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The three somewhat risibly named “synoptic ” gospels contain versions of a parable that includes the proclamation that the first shall be last, and the last shall be first, although interpretations are many. Followers of Dominic Crossan and the Jesus Seminar, who saw Jesus as a peasant revolutionary; a religiously inspired Che Guevara of sorts, would see it as a promise of justice for the oppressed people of the Roman protectorate and the Kingdom of Israel.
Whether it’s a promise of a celestial or temporal turnabout is unclear and traditional biblical exegesis seems to lead too far into Jew bashing for me to be interested in crawling down that cave, but what does Trump mean by telling his mostly misbegotten, angry followers they’re going to be on top of the heap if they support him? Certainly, there’s nothing moral or ethical behind it. It’s anti-elitism stoked for the express purpose of elevating the economic elite – the oligarchy he strives to join and flatter and attract, here and abroad. The billionaire in working man’s clothes.
There’s nothing original about Trump, despite his odd looks and obviously selfish goals. Other oligarchs and false prophets, religious and secular have stoked populist rage and jealousy and those would-be tyrants, religious and anti-religious have usually done well with the scheme.
Fomenting the Cultural Revolution, Mao wrote in his little red book that “you learn to swim by swimming” a homily fraught with destructive power that justified firing any expert or well-qualified person and replacing him with someone from “the people.” One can’t help looking at Trump’s appointees. Hitler promised Germany an economic and military turnabout for “das Volk” and you’ll find this glittering promise frequently used as bait in the rhetoric of history. The People, The State is me of course, Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, Mao Zedong. Four legs good, Two legs better.
The baited hook is sharp and the likelihood of Trump really being concerned with the elevation of the poorest and most helpless is nil. He could only thrive in a country divided between the peerage and the peonage where the promise to the latter only serves the former.
“You know what you are?” he howled at the roaring and many-headed beast. “You’re the super elites,” he said at a mad rally recently in South Carolina. “You’re smarter, you’re better, you’re more loyal. We have the greatest base in the history of politics” he flattered the hoard of the hapless and hopeless and making them feel like they belonged to a cause. If he didn’t use the word “Übermensch” the intent and its derivation was still clear. The last shall be first as soon as we exterminate the enemies of the people.
Is there still an exit? Is there anything that can be done to turn the juggernaut aside? Perhaps we can begin by voting, although I have little hope the opposition can shed the pettiness and selfishness of so many causes – and even then it won’t be easy, once he finally consolidates power and the herd of camels oozes through that needle.