The Peripatetic Preacher, Presidential Behavior, and Genesis 3

The Peripatetic Preacher, Presidential Behavior, and Genesis 3 January 9, 2020

Some 18 months ago, I set out to skewer Donald Trump by comparing his behavior to various biblical characters. These essays varied from moderately amusing to rather too vicious. I finally ended the series, after 15 essays or so, when I determined that my assaults on the current president were in the end counterproductive to my own soul. To focus my wrath so laser-like on Trump was to descend to his own behavior; surely I did not wish to become what he so blatantly presented himself to be, namely a narcissistic bully who lashes out at his critics and can never under any circumstances imagine that he has made a mistake. By characterizing his actions in this way, I am merely noting what so many others have said. I fully understand that his many followers must find these traits laudatory, since nothing he has said or done over the past three years has managed to sway their support for him, as poll after poll continue to proclaim. Whether that support is 30% of the electorate or even as high as 40%, both figures represent millions of American voters. Though I remain frankly incredulous that he retains this high level of sustaining followers, the facts are clear; Donald Trump is among many a very popular man and president; along with Barak Obama, he was recently named the most popular man in America.

I do not wish, then, in this blog to bare my claws and have at the president once again, tearing my pound of flesh from his body, extracting thereby some Shylockian bond in order to gain a measure of crude justice for his perceived sins. Though it should be clear that I have no intention of voting for the man come November, choosing instead what a recent California yard sign claimed—“Any Reasonable Human–, I do wish to point out that his most recent behavior, namely his commanded murder of a well-known Iranian general, has moved well beyond the fodder of late-night comics, and has become a dangerous game of potential world war. The fact that both he and the Iranian leadership have for the moment backed down from rattling sabers, or hurling missiles more accurately, at one another does provide a momentary respite from potential scenes of skies filled with ICBM contrails and an earth chewed by high explosives of a nuclear kind. Still, little has changed between the two nations; Trump seems obsessed by Iran, and that obsession began with his withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal, worked out painstakingly over 10 years, and signed by both sides, President Obama being the American signatory.

I will not opine in this space about Donald Trump’s apparent complete obsession with his predecessor, though his undimmed fascination with comparing inaugural crowd sizes is still puzzling, but he does seem intent on undoing nearly everything that Obama’s presidency tried to do, from Affordable Health Care to Environmental Limitations to the Iran Nuclear Deal. The killing of General Soleimani may indeed have its deepest roots in that Obama concern, though I cannot speculate more on that, since I have no facts to support such a claim. The killing itself, and what it means for the remainder of Trump’s presidency, is what interests me. Today, Jan.9, 2020, after the Iranians lobbed some 12 short-range missiles at two Iraqi American bases, causing minor destruction and no casualties, the president announced that he was standing down from further military action and urged Iran to do the same. It seems odd that Iran might see a few missile strikes without major destruction or death as appropriate revenge for the murder, on foreign soil, of a man described as perhaps the second most powerful man in the country; but it may be possible that Iran has proved the point that it could well launch attacks with its vast missile arsenal if it so chose, but did not so choose at this time. President Trump in his remarks today was glad for Iran’s apparent de-escalation, but added that he proposed further “crushing sanctions” on the Iranian regime, in addition to those he instituted after his tearing up of the Obama nuclear deal.

What he said next caused me to reflect further on his behaviors in the light of Genesis 3. He claimed that the missiles fired by Iran at the American bases were bought and paid for by the money that Obama’s nuclear deal had made available to Iran in exchange for Iran’s agreement to cease the processing of nuclear fuel with the intent to make nuclear weapons, an agreement all inspectors had agreed that Iran was in fact holding to. Recently, Iran has gone back to the production of such fuel. In short, what Mr. Trump suggested is that all of this was in fact President Obama’s fault! The current president again and again refers to “the previous administration” as the fount of poor trade agreements, strangling environmental restrictions, and foreign entanglements that hamstrung the USA in its unfettered economic growth. Whatever success the economy is having is fully the result of Mr. Trump’s constant efforts to undo what Barak Obama, in his willful blindness, did to make the USA a far weaker and more pathetic place. At last, trumpets Mr. Trump, the USA is respected again by the world’s leaders, all because of his administration’s policies. The fact that a recent German poll said that President Trump is more dangerous to world peace that Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin makes little difference to a president who is completely convinced that he has made America Great Again.

What Mr. Trump is incapable of doing is admitting any sort of mistake, and concomitantly if anything is judged an error or a problem, he always finds the source of that problem elsewhere. This behavior was indicated not long after he was elected when he was asked if he ever asked for forgiveness; his response was that he could not think of a single thing he needed forgiveness for. This brings us at last to Gen.3.

The hilarious story in the Garden of Eden is well known enough that I need not summarize it once again. After the man and the woman both eat from the proscribed tree of the knowledge of good and bad (that is, in effect the knowledge of everything), they stand naked before one another. At the beginning of the story nakedness was not a problem, since both were naked and not ashamed. But now with their newfound knowledge, nakedness is a problem that must be solved. “So they sewed fig leaves for themselves and made loin-cloths.” Since all middle-easterners knew well that fig leaves feel like No.2 grade sandpaper, they howled to imagine what such loincloths would have felt like! Immediately, the now uncomfortable couple rushes back into the trees of the garden to hide themselves from YHWH God who is coming for their usual afternoon chat.

When the couple is not in their usual spot for tea, YHWH God asks the man the simple question, “Where are you?” Though the man might have answered something like, “Over here!”, he instead replies with a decidedly wordy reply. “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, and naked, and so I hid myself.” “Who told you you were naked,” says YHWH. “Have you from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from it eaten?” (I translate quite literally the torturous grammar of God’s question.) The man’s response to that apparent yes or no question is Trump’s answer to all questions that are posed to him about anything that might be seen as a problem of his own making. “The woman,” shouts the man, “whom you gave to be with me; she gave me fruit of the tree and I ate.” It is not my fault, YHWH, it is the woman’s fault. Or even in the long run it is your fault, God, since you gave her to me in the first place! And when the woman is likewise asked what has happened, she answers, ‘The snake made me do it.”

Donald Trump clearly started the recent Iranian crisis with his ordered murder of General Soleimani. And his attempt to deflect his responsibility off onto the Iranians themselves or onto Barak Obama or onto anyone else close at hand is classic behavior. And the correct response to such behavior is laughter. If Trump’s actions were not so fraught with peril for the whole world, we might well laugh. Well, laughter, we are told, is the best medicine, so perhaps at least a chuckle or two at the president’s garden-like behavior may not be amiss. I suppose we may be grateful for the moment that no further explosive reactions to Soleimani’s killing have occurred. That is hardly any guarantee that further actions may not be taken. So, for now, have a little laugh. It seems that Adam and Eve are alive and well and living in the White House.


(Images from Wikimedia Commons)

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