The Eagle Has Fallen

The Eagle Has Fallen February 9, 2024

The Eagle Has Fallen

Fierce Eagle
Picture by Jonathan Lajoie

There’s an eagle in 2 Esdras 11 that faces judgment. The eagle represents a power oppressing the meek and injuring the peaceable. More pointedly, the eagle has “hated those who tell the truth and have loved liars.”

According to the prophecy of 2 Esdras the eagle will now face the consequences of its insolence. “Therefore you, eagle, will surely disappear, you and your terrifying wings, your most evil little wings, your malicious heads, your most evil talons, and your whole worthless body, so that the whole earth, freed from your violence, may be refreshed and relieved and may hope for the judgment and mercy of him who made it.’”

The metaphor of the eagle has a contemporary parallel. Julian Raven, an artist living in upstate New York, has a painting, “Unashamed and Unafraid,” in which Donald Trump’s face dominates the foreground while a screeching bald eagle emerges from the horizon of the painting, trailing an American flag in its talons. The eagle has a frigid stare—visually echoed by the glare of the attacking eagle—and unsmiling mouth. “The painting is an imaging of the aggressive reassertion of dignity in the face of shame, a sort of call-and-response reaction from Trump’s audience to his no-apologies rhetoric.”

Trump envisioned as a screeching bald eagle, with an American flag in its talons, attacking the citadel of democracy, offers a telling metaphor of Trump’s evil intentions. Trump’s face plastered on the Raven painting shows him with an unsmiling mouth and a frigid stare.

The eagle of 2 Esdras and the eagle paired with Trump represent a matched pair facing judgment for hating those who tell the truth and loving liars. The intimidation, the threats, the lies, the violent rhetoric, the vulgarity – all of it depicts Trump as a man who will have his revenge. He is the attacking eagle and what he attacks is democracy.

Trump gathers all the common, hackneyed symbols and words of old-fashioned politicians have used forever to entice people to support them. The flag, the eagle, the Bible – props used by Trump. The words “salute,” “respect,” “stand up,” “stand united,” “the flag,” “men and women in uniform,” “law enforcement,” “Judeo-Christian values,” and “dignity are all part of his dictionary of dignity. He has a set of swelling ideas and images that emotionally produce material manifestations of pride. There’s a sense of glory hanging in the air at a Trump rally. It is why Trump is able to trigger a cascade of applause among the values voters after every line.

Like the eagle figure in 2 Esdras, the Trump eagle heads for a crash landing. If the courts don’t send him to prison, the voters will send him into retirement. His lies are wearing thin. The truth, having been knocked down by Trump, has never been knocked out. Sooner or later, the truth will rebound. Democracy will return to smash the authoritarian impulse that always lives in democratic nation. The eagle will fall.

There are more positive images of the eagle in Scripture. When God describes how she brought Israel up out of slavery in Egypt, she reaches for an eagle image: “I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself” (Exodus 19:4). When Second Isaiah wants to depict the faithful he says, “Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

2 Esdras offers a final judgment on the eagle of oppression and lies: “This was the reign that was brief and full of tumult, as you have seen.” I hope the Supreme Court allows Trump to be on the ballot for the 2024 election. The people should decide his fate. As in Jesus told his disciples, ““I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.” Note the past tense. I adopt this apocalyptic “now” when predicting “I watched the eagle fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.”

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