By Prof. Dr. Emanuel L. Paparella
Some two thousand years ago there was a Roman Emperor by the name of Caligula who led the Roman army into Normandy in France and stopped at the shores facing Britain. Thereafter, rather than give orders to prepare for the invasion, he instructed his generals to dismount from their horses and look for shells on the beach that he could add to his collection at home. After his return home, to show his contempt for Roman republican ways he nominated his horse as senator of Rome and send it to the Senate.
At that point some, including his own praetorian guards in charge of his security, began to suspect that Caligula was not only a psychological sociopath, but that he was insane and therefore a political danger to the whole polity of the Roman Empire. After all, he had given proof that he was a man at such a point of acute narcissism and megalomania that he could use the most powerful army in the world to enrich his private shell collection and think of a horse as superior and more intelligent than a Roman senator. In equivalent modern terms this was a madman with his finger on the nuclear button. Most would agree that such a man is unhinged.
They began to devise all kinds of stratagems by which to remove him as an emperor, for indeed the emperor was naked and devoid of any rationality; he had in effect become a clown but a dangerous one at that, good at staging extravagant reality-shows in the Coliseum, but still parading as the most intelligent man in the land since intelligence and power and money are proportional to each other; so did the amused zombie-like masses thought.
This projected removal from power proved rather difficult since, as elite praetorian guards, they had sworn an oath of fealty to the supreme authority of the Empire and that loyalty had to be absolute and neutral with no political strings attached. Besides there would be predictable repercussions and reactions; a civil war might ensue. Many in the land were ideological fanatics and were harmed to their teeth, after all this was a rather militaristic society used to constant war. They had Caesar’s assassination episode and the ensuing civil war in mind. Nevertheless, they concluded that the best method was that of assassination as a form of execution without any democratic preliminary trial or discussion, it is after all the most unequivocal and final: the assassination (or in modern Machiavellian parlance, the liquidation) of the madman, or tyrant if you will, is un-appealable. As we know, from Roman history, this was actually carried out one fateful day as the emperor was walking back to his quarters in a dark tunnel after watching the reality-show presented on that day to the adoring crowds in the Coliseum. The transition to a more sane emperor (Caligula’s own uncle Claudius) went quite smoothly. In any case, the war games in the Coliseum continued unabated; which is to day, the madness in a more moderate form continued too.
This is ancient history. Let’s now jump to a parallel scenario in modern Western history: the presidential campaign going on as we speak in the US. As previously commented upon, for the last three years or so the Republican party has been steadily grooming a Frankenstein monster who has now grown too big and powerful to be stopped and is proceeding to the destruction of the whole party.
Today’s headline is “Civil War in the Republican Party,” meaning that there is an acrimonious discussion going on as we speak among the party leaders on whether or not there is still time to remove the threat to the unity of the party and, most importantly, to the chances of their own re-elections to the Senate and the House, should the Democratic party win in a landslide in November, which is a real possibility. The more brave among them have repudiated not only the character and the persona of the republican nominee, but the nomination itself. Under no circumstance they will support his nomination; some have declared that they will vote for Hillary Clinton. The more pusillanimous, usually comprising the majority of opportunistic politicians, want the cake and eat it too, they repudiate the person and his bigotry but accept the nomination of the party. The results of these two differing defensive strategies in November will be intriguing.
Be that as it may, the removal of the Frankenstein monster has proven to be quite a difficult task. It might have been easier three years ago when he was going around with his trumped up birther issue completely made up by his fertile imagination, never mind the truth. His arrogance and bully-like behavior grows by the day. He has now taken to collecting purple hearts from simple-minded naïve adoring followers saying that he had always wanted to have one and it is easier that way; he has repeatedly insulted a golden medal family, implying via his surrogates that the reason their son was killed is the fault of the present “illegitimate” occupier of the White House, never mind that he was not president when Captain Khan was killed on the field of battle, and the list could go on and on. The gaffs and embarrassments also grow by the day, the polls are showing a decline. The party is deeply worried. To go back to the comparison with ancient history: the praetorian guards are worried; they are in a pickle. After all, they helped in the creation of the monster. What to do?
The operative word at present seems to be “unfit.” Mr. Trump is unfit to be president. He does not understand what that document called the American constitution is all about, if he ever read it. He has propensities toward bigotry, racism and xenophobia. He has no inkling of what it means to be an American, and so on, and so on. So far the term mentally “unhinged” and psychologically impaired has been studiously avoided. After all, some 30% of the Republican electorate chose him. Are they also “unhinged?” If one watches carefully the documentaries of the Mussolini and Hitler rallies in the 30s, there seemed to be a lot of unhinged people enthusiastically saluting the Duce and the Fuhrer at those rallies. It seemed that the whole nation had gone insane. After the war, most of them declared themselves anti-fascists and anti-Nazis and probably said so to their children and grandchildren. Interesting!
But to go on. The praetorian guards are now frantically asking: how do we proceed with this unstoppable monster? They seem to have come up with a new stratagem. The stratagem is this: let’s impeach forwardly the Frankenstein monster and prosecute him by listing all the reasons why he is unfit to be president, without mentioning that he may also be unhinged. After he is found guilty, he will have effectively and legally been removed retroactively, that is to say, removed from the presidency five months ahead of time. The way is now open for the vice-president, Mr. Pence, to step in. After all, we are not barbarians any longer; we don’t solve our problems by violent assassinations, they are even against the law, aren’t they?; that might have been still ok in the 60s and 70s and the 80s when a president was assassinated and an attempt was made on two others, but now that we have evolved politically we do our removals and liquidations democratically by impeachment, and so we can impeach a president ahead of time as unfit to be president. Voilà, problem solved. Will this clever stratagem work? History will soon give us an answer. Stay tuned.
Emanuel L. Paparella is a former professor of Italian language and literature at the University of Puerto Rico and the University of Central Florida. He is the author of various books: Hermeneutics in the Philosophy of Giambattista Vico (Mellen Press, New York, 1993), A New Europe in Search of its Soul (Authorhouse, 2005), Europa: an Idea and a Journey (Exlibris, 2012), Tre Novelle Rusticane di Giovanni Verga (ed. 1975, Florentia Publisher), as well as innumerable articles on Italian literature and philosophy.