public spaces. No person’s honorifics can erase the horror he or she has inflicted on others.

Slave owners should not be honored with monuments in public spaces. We have museums for that, which also provide better context. This is not an erasure of history, but rather a better appreciation of the horrible truth of it.

Blow’s analysis is intensely emotional for him unlike the Stephens column. It also is easy to apply.

But Blow leaves many unanswered questions. If these people like George Washington are so horrific for what they did that they do not deserve public monuments in public spaces, what about the other ways in which such people are publicly honored. What about

The state of Washington

The city of Washington

The mountain of Washington

The university of Washington

The bridge of Washington

The parks of Washington

The dollar bill of Washington

The neighborhoods of Washington.

Dismantling the Washington Monument is challenge enough, but how do you get demolish half of Mount Rushmore?

And let’s not forget that without Washington there would be no United States of America?

Blow doesn’t address these issues. His end game remains undefined. He feels good about toppling the monuments and statues to George Washington but leaves all the other public expressions of him unmentioned.

In my blog Schuyler Owned People: Should Schuylerville Change Its Name? June 18, 2020, a lifetime ago), I raised a similar issue with the Mayor of Albany’s decision to remove the statue of Philip Schuyler. What about all the other public Schuyler examples from a state-owned house, federal owned house, municipality named after him, county named after him, and his role in American history at Saratoga?  As a mayor, her jurisdiction is limited. I did note that one councilmen wanted the removed of all the people-owner names of streets and parks which in Albany means Washington Park. Blow had the option of going where the Mayor could not. As a columnist, he could have advocated for the full cleansing of Washington from the public arena. The logical extension of Blow’s argument means consign everything Washington to a museum, rename it, or demolish it.

WHAT DOES BLOW WANT?

Considered these toppling examples.

The toppling of the statue to Saddam Hussein signified the end of his rule.

The toppling of the statue of Lenin, founder of the Soviet Union, signified the end of the Soviet Union.

The toppling of the statue of King George III signified the declaration of independence from British rule, a declaration after a long war which proved successful.

Therefore it is reasonable to conclude that the toppling of the statue of George Washington, father of the country, signifies that the topplers are calling for the end of the United States, the end of a country based on the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that he won for us and he then held us together as a country.

Is that what Blow wants? While I don’t doubt that among the woke there are people desirous of exactly such an endgame. They reject not only the symbols of the founding of the country but the founding itself. Blow does not appear to one of them. His call to relocate statues from public spaces to museums (presumably private ones with no public funding), suggests he is not advocating for the overthrow of the United States. But his call for the removal not toppling of statues and monuments of people-owners is simply a feel-good baby step that ignores the larger issues. He has an obligation to explain to the American public what his end game is. He has an obligation to explain to We the People where he would draw the line and why on the issue of the public display of the name of Washington among others. He has an obligation to explain his end game because if he doesn’t, others will do it for him.

P.S. The damnatio memoriae (or “condemnation of the memory”) was tried in ancient Egypt on Queen Hatshepsut and King Akhnaton. Will we now have to erase the names of Pharaohs who had slave labor including Nubians and demolish their buildings or is that up to Egypt? What should we teach about these “abhorrent and depraved” people like Tut?

 

Mount Rushmore Opportunity for a Little Little Boy: Does He Know It?

The Macho Macho Boy Twins (Photo: AP)

In American history, there have been three existential moments when the fate of the United States was at risk: creation, secession, and depression.

CREATION

At the birth of the country, there was no guarantee that it would be successful. There was no guarantee that the fledgling states would successfully constitute themselves. One person made a difference and earned the reputation as the indispensable person. We will never know if without George Washington, the United States would have been created or not. What we do know, it is not simply by chance that he was in that position. People picked America’s first action hero to command the American forces and people wrote the Constitution with the expectation that he would be President. He fulfilled expectations.

SECESSION

At the secession, one may reasonably posit that the election of Abraham Lincoln triggered the event. But the idea that America was a house divided already was known. If it hadn’t been Lincoln’s election that immediately led to the Second Civil War, it would have been something else. It is easy to imagine that America’s Second Civil War could have ended with two separate countries as we are today except not legally. No one anticipated that Lincoln would become America’s greatest president outside the Confederacy. He exceeded expectations.

DEPRESSION

At the depression, one may reasonably posit that the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a direct result of the failure under Herbert Hoover. Roosevelt was elected to save America. No one knew that there would be a second and unrelated threat looming just years away –World War II. Similarly, Roosevelt’s success in the 1930s during the depression did not necessarily mean he was right person to be the wartime leader. Roosevelt first fulfilled and then exceeded expectations when the second threat arose.

Today, if one would to identify the three greatest American presidents, outside the current White House and the Confederate states, the answers would be Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. Historians can play the “what if” counterfactual one on do times make the person or does the person make the times. The other Roosevelt is likely to be a favored choice for Presidents who could have risen to the occasion to save the country had the opportunity existed. It is a lot easier to select Presidents who would have failed miserably had they been President during these crises or whose shortcomings precipitated the crisis in the first place.

MOUNT RUSHMORE OPPORTUNITY

At this moment in time, America experiences multiple threats. The times cry out for a Mount Rushmore President to lead us from the calamities facing us. It seems as if fate is piling it on, confronting America with one challenge after another. We are facing:

1. the attempt by the Middle Kingdom to wrest world leadership from us

2. America’s Third Civil War

3. the global coronavirus crises

4. the global economic recession if not depression

and, of course, below-the-radar, climate change which hasn’t disappeared from the real world even as it recedes from the news media due to all the other events.

To some extent, during the 2016 election We the People given our Electoral College system picked a President to deal precisely with most of these issues.

With climate change, the choice was simple. The candidate who denied that climate change existed and who claimed it was a Chinese hoax won. As one might expect, the anti-science values of his supporters carried over into other science-related issues. He has meet expectations.

With China, the choice also was simple. The winning candidate was one who had no interest in America’s role in human history or position in the world. Everything was transactional. Everything was a zero-sum game. There were no allies, only transactional relationships. We pulled out of the anti-China alliance the previous President had put together. The new President did so because he vowed to undo whatever Obama had done. The new President did try to apply his transactional zero-sum values to trade the Middle Kingdom but so far without much to show for it. Now he is trying to blame China for the coronavirus crisis and turn China into Mexicans and Salvadorans. That will work with Trumpicans again in the election but has little substance in the global arena. He has not met expectations but is still trying; plus the game has changed due to the new circumstances.

With America’s Third Civil War, the choice also was simple. The winning candidate made no attempt to be President of We the People. He made no attempt to be an e pluribus unum President. He saw that America was not a house divided but two houses. He did not divide America, he exploited the divisions which existed. The longtime pretend Democrat and Clinton supporter realized he had no future there just as he had none with the New York elitists whose approval he craved and never received. Instead he became a fake Republican, heard the call of Sarah Palin to take back the country from you know….those people, and answered the call. As long as Trumpicans think he is fighting for them against the terrorists, they will continue to accept him as their Lord and Savior, the Chosen One, Blessed Be his Name no matter what else happens. He is meeting expectations and still fighting as the battle is not yet over.

With the coronavirus, that was unexpected. Just as Roosevelt had been elected for one crisis, the depression, and then had to face another one, so to now there was a second crisis unrelated to the first. The winning candidate was elected to save real Americans by taking back the country, not to fight a virus. Whereas Roosevelt proved successful in dealing with the unexpected, the same does not apply now. Success if fighting against immigrant people does not translate into success in fighting against an immigrant virus. Still, he has claimed success, asserted he wouldn’t have changed anything, and declared himself a “10.” The wartime President against the invisible enemy has won and saved over 2 million American lives in the process. By November, the coronavirus crisis will be over if it isn’t already and who will remember the problems of the spring.

With the depression, again the unexpected occurred. The United States economy already was on its way back in 2016. The one action taken to help rich people get richer did not contribute to a more successful economy. Now we are on our way back. By November we will be back and who will remember the problems of the spring.

To recap, the winning candidate did do what he pledged to do…up to a point. He did wreak havoc with the international arena. He did ignore climate change. He did fight immigration. He did insult, demean, and mock the politically correct, the news media, and the Republicans who did not accept the new Trumpican order. He did not end Obamacare. He did not return manly manufacturing jobs to the United States. He did not return manly coal mining jobs to their former number. He did save America from the coronavirus and did rebuild the economy. So despite his dishonesty, ignorance, narcissism, above-the –law behavior, and conduct as a seventh-grade-smart-aleck-dumb-aleck, he had and still has a legitimate chance win the Electoral College again.

What is important to realize is that the immature child playing imaginary games where he makes up the roles genuinely believes he has succeeded as a wartime general and that Trumpicans accept his version of the truth as communicated via Tweets and Fox.

WARTIME GENERAL FOR AMERICA’S THIRD CIVIL WAR

The same considerations apply to the ramped up Third Civil War in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Bonespur Boy is seeking to replicate his wartime victory over the coronavirus over the thugs and terrorists.

“We will end it now.”

“If a city or a state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”

“My administration will stop mob violence, and stop it cold.”

“These are terrorists. These are terrorists. And they are looking to do bad things to our country.”

“Only I can save our country because I am a very stable genius, the smartest person in the room.”

You want empathy? Try weak wimpy sleepy Joe Biden. I will dominate the streets. I won the battle of Lafayette Square (The Battle of Lafayette Square: The Greatest Victory in American History). Real men don’t wear masks. Real men don’t go into bunkers (except to inspect them!). I am Macho Macho Man like Putin, ruler for life as I should be, too.

Obviously it is only because of Divine Providence, that at this moment of existential crisis, that our Lord and Savior, the Chosen One, Blessed Be his Name, is here as President of the United States. He saved the economy once, he will do it again. He saved the country from the coronavirus. He will take back the country for real Americans. Truly we are blessed that at this moment of existential crisis, we have a President equal to if not superior to Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. And if you don’t believe me, just ask him.

For all his talk about having the greatest first year if a President ever,

For all his talk about having the greatest first two years of a President ever,

For all his talk about having done more for black Americans than any President except Lincoln,

He had a legitimate opportunity in the real world to become one of America’s greatest Presidents if only he knew it and was capable of rising to the occasion.

Rule of Law: George Washington, Nimrod, the Tower of Babel and Today

Common Sense by Thomas Paine (http://www.booktryst.com)

On April 10, 2019, Politico posted an article entitled “Trump’s ‘truly bizarre’ visit to Mt. Vernon.” The article recounted a visit on April 23, 2018, by the French and American Presidents to Mount Vernon, home of George Washington, the first President of the United States.

According to Mount Vernon president and CEO Doug Bradburn, the tour guide for the Presidents, the Macrons were far more knowledgeable about the history of the property than the American President. France, of course, contributed to America’s victory in the American Revolution with the assistance of Marquis de Lafayette and Count Rochambeau, the first but not the last time foreign intervention helped elect an American President.

By contrast, the American President is renowned for not reading a book and being historically ignorant (Canada burned the White House, the Baltic States were responsible for the dissolution of Yugoslavia, and 306 electoral votes is a landslide). It was easy for the trained guide to rapidly discern that the American President was completely bored. Drawing on his experience with school visitors who similarly had no interest in the Father of the Country, Bradburn attempted to engage the person before him. As reported by Politico, the former history professor with a Ph.D, “was desperately trying to get [Trump] interested in” Washington’s house. So he drew on his bag of tricks and informed the uninformed President that Washington had been a real-estate developer.

That approach did the trick. Now the guide had the President’s attention. Not only was Washington a real-estate developer, but for his times, he was one of the richest people in the United States. In today’s terms, he could be compared to Gates, Buffet, and Bezos and not to a comparative pauper like the President. (No, Bradburn did not say that!)  Again according to Politico, “That is what Trump was really the most excited about” said a source.

At that point, our narcissistic President responded to the news in the way that defines him as a person

[H]e couldn’t understand why America’s first president didn’t name his historic Virginia compound or any of the other property he acquired after himself. “If he was smart, he would’ve put his name on it,” Trump said, according to three sources briefed on the exchange. “You’ve got to put your name on stuff or no one remembers you.”

In other words, unless you make your name great, you are not great and will be forgotten.

The concept of making your name great is familiar to biblical students referring to another book he has not read.

Genesis 12:1 Now Yahweh said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.

In the biblical tradition, a person does not make his name great, the Lord does.

It should be noted that in ancient times the people who made their name great were kings. Lost in translation is the recognition that the way one made one’s name great in ancient times was by the king building something. To the deep regret of biblical archaeologists, ancient Israel did not partake of this royal tradition of kings building things with their name on it.

By contrast, Ramses II, the traditional Pharaoh of the Exodus of Passover fame, did make his name great. He built extensively. And when he had not built it, he still carved his name into it. It would be a little like our having the Trumpire State Building or Mount Vertrump. And Ramses did achieve lasting fame. By having approximately 100 children, a condom was named after him so his name is remembered all the time.

Mesopotamian kings followed a generally similarly path. Kings built stairways to heaven (ziggurats) at the cosmic center (the capital) where they ruled the universe from sea to shining sea (the Upper Sea or Mediterranean to the Lower Sea or Persian/Arab Gulf; there maps are oriented at a 90 degree rotation from ours). The baked bricks used in these constructions bore the name of the king.

Nimrod is the first king mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. He is the first king mentioned before Abraham encounters various kings. To understand what he is doing there one must put aside what the name means colloquially today and in rabbinic tradition and focus on the biblical text itself. In the original version of the story:

Genesis 10:8 Cush became the father of Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. 9 He was a mighty hunter before Yahweh; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before Yahweh.” 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, and Accad, and Calneh [Calah] in the land of Shinar.

These verses are descriptive, not accusatory. Nimrod is to be praised for his achievements not condemned. Indeed, he is a figure to be emulated given his success as mighty man or warrior before the Lord. He was the ruler of the Mesopotamian universe.

As biblical archaeologists and Assyriologists eventually learned, Nimrod was not an individual but an exemplar. He was not Sumerian Gilgamesh of Uruk (Erech) as had been originally thought. He was not Akkadian Sargon the Great of Accad, he was not Amorite Hammurabi of Babylon, and he was not Assyrian Tukulti-Ninurta of Calah to name other candidates. Instead he was all of them; he represented that Mesopotamian way of life.

To understand the Nimrod story, it is necessary, I think, to connect this story of the four cities with the inserts of the four rivers in the garden (Gen, 2) and the four kings of the east (Gen.14). A single author supplemented an existing narrative with these episodes. This author thought globally as he also did in transforming local flood songs (Songs of Miriam and Deborah) into a global one. That action undermined the Egyptian-based perspective of the Exodus story and the Canaanites who became Israelites. Having Nimrod be a Yahweh-worshipper long before Moses at the burning bush also undermined the position of Moses and therefore of his priesthood.

I suggest that the author the Nimrod story and these supplements was a Benjaminite/Yaminite Aaronid priest. He wrote not as a scribe or priest but as a player in the political arena. He ended the first cycle of stories (aka the primeval cycle) with Nimrod and a table of nations leading to Abram leaving Ur to start the second cycle. The torch had been passed to a new location. The temple in Jerusalem was now the cosmic center. The Israelite king in Jerusalem was advised to rule like a Mesopotamian king at the new cosmic center. He was to make his name great as Solomon did in building the temple.

So at least claimed one political party in ancient Israel. However, there was another political party, the Levites or Mushites who claimed the law came first. They objected to the claim that Yahweh had sanctioned the royal way of life in Mesopotamia as the Nimrod author had written. Yahweh had first appeared at Sinai to Moses and the law was revealed there. They mocked the Mesopotamian way of life by writing the Tower of Babel story. Look at those mighty stairways to heaven! They all were built for naught. All those mighty and grandiose empires crumbled into dust, lost to history until recovered by archaeologists. It was the law which endured and ruled even when kings and temples were no more.

Exodus 1817 Moses’ father-in-law said to him…19”Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God, and bring their cases to God; 20 and you shall teach them the statutes and the decisions, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. 21 Moreover choose able men from all the people, such as fear God, men who are trustworthy and who hate a bribe; and place such men over the people as rulers of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times; every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves; so it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.”

The Babel author highlighted the folly of the Nimrod story ambitions. This author was anti-Aaronid (golden calf story) and anti-monarchy (the Jethro constitution).

Jethro and Nimrod offer two different models of political organization: the rule of law and the king who makes his name great. Two political parties offered two different versions of how society should be organized: one based on the rule by a king and one based on the rule of law. The result was an original narrative now separated into two narratives with different endings to the first cycle of stories. Nimrod and Babel are inconsistent because they originally part of two different narratives based on a common core. Only when they were combined centuries later were the inconsistencies juxtaposed. Imagine having to combine Confederate and Union descriptions of Lincoln and Lee in a single narrative! Again, that was a political process and not a scribal one.

For the first centuries of Israel’s existence, it had had no king. Therefore no one was in a position to abuse power. Only when Israel had a king could someone be a law unto himself. We will never know if ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia debated the powers of a king when he first ascended to the throne in Egypt and descended to the throne in Mesopotamia. But we do know the debates ancient Israel had on the powers of the king. It decided there should be checks and balances on the power of the king. No one was above the law. Even David could be called to task: “Thou art the man.” And when he was confronted he repented.

The best time for the initial battle over whether Jerusalem had replaced Mesopotamia as the cosmic center occurred when Israel could if it were so inclined think of itself it such grandiose terms. This happened when Egypt and Mesopotamia were weak (and Pharaoh’s daughter was an Israelite queen). It happened before the time of Sheshonq and Assurnasirpal II.

This approach is based on the stories originating in a political context as Levites, Aaronids, and Jebusites battled for power. Even stories set elsewhere were always about internal politics. Obviously this scenario is speculative and cannot be proven but it does illustrate how a political approach can produce a different historical reconstruction.

This ancient Israelite dialog on the rule of law and the rule by the king continues on in the United States. In 1776, Thomas Paine wrote in Common Sense:

…that in America the law is king. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other.

Once again as in ancient Israel and during the American Revolution, the issue of the rule of law versus the rule by king is being played out. Will the United States be governed by the Constitution or a Nimrod?

 

For more on the stories of Nimrod and the Tower of Babel see my book Jerusalem Throne Games: The Battle of Bible Stories after the Death of David.

Rule of Law: George Washington, Nimrod, and Today

On April 10, 2019, Politico posted an article entitled “Trump’s ‘truly bizarre’ visit to Mt. Vernon.” The article recounted a visit on April 23, 2018, by the French and American Presidents to Mount Vernon, home of George Washington, the first President of the United States.

According to Mount Vernon president and CEO Doug Bradburn, the tour guide for the Presidents, the Macrons were far more knowledgeable about the history of the property than the American President. France, of course, contributed to America’s victory with Marquis de Lafayette and Count Rochambeau, the first but not the last time foreign intervention helped elect an American President.

By contrast, our President is renowned for being incapable of reading of book and being historically ignorant (unless he saw a movie). It was easy for the trained guide to rapidly discern that the American President was completely bored. Drawing on his experience with 7th graders who similarly had no interest in the Father of the Country, Bradburn attempted to engage the person before him. As reported by Politico, a former history professor with a PhD, Bradburn “was desperately trying to get [Trump] interested in” Washington’s house. So he draw on his bag of tricks and informed the uninformed President that Washington had been a real-estate developer.

That approach did the trick. Now the guide had the President’s attention. Not only was Washington a real-estate developer, but for his times, he was one of the richest people in the United States. In today’s terms, he could be compared to Gates, Buffet, and Bezos and not to a comparative pauper like the fake billionaire President. (No, Bradburn did not say that! At least not the last part.)  Again according to Politico, “That is what Trump was really the most excited about” said a source.

At that point, our narcissistic President responded to the news in the way that defines him as a person

[H]e couldn’t understand why America’s first president didn’t name his historic Virginia compound or any of the other property he acquired after himself. “If he was smart, he would’ve put his name on it,” Trump said, according to three sources briefed on the exchange. “You’ve got to put your name on stuff or no one remembers you.”

In other words, unless you make your name great, you are not great and will be forgotten.

The concept of making your name great is familiar to biblical students referring to another book he has not read.

Genesis 12:1 Now Yahweh said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.

In the biblical tradition, a person does not make his name great, the Lord does.

It should be noted that in ancient times the people who made their name great were kings. Lost in translation is the recognition that the way one made one’s name great in ancient times was by the king building something. To the deep regret of biblical archaeologists, ancient Israel did not partake of this royal tradition of kings building things with their name on it.

By contrast, Ramses II, the traditional Pharaoh of the Exodus of Passover fame, did make his name great. He built extensively. And when he had not built it, he still carved his name into it. It would be a little like our having the Trumpire State Building or Mount Vertrump. And he did achieve lasting fame. By having approximately 100 children, a condom was named after him so his name is remembered all the time.

Mesopotamian kings followed a generally similarly path. Kings build stairways to heaven (ziggurats) at the cosmic center (the capital) where they ruled the universe from sea to shining sea (the Upper Sea or Mediterranean to the Lower Sea or Persian/Arab Gulf; there maps are oriented at a 90 degree rotation from ours). The baked bricks used in these constructions bore the name of the king.

Nimrod is the first king mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. He is the first king mentioned before Abraham encounters various kings. To understand what he is doing there one must put aside what the name means colloquially today and in rabbinic tradition and focus on the biblical text itself. In the original version of the story:

Genesis 10:8 Cush became the father of Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. 9 He was a mighty hunter before Yahweh; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before Yahweh.” 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, and Accad, and Calneh [Calah] in the land of Shinar.

These verses are descriptive, not accusatory. Nimrod is to be praised for his achievements not condemned. Indeed, he is a figure to be emulated given his success as mighty man or warrior before the Lord. He was the ruler of the Mesopotamian universe.

As biblical archaeologists and Assyriologists eventually learned, Nimrod was not an individual but an exemplar. He was not Sumerian Gilgamesh of Uruk (Erech) as had been originally thought. He was not Akkadian Sargon the Great of Accad, he was not Amorite Hammurabi of Babylon, and he was not Assyrian Tukulti-Ninurta of Calah. Instead he was all of them; he represented that Mesopotamian life. Now with Abraham leaving Ur and settling near Hebron (David’s first royal capital), the torch had been passed to a new location. The Israelite king in Jerusalem was advised to rule like a Mesopotamian king at the new cosmic center. He was to make his name great as Solomon did in building the temple.

So at least claimed one political party in ancient Israel. However, there was another political party, the Levites or Mushites who claimed the law came first. They objected to the claim that Yahweh had sanctioned the royal way of life in Mesopotamia as the Nimrod author had written. Yahweh had first appeared at Sinai to Moses and the law was revealed there. They mocked the Mesopotamian way of life by writing the Tower of Babel story. Look at those mighty stairways to heaven! They all were built for naught. All those mighty and grandiose empires crumbled into dust, lost to history until recovered by archaeologists. It was the law which endured and ruled even when kings and temples were no more.

Exodus 18:17 Moses’ father-in-law said to him…19”Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God, and bring their cases to God; 20 and you shall teach them the statutes and the decisions, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. 21 Moreover choose able men from all the people, such as fear God, men who are trustworthy and who hate a bribe; and place such men over the people as rulers of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times; every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves; so it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.”

Jethro and Nimrod offer two different models of political organization: the rule of law and the king who makes his name great. Two political parties in ancient Israel offered two different versions of how society should be organized: one based on the rule by a king and one based on the rule of law.

For the first centuries of Israel’s existence, it had had no king. Therefore no one was in a position to abuse power. Only when Israel had a king could someone be a law unto himself. We will never know if ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia debated the powers of a king when he first ascended to the throne in Egypt and descended to the throne in Mesopotamia. But we do know the debates ancient Israel had on the powers of the king. It decided there should be checks and balances on the power of the king. No one was above the law. Even David could be called to task: “Thou art the man.” And when he was confronted he repented.

Bonespur Boy is no David. He is no George Washington either who also is remembered for having left the presidency voluntarily. And even though he is no mighty man and is not before the Lord, he still is a Nimrod.

 

For more on the stories of Nimrod and the Tower of Babel see my book Jerusalem Throne Games: The Battle of Bible Stories after the Death of David.

 

The Trump Doctrine versus the Truman Doctrine

How will THE DONALD adjust to the real world? https://www.imdb.com

Periodically during the course of American history, individual Presidents are remembered for a doctrine or mantra they have enunciated. The words are not necessarily legally binding in any way. Instead they provide insight into the thinking of the President as to how he (so far) views the world and chooses to guide himself. This vision or guideline may apply during his term and may be considered advice to future Presidents and the American people as well.

GEORGE WASHINGTON

The first such words were issued by our first President. George Washington recommended a policy of no entangling alliances. He offered these words based on a lifetime of experience being caught in the world of British and French interactions along with lesser actions by Spain and the Netherlands. Given the current situation after the French Revolution, it was difficult for him to imagine a Europe that was not consumed by wars. Even the ancient experience of the Thirty Years War would have confirmed that war in Europe is what European countries do so try not to get involved.

Our current President naturally is unaware of Washington’s words. A person who didn’t know Lincoln was a Republican, Frederick Douglas was dead, and the British burned Washington, D.C., cannot be expected to be knowledgeable about American history. Still he seems to share Washington’s aversion to alliances.

In so doing, he is not drawing on any personal experience in war and diplomacy. The serial draft avoider confines his physical competition to the scripted world of the professional wrestling arena and reality shows that aren’t real. What then is the source of his antipathy to alliances?

Once again, here is where it becomes necessary to recognize that we are dealing with an immature child and not an adult. Alliance is an adult term like separation of powers or oaths to the Constitution. These concepts have no meaning to him. It is not that he rejects them but that the seventh-grade smart-aleck/dumb-aleck does not have the mental necessities to grasp such adult concepts. Of course, he can say the word and use it in a sentence but he simply is unable understand its meaning.

Consider the recent words of Cheon Seong-whun, an analyst at the Asian Institute in Seoul:

He sees everything in terms in money but there are values other than money in an alliance (NYT 6/13/18).

Yes, there are values other than money in an alliance, but the immature child really is genuinely not capable of understanding that. The narcissistic seventh-grade smart-aleck/dumb-aleck operates on the basis of TRUMP FIRST, TRUMP ALONE. Relationships are measured in terms of loyalties by subordinates and money for customers/rivals/others. How much does South Korea pay for retaining the services of the United States to protect it? If it is not paying its fair share, then the deal is abrogated. There is no alliance. There is no friendship. There is no shared values or traditions. There simply are deals, transactions between two and only two parties; and if the transaction is costing him, meaning the United States, money, then America is out of there. Nothing else matters. If you were surprised by his unilateral actions in Singapore then you are admitting that you still seek to understand him as an adult instead of the immature child that he is. It is not fair to judge him by adult standards since he isn’t one: TRUMP FIRST, TRUMP ALONE.

If you have doubts, consider his comments about North Korea. Look at all the beautiful beachfront property! Can’t you see opportunity all over the place? Now is the time for the country between China and South Korea to take advantage of the possibilities to build resort communities. And in case you have doubts about who should develop those properties, have I got a real estate developer for you! Think how different the rescue efforts in Puerto Rico could have been had he had a resort there.

In case you still resist the idea of analyzing his actions as those of immature child, I call your attention to my description last August of the seventh grader and another 13 year-old, Tom Hanks in Big. Now consider the words of Roland Paris, a former foreign affairs advisor to the now rotting in a special place in hell Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau (didn’t Madeleine Albright use the same words to condemn (black) woman who didn’t support a female candidate for the Democratic nomination?):

Big tough guy once he’s back on his airplane. Can’t do it in person and knows it, which makes him feel weak. So he projects these feelings onto Trudeau and then lashes out at him. You don’t need to be Freud. He’s a pathetic little man-child (NYT 6/11/18).

Still not convinced he really is an immature child? Now consider NYT reporter Peter Baker’s words later in the same article almost paraphrasing my comments about forcing him to act adult in my Tom Hanks post:

Mr. Trump never really wanted to attend the Group of 7 meeting but aides [meaning adults!] pressed him to go even as they feared it would be a disaster because he was being forced to do something he did not want to do [know any parents who dread taking an immature child out in public?]. He rebelled by showing up late and leaving early….He arrived 18 minutes late for a Saturday session…and did not bother putting his headphones on for the translation [have you ever seen an immature child act out in public when forced to do something he doesn’t want to do?].

For Washington, no entangling alliances meant don’t enter into any so as to maintain peace in our country. TRUMP FIRST, TRUMP ALONE means there are no alliances, only transactional deals that are financially beneficially.

TEDDY ROOSEVELT

Roosevelt like Washington, led a vigorous life. Just as Washington drew on his own personal experiences before recommending no entangling alliance, so Roosevelt drew on his own life when he suggested Presidents should speak softly and carry a big stick. It is hard to imagine any words less appropriate to the whiner-in-chief. Not only is he a constant whining baby thanks to technology not available in Roosevelt’s time, We the People have the good fortune to be able to read every stream-of-conscious whine by the immature child.  We are all trapped in airline with a crying baby with nowhere to go and way to shut him up. I thought the Constitution forbade cruel and unusual punishment.

THE TRUMAN DOCTRINE

Perhaps the most relevant doctrine to understanding our current President is the Truman Doctrine. Truman Burbank was a reality star. And unlike the current celebrity reality-star in chief, Truman’s ratings were boffo at the box office. The difference is that Truman didn’t know he was a celebrity reality star. He did think the artificial reality in which he lived was the real world just as the celebrity reality-star in chief thinks his alternate universe is the real world. The suspense and drama are in the moment of truth, the moment when the reality show star comes face to face with the fact that he is living in a no longer sustainable artificial reality and has to deal with the real world. What will he do then? Can he succeed in banishing the real world and in continuing to live a lie or will he have to adjust for better or for worse to the world as it really exists?

We know what happened to Truman.  SPOLIER ALERT! Through a series of events, the adult Truman seizes the initiative and takes control over his life. He sets sail into the open sea that has always frightened him only to bump into the sky and learn that someone has built a wall. He pierces it and enters the real world. In Truman’s case, the truth sets him free. He leaves the artificial reality that has governed his entire life, takes a chance on real emotions, and goes forth to live a better life.

Nothing like the Truman Doctrine will occur in the TRUMP FIRST, TRUMP ALONE reality. He will never take the initiative to leave the alternate universe for the real world where Russia violated the United States in the 2016 election, 5 million people didn’t vote illegally, and his parade was smaller. Why shouldn’t he remain in the alternate reality, look how far he’s gone?

Whereas Truman left his reality world for the real world, Trump seeks to extend the artificial reality to the world at large. He is likely to fail. But when and how?  Not everyone watches the Bull Trump Network. The seismic shock recorded from North Korea after the Singapore meeting was from the laughter of people who recognize that John Kelly and Rex Tillerson are right: the American President is a stupid ignorant moron. You can get something for nothing. Now the whole world has seen the deal maker in action. Now the whole world has seen the negotiator in action. Now that Iran has seen him at work, is it any wonder it is eager to negotiate a new nuclear arms treaty on the same terms offered North Korea? After all, Iran has beachfront property too. How many resorts do you want to build here?

At this point America’s allies know that no alliance has any meaning in the TRUMP FIRST, TRUMP ALONE universe.

At this point America’s foes know that they have nothing to fear in the TRUMP FIRST, TRUMP ALONE universe as long as they have something to offer him, like a Nobel prize and real estate development opportunities.

At this point America is learning about his fraudulent foundation to match his fraudulent university. Everything in his life is tainted. The world has seen the truth. The only mystery is when will We the People catch on.