Our Plantain Republic


A plantain is a kind of banana cousin. It is larger in size, and it is significantly more starchy in consistency. Wise counsel would encourage you not try to consume any of them raw. At the same time, satisfactory results can be achieved if you cook them in line with the well-crafted recipes that others have developed over time, particularly in Central America, where plantains grow plentifully.

For example, prosecutors in Biden’s Department of Justice have taken a page from the notebook of that celebrity chef, Hugo Chavez, and they sliced up thirty-seven of these babies, deep-fried them, and have undertaken the task of trying to make our former president eat them all. Our former president, however, remains truculent.

What I Really Think

I turned seventy just yesterday, and so I believe it is time for me to stop piddling around. I think you have perhaps tired of my diffident and circuitous ways of circling the point. I have therefore resolved to start speaking my mind. Let me tell you what I really think, and be done with holding back. I know that I may have given glimpses of this in the course of a November or two, but perhaps the time has come to kick it all up a notch. Perhaps we can move November into other parts of the year, and then in November we can start using C4 and blasting caps. I’ll have to talk to the boys about that.

In the meantime, what do I make of the indictment of Donald Trump by this federal prosecutor? This assessment is entirely independent of whether you think Trump is a boor, a genius, a shady character, a conniver, a deliverer of the Republic, a charlatan, an orangutan, a Godsend, or a sui generis piece-of-work. There can be honest disagreement about Trump’s character and/or place in history. Go right ahead. Discuss among yourselves.

But there should be no honest disagreement about what a crass and cynical and destructive move this indictment was. In this setting, in this context, listening to the prosecutor solemnly intone what he somehow thought were magic words—”no one is above the law”—was like listening to Pope Alexander VI quoting Ephesians 1:4.

What did I think of this indictment? It was diseased. It was foul. It was a vile bit of business. It was mendacity on stilts and steroids. It was a spotlight on the essential and deep corruptions of our entire ruling class. It was a risible joke, not to mention also being a visible joke. These people could make a cat laugh. It was dug up from a landfill at a leper colony. It was tainted with the unmistakable stench of self-righteousness, with those strange odors wafting off every word—as though a pharisaical polecat had gotten into the prosecutor’s briefcase, and emptied his entire arsenal. It was prosecutorial toad-eating, with sycophants currying favor with the powerful by prosecuting just as directed. They always try to live up to the words of their spiritual mentor, Stalin’s Lavrentiy Beria, who said, “Show me the man and I’ll show you the crime.” Whatever you think of Trump, this was a hit job of the partisan hacks, by the partisan hacks, for the partisan hacks.

It is standard operating procedure, in plantain republics, to use whatever instruments you might have at your disposal in order to deal with or otherwise dispatch your political enemies—and this goes up to and includes the military, incidentally. In case you forgot. The people who have weaponized the justice system and the intelligence agencies are not going to suddenly draw themselves up short in order to say, “Oh, no. We can’t use the military. That would be a bit too much.”

On the contrary, they obviously want to drive this whole thing to death-match-cage levels. So far, they are making good progress.

Not Only So

Not only so, but there is another thing to consider. Given that rulers actually are given to the allurements of high crimes and misdemeanors, and that fairly frequently, there are certainly times when some in authority have to deal with the abuses of others in authority. But because this is such a delicate and dicey operation, it is essential that there be not even a whiff of double standards operating. The judicious assessment of all the responsible people in both parties should be that “this cannot be tolerated,” and then the appropriate action can be taken.

But if—and I am just speaking hypothetically here—a former president is being charged with stowing classified documents next to a john in his house, as opposed to the righteous way of doing it, as the incumbent president once demonstrated, which is to stow them next to his Corvette in the garage, then the whole thing would become too TRANSPARENT. In order to suit the occasion, we may modify Clausewitz’s aphorism—”War is the continuation of politics by other means”—and we find ourselves saying that this kind of selective prosecution is the continuation of politics by other means. And that is what this whole hot mess of a charade manifestly is.

And so the remaining question has to do with why something so obvious to me (and you, I hasten to add) is apparently invisible to so many people. As it happens, there is an answer that question.

Trump, Girard, and Violent Contagion

For those who have read any of René Girard’s basic stuff, the answer should jump right off the page—in order to grab both of your ears and wrench at your head. There are numerous concepts that Girard develops in The Scapegoat and I See Satan Fall Like Lightning that sound like he must have spent the last six months binge-watching cable news television before he wrote them. The problem is that he wrote both books long before the last six months even happened. The reason he was able to perform this amazing trick is that mob psychology is always the same in every era, and especially so in conceited eras that believe themselves to be somehow “above” things like mob psychology.

Let me see if I can stuff it into one paragraph. In a time of sacrificial crisis, the old patterns of maintaining civic order break down, and the gods are silent. The smoke of the sacrifices rises, but the offerings are no longer efficacious. Nothing coheres and, as the poet says, the center does not hold. The populace gets increasingly agitated, and it soon becomes a tangled mass of hostility—a war of all against all. This set the stage, and when it is time for the gathered thunderhead to release its electrical charge, the bolt selects a target. What happens then is that the war of all against all turns suddenly into the war of all against one. That one individual is blamed for all the troubles that the society is experiencing, and whether or not he is actually guilty of causing those troubles is a matter of indifference to the mob in question. Guilt or innocence do not matter, and the rules of evidence are just cumbersome obstacles that get in the way of what must obviously be done. The only thing that matters is the hate, and that the hate be given an opportunity to vent. The white-hot hatred is proof enough of the guilt. It is the logic of lynching, and that kind of mob is in hot pursuit of the cathartic release that the immolation of the victim will provide for them. When this kind of fit falls upon a society, the people who are caught up in the violence of their rage are aware of nothing other than the so-called justice of what they want to do to the source of all their troubles. When they are done, they are not wracked with guilt, but rather relieved of the intolerable pressure of their rage. This relief is so profound that in many societies, the source of all the troubles is subsequently deified—just as his life was the trouble, so also was his death the deliverance and salvation. And this is why the sons of murderers are so good at building memorials for the murdered.

And if I may anticipate one of the talking points of response . . . no, make that yelling points . . . I am not saying that Trump is a prophet. I am saying that he is the object of irrational hatreds, and of a sort that make me want to say that Girard is a prophet—not Trump, Girard. The victim selected by a mob seething with hatred could be a king like Oedipus or a homeless bum like the one that the citizens of Ephesus stoned to death at the urging of one Apollonius. The lightning bolt can go where it wants, or wherever it thinks it needs to. But it should be remembered that it was the thunderhead that generated the bolt. The tree that is still smoking, with its bark lying all over the ground, was not really the source of the lightning, whatever the pundits might be saying.

“Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.”

John 9:41 (KJV)

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