Monday, October 05, 2020

Watching "Othello" in Real Time

The underlying thesis of Shakespeare's "Othello" is that the system can withstand anything except a wholly untrustworthy person.  Iago tells Roderigo in the first scene of the play "I am not what I am."  He goes on throughout the play to prove his only concern is himself:  he betrays Othello, his commander, as well as Cassio, Roderigo, even his own wife.  Othello is naive, true; but Iago fools Cassio as well, and raises suspicions in Desdemona only because his wife is her handmaid, and she tells her mistress she doesn't trust Iago as far as she can throw him.  So it's not just Othello; everyone in the play is duped by Iago, because the system depends on the trustworthiness of everyone involved in the system; and proving they cannot be trusted takes, in Iago's case, killing Roderigo, killing his wife in front of witnesses to keep her from revealing his truth, and Othello finally, after all that, realizing he has duped Othello, too.

Pretty much like real life, in other words.

In this scenario, Trump is Iago, but there is no Othello:  Iago is in charge, not the lieutenant to a military commander far from the influence of the Duke of Venice.  I'll say that again:  Iago is in charge; and there are no emissaries from the Duke coming to rein him in or send him back to Venice.

Who is going to stop Trump from campaigning?  Cities have told him not to come; he went anyway.  Doctors have told him to isolate, and all his staff (reportedly), or near enough for dammit, have done so.  So who's going to arrange these trips and travel with him?  Secret service agents?  They have to.*  Who else?  The pilots of AF1?  Who is going to refuse to serve the POTUS?  Who is going to bar him from the stage at the next debate?  Who is going to block his way and even make him stay in the residence?

Our system depends on the trustworthiness of everyone else, especially those who have proven trustworthy (Iago was that clever, at least).  Our system also depends on everyone above the age of 18 in positions of public office behaving like adults.  Sure, we have nimrods and fools in office, and cheats and scoundrels.  But we expect them to act in the interest of others when it comes to public health issues like contagion, and when they don't we can reign them in.  City council members can be escorted from the room by police, Senators or Representatives can be removed from the floor by Capitol police; but the President?  Who removes the President when he is endangering others just by being there?  The system trusts that situation never arises.

Honestly, what else can it do? A person that childish and self-centered and clueless shouldn't be POTUS.  A person that disinterested in the welfare of others, even others he can see and touch, shouldn't be POTUS.  The POTUS, in other words, should not be a toddler.  The system shouldn't have to account for that (and don't mention the 25th amendment to me.  You really think Pence and the Cabinet (or whoever) are going to act on this?).  But make the 25th Amendment looser, and you think Gingrich wouldn't have used that against Clinton?  At some point the system has to rely on those given authority to be adults, not toddlers.

Or we end up with Iago behind the Resolute Desk.  But even Iago was an adult; so this is much, much worse.

*No, they shouldn't; and they may not have to.  But that's another thorny legal problem entirely.


  1. It's a quibble , I know, but rein it in (as in horses) is the correct usage.As a big fan, I don't want to see you diminished by malapropisms.

  2. I knew that. My typos are getting worse.

    That said, corrections gratefully accepted. It proves people are paying attention.

  3. And it's down to the fatal weaknesses in our own Constitutional system that makes it impossible to get rid of the drugged up brat. I'm hoping he lasts till the election,loses it and then dies if that's what's going to happen. Though I'd much rather he lose, is indicted, is bankrupted, goes to prison where he will survive a long time. That he is still there is as much a legacy of Gerald Ford's pardon as it is the appalling anti-democratic Constitution that prevents us from removing a criminal nut-case from the office. This just keeps getting worse.