by Andy Joppa
“…the good is oft interred with their bones.”
Shakespeare: Julius Caesar
This is a dangerous essay to publish as it will lend itself to misinterpretation. I ask my readers, therefore, to read what I’ve actually written and try not to modify my words or place their actual meaning into previously created categories.
George Santayana first penned the oft recurring insight, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In fact, it’s been quoted so often that we rarely give pause to consider the wisdom it proposes. All too frequently we think only of repeated events and not the causes provoking the events. The specific events emerging from these causes may vary from age to age, but the causes stay constant and it is there where we’ll find replication. The most consistent causes are the nearly immutable patterns of human behavior.
The ongoing battering of President Trump is definable within one of these patterns. That is, any reformer in a political environment, that threatens the power elite, must be destroyed. These creatures of devious power cannot allow that person to survive. Reformers are a threat to their very existence. The human experience, for thousands of years, has been dominated by, what seems to be, this genetic compulsion…a compulsion to destroy a threat …a reflex reaction built into human behavior. While there are a countless number of examples that could be cited, the one that best displays this response, offers the most egregious action taken, and is most analogous to the attacks on Donald Trump, is the assassination of Julius Caesar. If we examine that event, we can learn much about what is happening today. There has never been a moment in human history when the reformer has existed without experiencing a total aggression to destroy them.
Julius Caesar was a Dictator; a capital “D” Dictator, not a lower-case dictator. What’s the difference? To counter any sudden threat or crisis, Republican Rome, would draft what they called a “Dictator.” It was a designated position in the Roman hierarchy; a temporary executive who would have the power to command when time was of the essence. Julius Caesar was a “dictator” only within this definition and not by the models so commonly cited in the 20th Century. Perhaps the most famous example of this was the Roman Dictator Cincinnatus. Our founders recognized in this Roman tradition the need for an executive to act decisively, and the importance of the idea that any executive ought to be temporary to prevent them from becoming tyrants. (Lincoln assumed near dictatorial power prior to, and during, the Civil War.) These were the influences that led to the final form of the office of our President. Julius Caesar, quite reasonably, could have been called the President of Rome.
The prevailing opinion among historians is that Caesar’s senatorial assassins were intent upon restoring republican liberties by doing away with a despotic usurper. There is, however, an alternative, more realistic, explanation: The Senate aristocrats killed Caesar because they perceived him to be a popular leader who threatened their privileged interests. Certainly, this sounds familiar in 2020. By this latter view, their deed was more an act of treason than tyrannicide, a dramatic manifestation of a long-standing struggle between power-hungry politicians and popularly supported reformers. With Trump, we are discussing figurative, rather than literal assassination, but the intent of his enemies is the same; his destruction, to maintain their power and the elimination of his popular support as a source of political action. We can also debate whether the current actions against Trump are figurative acts of tyrannicide or literal actions of treason. It is my perspective that it is treason. Unfortunately, “None dare call it treason.”
Just about every leader of the Middle and Late Roman Republics who took up the popular cause met a violent end: beginning with Tiberius Gracchus in 133 B.C. and continuing to Gaius Gracchus, Appuleius Saturninus, Cnaeus Sicinius, and ending with Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. Even more reprehensible, the aristocratic oligarchs and their hired hoodlums killed thousands of the Roman commoners who supported these various reform leaders.
Many historians, both ancient and modern, have portrayed the common people of Rome as being little better than a loud rabble and riotous mob. A charge being leveled today against all Trump adherents…” The Deplorables.” In word and action, powerful Romans made no secret of their fear and hatred of the common people and of anyone else who infringed upon their class prerogatives. History is full of examples of politico-economic elites who equate any challenge to their privileged social order as a challenge to all social order, an invitation to chaos and perdition. This, I believe, is what drives the actions of many in the FBI, DOJ and elsewhere in the Federal bureaucracy. They believe they are so personally critical to our nation that they gain the right to damage anyone standing in their way. At this point, there is no greater obstacle than Donald Trump.
The oligarchs of Rome were no exception to the historian’s view. Steeped in utter opulence, they remained forever inhospitable to Rome’s democratic element. They valued the Republic only if it served their way of life. They dismissed as “demagogues” and usurpers the dedicated leaders who took up the popular cause. Whatever their differences in nationality, religion, language, most historians shared the same class-bound ideology, causing them to see the struggles of ancient Rome from the perspective of the elites rather than from that of the struggling proletariat and plebs. This has remained true with America’s 21st century media.
Caesar’s sin was not that he was subverting the Roman constitution—which was an unwritten one—but that he was loosening the oligarchy’s arrogant grip on it; words that could be written today. Worse still, he used state power to affect benefits for small farmers, debtors, and urban proletariat, at the expense of the political elite. The oligarchs never forgave him. On the 15th of March, 44 BC, the Roman Senate awaited the arrival of the Republic’s supreme commander, Julius Caesar. At a given signal, they began to slash at him with their knives, delivering fatal wounds. By this act, the assailants believed they had saved the Roman Republic. In fact, they had set the stage for its complete undoing. We must consider we are facing that same undoing…using the same figurative method.
And so, Caesar met the same fate as numerous other reformers before him—and so many other reformers down through the centuries… till this day. The assassination also marked a turning point in the history of Rome. After Caesar’s assassination the fury of the people was so bad that some of the assassins were hunted down by mobs and killed. It set in motion a civil war and put an end to whatever democracy there had been, ushering in an absolutist rule that would prevail over Western Europe for centuries to come.
To the people of the empire it was horrible and awful. Julius Caesar was a very reformative ruler and initiated agricultural and Social policies that the people loved. They saw him as benevolent and kind ruler. With his death that view of benevolent leadership ended and a civil war ensued. Let us pray that same destination is not in our future.
Many would say that Trump is not Caesar. I would suggest that during their lifetime Caesar was not Caesar, as Lincoln was not Lincoln. It is history that bestows definition and significance on the lives that were lived. There are undeniable parallels, however, between the death of Caesar and the unrelenting campaign to destroy President Trump. I would call their actions…TREASON. I do so because, I believe, we must understand the lessons of history and draw interpretation from it.
“Trump is history writ large”