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When crossing the channel turned out to be logistically impossible, he commanded his battle-hardened troops to run up and down sandy beaches gathering seashells. It was a demeaning exercise, and historians have speculated for nearly 2 millennia about his reasons.
Was this some sort of mythical claim of conquest against the god Neptune, who was thought to rule the oceans?
Was it a bizarre punishment directed at experienced soldiers for disappointing their emperor? The angry ruler had briefly directed that a Roman legion is decimated, with every tenth man executed as punishment. He changed his mind before the order was carried out.
Or was the leader of the Roman Empire simply a madman?
Whatever the reason, the seashells were gathered, stored and brought back to Rome.
One explanation seems especially plausible to me: the emperor loved parades. He had planned a wonderful procession of triumph through Rome after what he anticipated would be a victory in Britain. That victory did not happen. But the parade had to go on.
The narrative was changed. The emperor, in an act of military genius, had suddenly changed course and attacked ancient German enemies. It was fake news, but it would do.
His ancestor, Julius Caesar, had decades before conquered Gaul. The once-fierce tribes were now pretty much enslaved, at the disposal of Rome. So he ordered that the tallest Gauls be forced to dye their hair red, learn German, and take German-sounding names. They were brought to Rome as if they had been captured in Germany. The seashells were bagged and carried in large carts. As far as the crowds knew, they were stores of treasure taken from defeated enemies of Rome.
The parades are documented. So are the kidnapping of Gauls and the German disguises. What the hundreds of thousands of seashells were used for is speculative.
Historical similarities are often superficial. Even when they are not, differences in degree, when great enough, are differences in substance.
How must history eventually regard a national leader who values adoration from his base above all?
Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!
Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!
Wisconsin Rally, October 24, 2018
A leader who employs deception in order to maintain that popularity…
Oh, we’re gonna build a wall all right! Who’s gonna pay for the wall? Mexico!
…and whips up hatred against ethnic and religious minorities.
…shutdown of Muslims…
A leader who envisions himself above the law.
The saddest thing is because I am the President of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department. I’m not supposed to be involved with the FBI. I’m not supposed to be doing the kind of things I would love to be doing. And I am very frustrated by that.
With Larry O’Conner, November 2, 2017
A leader who wants to order the prosecution and imprisonment of political opponents.
The New York Times reporting that President Trump wanted to order the US Justice Department to prosecute Hillary Clinton and former FBI Director James Comey.
Wolf Blitzer, CNN
A leader who takes steps to do just that.
And that’s not all. The Times reports that Donald Trump would go on to continue to privately agitate for these investigations of Hillary Clinton, obviously his chief rival in politics, and James Comey, his former FBI director.
Ari Melber, MSNBC
History does record that, for the third emperor of Rome, a historical description was iconic. He made it truly his own.
Allegory is not repetition. History knew Caligula and my President is no Caligula.
Where my President ordered prosecutions and investigations of those he simply does not like, Caligula’s orders were actually carried out.
President Trump prostitutes the office of President for corrupt financial gain. Caligula actually had prominent landholders killed so that he could seize their estates.
President Trump is recorded bragging about his sexual conquests. Caligula had the power to order those he suspected of opposing him to submit their wives or themselves to his sexual whims.
Trump orders bans on Muslims and whips up hatred against immigrants with the wrong skin color. Caligula organized the active governmental persecution of Jews and Christians.
Whether the President of the United States is inhibited by personal limits will never be known. He is constrained by circumstance. Whether he feels personally frustrated or not, he is unable to replicate the atrocities attributed to the ancient leader of Rome.
Still, those superficial similarities come easily to this mushy aging liberal brain.
I thought of the diversion of a battle-ready Roman army to the menial, militarily useless gathering of seashells as I heard this:
And we’ve already dispatched, for the border, the United States military. And they will do the job. They are setting up right now, and they’re preparing. We hope nothing happens. But if it does, we are totally prepared. Greatest military anywhere in the world, and it’s going to be, and is now, in great shape.
President Trump, November 1, 2018
Well trained, battle-ready troops, are on guard, laying out barbed wire along the Rio Grande, digging in. A caravan, largely composed of children and parents, make their slow way on a thousand mile trek toward asylum in the United States.
If they ever manage the journey, and as long as they turn themselves in for screening and processing, they will be entirely within their rights according to federal law. They cannot be turned away. At least they cannot be legally turned away.
When that meaningless mission is complete, when our battle-trained troops have either allowed or defeated these destitute refugees, my President will enjoy his military victory, and nobody will have to learn to speak German.
American troops will be allowed to continue with other duties. Including the next mission, my President may decide to have them perform for him.
Gathering seashells along the Rio Grande.
Many thanks to our friends at FairandUnbalanced.