A Dialogue: America Agonistes

Cincinnatus: So this guy Trump was cheated, right. I mean, half the Republicans in this country apparently believe it.

Cicero: Of course, he was cheated. He is the King. Only his power comes not from God, since it is not clear Trump believes in God, it comes from, well, Trump. He is self-proclaimed master of America. He solves all problems. Deserves all credit. Insists everything he does is perfect and that everything he says is perfect. He is never wrong, only those who oppose him are wrong, so how on earth could he lose an election? Now that I think about it, he isn’t King. He’s a god. You know, like the Caesars of old. What is a man or nation but to serve and celebrate Trump?

Cincinnatus: Now, you are exaggerating a little aren’t you?

Cicero: I wish I were. I look forward to any Trump supporter providing a single example of him admitting he was wrong or that someone who disagreed with him was right. And like Godot, I will wait…forever.

Cincinnatus: Well, let’s move on. Don’t you agree that his enemies had it in for him?

Cicero: No question about it. Trump’s enemies are why we wound up with this louse for president. The Democratic Party is sadly as nuts as he is.

Cincinnatus: How do you mean?

Cicero: Let’s start with the fact that their hatred of him drove them to concocts wild conspiracies that themselves bordered on unconstitutional. Russian collusion. Wrong. Ukraine. A reach at best. Nasty comments about military? Still waiting for Jeffrey Goldberg to show the evidence. On top of which they view every issue now through a prism of identity politics and politically correct fascism. It is one thing to object to statues of Klansmen and blatant confederate enemies of America, though even that is overwrought. Stonewall Jackson is no longer a symbol of racism. He’s a symbol of regional pride and fascinating military genius. In the same way, World War II historians admire Rommel as a military strategist even though he served the Nazis for a time. But try reasoning with these folks. But they don’t stop there. They are going after everything in our history. It is Stalinist and it helped create anger and the support for Trump, no matter the miscreant he is. I mean going after Lincoln and Jefferson?

Cincinnatus: Were they not racists by today’s standards?

Cicero: No doubt. But they were products of their age and they were flawed, imperfect men who did amazing things to set this country on the path to greater liberty. And I would argue that people whose first consideration is a person’s race or sexual orientation are equally flawed. I would suggest that Martin Luther King Jr., using the same methodology, is guilty of genocide. He actually suggested that China in the 1960s was a far better example of good government and democracy than America. Just for the record, Mao had killed about 30 million Chinese in the 1950s and 1960s, but I don’t see MLK statues being relocated or torn down for supporting the most brutal system in the history of man.

Cincinnatus: You don’t think he was a great man?

Cicero: I think he was an extraordinary leader on civil rights, but a flawed human being who made mistakes and committed sins just like the rest of us. He also applauded a system of tyranny every bit as cruel and brutal as slavery or Hitler’s fascism. So, yes, he deserves to be lionized for his leadership on civil rights, but not for thinking communism was a beautiful idea. Just as George Washington deserves to be celebrated for helping put our country on a path to democracy and peaceful transitions of power, even though he once owned slaves at a time when many did. Just as Jefferson deserves credit for articulating the spirit of freedom, condemning slavery as an evil system and following Washington’s lead by voluntarily leaving office. He was wrong not to free his slaves, obviously, though I am sure in his mind he rationalized that they would do better with him than elsewhere. But later they were sold and pushed apart by his daughter.

Cincinnatus: Not to mention his little thing with Sally Hemings.

Cicero: Yes, the folks at Monticello believe those claims based on a variety of evidence and they are more knowledgeable than me. JFK, MLK and most of the NBA cheated serially on their wives. Jefferson apparently had a long-time relationship with a woman in his household as a single man. We human beings can be pretty self-centered. But his treatment of her and her children suggests he cared about her.

Cincinnatus: Yes, well, back to Trump. Why are people so faithful to him even though he is, by all appearances, a bully and a cad.

Cicero: A man I once knew well, my father, said “the masses can be asses.” Mussolini, Hitler, Charles Manson. People will follow anyone and in politics you sometimes don’t see the danger until it’s too late.

Cincinnatus: You’re comparing Trump to those guys.

Cicero: I am now. Two months ago I would not have. He is a criminal and more to the point he is an enemy of the state, literally. He quite willfully sought to overturn our constitutional process and stood by willingly while the lives of the Vice President, members of Congress and the staff at the Capitol were put in jeopardy. Frankly, I am shocked it has to be debated with our Republican Senators. I think the vote should be unanimous. He is guilty even if the election was stolen, which as yet no evidence of any import suggests it was.

Cincinnatus: I take it you would vote to convict him.

Cicero: Absolutely. He is a disgrace. He is also dangerous.

Cincinnatus: Think what you will, most of the Republicans are stilling kissing his ring.

Cicero: It will pass. But it does not matter to me. I’m leaving the party.

Cincinnatus: After 40 years!

Cicero: Any party that prefers Trump or Matt the ass from Florida to Liz Cheney is a party no longer capable of moral distinction. The party of Lincoln is dead.

Cincinnatus: Why not become a Democrat?

Cicero: Because any party that thinks socialism is a viable system of government and would seek to punish every person that served under Trump, no matter how honest or dutiful, has also lost the ability to make important distinctions. Cancel culture is dangerous. Big Tech controlling public discourse is dangerous. As a classical liberal, which means a constitutional conservative these days, I cannot abide the hypocrisy of those who call out every act of stupidity of Trump and his followers and throw around reckless charges of racism but don’t acknowledge their own silence while cities in this nation burned over the summer. But you must understand that such people are ideologues. The new ideological racism is that white is evil and people of color are superior. The individual does not matter. Only the tribe matters. It’s mob stuff. Middle East sectarianism. It’s another form of racism. It saddens me.

Cincinnatus: What about Biden?

Cicero: A writer for the Post put it nicely. Biden owes an apology to the Capitol police. You watch those videos and you realize that only the heroism of those police, black and white, saved our Congress and Vice President from certain injury or even death. But Biden and Harris had to make it about racism against blacks. It’s absurd and tragic. Biden has moderate instincts, but his party is careening off the rails. The Republicans are already off the rails. I did not realize how bad it had gotten. I am an elitist, I admit, and my head was stuck in the world of Buckley, Lincoln, Krauthammer, Will and the founders.

Cincinnatus: And the country?

Cicero: Many years ago Bill Buckley interviewed Malcolm Muggeridge about how one finds faith. In that discussion, they acknowledged that Christendom had run its course. The secular faiths had grown too strong even 40 years ago – Marxism, communism, socialism, scientism, Freudianism (is that a word?), post modernism…. Well, Rome ended. Czarist Russia ended. Hitler’s 1000-year Reich lasted 12 years. Even the Berlin Wall came down. America is finished as a great nation. We had a good run. We were once a city on the hill, the first nation conceived by an idea (nod to Jefferson and the founders again), not heredity or violence or power. We brought more freedom to more people than any nation in history despite our great crimes of the past. But look despite our serious and sustained efforts to right the wrongs of the past, our own youth despise our nation consider it hopelessly in need of change. I would ask them a question Joe Sobran asked: in what sort of society would you be a conservative? Thank to leftists in academia have had their way. So we are still in trouble. In any case, no great nation aborts millions of unborn children and enslaves millions of future children by amassing massive debt on which they will burden their own descendants. We are bankrupt financially and morally. Maybe the kids will right the ship. I hope so, but they must start thinking for themselves.

Cincinnatus: Will Trump be back?

Cicero: Sadly, yes. I doubt he will ever win office again, but his self-importance and ego will not allow him to do what most former presidents have done. Gently fade away. He is, as Buckley wrote, in love with his own image and he truly believes that we should worship him. I worry what some of his deranged followers will do just as I worry what the far left will do. There are shades of early 1930s Germany.

Cincinnatus: What would you say to Trump?

Cicero: Nothing. He has destroyed any hope of conservative governance for a generation or longer. And I mean conservative, not Republican. He has destroyed a great party. He has put our Republic at risk. He is arguably the worst American national leader to come along since Aaron Burr. He has seven deaths on his hands minimally and more to come I fear. I might remind folks, by the way, that if you and a buddy decide to rob a bank and your buddy pulls a gun, without your okay, and kills someone, you are still guilty. You don’t have to pull the trigger, you simply have to have participated in the crime. Trump is guilty, condemned by his own inaction and comments during the riot. Silence is consent. Qui tacet consentire videtur. Look it up.

Cincinnatus: I think you’re being harsh. They did undermine him, the Democrats, accused him falsely. Impeached him on a pretty trumped up charge over a year ago, no pun intended. I doubt he realized how bad things were at the Capitol.

Cicero: Ignorance of the law is no excuse. If it’s good enough to put a dime a bag drug dealer in jail from the hood it has to apply to the president, even if what you say is true. And I don’t believe it is. Look, I thought he was within the realm of acceptable discourse until the election of 2020. I knew he was flawed in major ways and would not support him, but I did not think he was capable of undoing the country. I liked some of his policies but I now think he is capable of seismic evil. He said it. If you strike at the king, you’d better finish the job. Take his word for it. He is coming with blood in his eyes. And he thinks he is a king. John Adams would call him mad and remind us that no man or cause is king, only the law.

Cincinnatus: Anyone you would support.

Cicero: Not really. Rubio has proven a chameleon. Cruz is disgraced and Romney is an island. Nicki Haley is interesting. Maybe. Not another Republican on the radar who even registers as a serious national leader. Like I said, the party is dead. But it could be a season. I should like to think Buckley was right when he suggested at the height of the Cold War. “Ladies and gentleman, we deem it the central revelation of Western experience that man cannot ineradicably stain himself, for the wells of regeneration are infinitely deep. No temple has ever been so profaned that it cannot be purified; no man is ever truly lost; no nation is irrevocably dishonored… And in the West there lie, however encysted, the ultimate resources, which are moral in nature. Even out of the depth of despair, we take heart in the knowledge that it cannot matter how deep we fall, for there is always hope.” Who talks like that these days in the Republican Party?

Cincinnatus: So even Trump can redeem himself.

Cicero: Of course. I am not God. God sees all and forgives all if we are truly repentant. But. Trump has no respect for the Constitution, which I, for one, treasure. Until he demonstrates that he is a republican in manner and approach, not a monarch, he should be resisted with all our might. Until he condemns the violence of his supporters, he is deserving of exile.

Cincinnatus: Well, does not the same go for Democrats?

Cicero: Yes, but a kid marching and breaking the law is not the same as the President. Come on. The left must be held accountable. But on what moral authority now do those who support or excuse Trump base this effort?

Cincinnatus: Thanks for chatting with us.

Cicero: Yes, well, as my old friend Cato might say: beware Trump. Beware lawlessness. Beware Stalinism – do that and we might yet save our nation. Back to your plow, oldl friend, the nation may yet need you.

Cicero by N/A is licensed under N/A N/A