Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Thing About Kings

     The thing about kings is, traditionally, historically, they're both cause and blame.  A good harvest?  The king  -- or the pharaoh -- must have done all the right things; a bad harvest must mean he has done wrong.  Sometimes things got bad and stayed that way, and kings were sacrificed (or just killed) to placate the gods.

     Culturally, we've got kings -- and perhaps a few of the old gods -- lurking in the background.  These days, Presidents fill much of that role.  If the economy is doing well or poorly, it must be the President's doing!  ...It usually isn't.

     Do the times make the man, or does the man make the times?  President Trump has condemned the recent violence -- mail bombs, what appears to be a racially motivated double murder, the horrific killings in Pittsburgh -- and one of the reactions I'm seeing is that "he has encouraged it."  I'm not so sure; I think his speech (and Twitter messaging) is often rash; he's got a personal battle with the Press going, the likes of which hasn't been seen since Richard Nixon and he's been all in favor of roughing-up hecklers -- but that doesn't constitute approval of hate-motivated crimes.

     He's very easy to blame; he's a polarizing figure, whose personality is not terribly endearing even to many of his supporters, who campaigned to enthusiastic crowds on a strongly "America first" agenda; he's pretty blind to the historical usage of many of the terms he employs, deliberately or otherwise.

     But he didn't conjure up the outrage-fueled crowds; and for their part, actual mob violence has been rare.  This country's crop of crazed loners is always present; it has been for lifetimes.  A roster of successful and would-be presidential assassins alone turns up mostly men and women who had a very shaky relationship with reality.

     The manner in which the Trump administration and Mr. Sessions' Justice Department in particular handles this recent spate of crimes will have a great deal of effect on public perception.  Mr. Trump's habit of sniping at the press -- whether it is justified or not -- will be an impediment.  It will likely have an effect on the mid-term elections.

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