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Trump’s Reign: Nero-Style - The Burning of Rome (#217)

As an American President, Donald J. Trump is proving to be so unconventional, so outrageous in his behaviour, so vindictive and destructive in some of his actions and words that it is not possible to find a suitable comparison in modern American history, even the famed misfit George W. Bush does not compare. But there is an uncanny resemblance to one of history’s more infamous ruler from ancient times, the Roman Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, who was thought to have burned down two-thirds of Rome so he could build that which reflected his personal vision of greater splendor for himself, and destroyed that which he thought was old and ugly to make room for the greater new.

Similarly, and symbolically, Trump is attacking and destroying the greater parts of America that makes America - ‘America’ - its institutions that have defined the country so far: its venerated law enforcement and intelligence agencies, its free press, its institutions of justice, its separation of church and state, its unity in diversity, its compassion and common decency, its leadership in the World, and its sense of general equality of its citizens, its here-to-now relatively untainted democracy, and his Nero-like tendency to blame others - immigrants, Mexicans, Muslims, senior officials, any opposition, the Democrats and others, for all the ills of America, and his own shortcomings. 

The Presidency of Donald Trump has been legitimate but controversial from the very beginning. Firstly, in the land of leading democracy, America, a strange Constitutional twist allows for the winning of a candidate that actually gets the lesser number of votes than his or her rival. So even though Trump got far fewer number of votes from the voting public (approximately 3 Million less), he won because of the ‘Electoral System’. Secondly, there is ample evidence, corroborated by all the American Intelligence Agencies, and later confirmed by individual Americans and Russians, all of whom have verified that the government of Russia, led by President Vladimir Putin, interfered actively and extensively to influence the outcome of the 2016 elections, against Hillary Clinton and in favour of Trump. These two realities have tainted the ‘win’ in Trump’s mind, and in the majority of the public’s.

These realities have haunted Trump since his inauguration and given him no respite in spite of being the President.

To exacerbate the suspicions and doubts created by the heavy involvement of Putin’s Russia on his behalf, the governing houses and law enforcement agencies of the U.S.A. were compelled to investigate themselves, as well as appoint a Special Prosecutor to undertake a comprehensive investigation in the involvement of Russian and other actors with the members of the Trump campaign team, who together, may have ‘colluded’ to influence the outcome of the election.  

These anomalies, regarding his Presidential election win - the significant loss in popular vote, the heavy involvement of Russia on his behalf, and the serious ‘Russia Investigation’ by a very taciturn, respected and competent ‘Special Prosecutor’ Robert Mueller, into the possibilities of collusion between Russians and his own campaign team have unnerved Trump and made him take actions that are akin to burning the down the country to save his Presidency, and his skin.

From the very beginning Trump started to tear and burn down the very institutions that have been synonymous with America’s special characteristics. Unlike any other previous President, Trump started with attacks on the American intelligence institutions that flagged Russia’s concerted efforts to affect the 2016 election. He saw their Reports of verifiable interference by Russia as an attack on the very validity of his win. His response was to attack them in return, all of them, with unrestrained accusations of untruthfulness, biases, hoaxes and witch-hunts.

He attacked them relentlessly as being corrupt, with partisan agendas, and practically accused them of being treasonous. In his efforts to discredit the most reputable and powerful of all law enforcement agencies, the FBI and the CIA, among others, Trump did not let the small matter of truth and accuracy come in the way of his efforts to tear down their decades old reputations and unflagging relentless efforts in the service of the U.S.A. Then he went further. He started to fire and remove anybody that to him presented a threat to his Presidency. The first to go was the well-regarded and respected Head of the FBI, James Comey, and most recently he had the Deputy Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe fired a day or two before his retirement, all in connection with the ongoing investigations, which are now leading to possible charges of Obstruction of Justice for Trump.

In addition to trying to destroy the reputations and careers of those men that have, to all accounts, given a life time of service to their country, the most troubling aspects of his attacks are is his relentless efforts to discredit the Agencies themselves, to cast their reports and findings on Russia as suspect, or as he like to label it ‘fake news, a hoax’. In succeeding, to the extent he does, in labelling the Intelligence Agencies as false and corrupt, Trump is destroying the reputation and trust of these agencies with the public, and the World.

When he was still campaigning, he actively sowed the seeds of suspicion on the integrity of the America electoral process by claiming loudly and frequently that the election was ‘rigged’ against him by his opponent Hillary Clinton, and the elites of Washington. When he won, improbably, suddenly he claimed legitimacy for his win. The opponent, Hillary Clinton, readily conceded, but it was later disclosed by the intelligence agencies (13 of them) that Russians had indeed tried to ‘rig’ the election but in his favour.

Instead of acknowledging their findings and supporting all investigations into the interference of America’s democratic electoral process by a foreign adversarial power he now went the other way, claiming no rigging of the election whatsoever, and ‘no collusion’, before it has been determined, but blamed the Intelligence Agencies instead, particularly the FBI, of personal bias against him. Then he attacked them remorselessly to tear down their reputation and credibility.

When the famed ‘free media’ of America started reporting on the findings of the Intelligence Agencies, of Russian interference, he attacked the media and news outlets as corrupt and consistently peddling in ‘fake news’. He did it within America, with visiting foreign dignitaries, and when on visits abroad to foreign countries. The factual reporting of Russian interference in the elections, based on American intelligence reports, threatened him, and it was enough for him to try and destroy their long-term credibility, not only with the American public but even with foreign countries and dignitaries, with no thought of its implication to the reputation of America and the integrity of its media.

America’s famed free-speaking and free-wheeling media that till now had not been silenced and intimidated by the ruling powers, were now daily attacked, even when they were proven right and he was inevitably and verifiably proven wrong, he continued to burn them.

In a similar vein, Trump blamed outsiders for most of America’s problems, allies and trading partners for trade deficits and job losses, when in fact American corporations moved manufacturing offshore for cheaper costs and proximity to large local markets; immigrants for crimes they did not commit, and jobs that Americans generally did not want. He blamed poorer countries for sending America their dregs, when the facts clearly contradicted his assertions. He blamed foreign terrorists for being the biggest threat to Americans, when clearly the facts and all the numbers pointed to fellow Americans being a much bigger and deadlier threat, by far.   

Trump took everything that was generally sacred and institutional in America and tried to destroy or distort it so that he could shape America in his image, distorted, untruthful, selfish, bullying, divisive and vindictive. 

Since his campaign Trump has shown a tendency to be cruel, vindictive and partial to bringing back torture (which his Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, had to talk him out of, for now). Nero was famously cruel, vindictive and sadistic.

Roman Emperor Nero came to power via a long circuitous route, beating extremely long odds as he was not in line for the throne. Not unlike Trump’s improbable Presidency. On gaining power, Nero spoke of ‘eliminating the ills of the previous regime’, reminiscent of Trump’s inauguration speech of ‘America’s carnage stops here’, and the subsequent and constant ascribing of all ills, real or imagined, to the Obama administration. Nero promised to get rid of ‘Court favourites and freedmen’ as Trump promised to ‘drain the swamp’. And, historians have commented that policies ascribed explicitly to Nero were ‘well meant but incompetent notions’, not unlike most of Trump’s personal ever-in-flux policies.

It is said, in the declining part of Nero’s reign his ‘conduct became far more egregious’ and he ‘lost all sense of right or wrong and listened to flattery with all credulity’ (well, if that doesn’t fit Trump’s behaviour to a tee).

More famously, Nero burned down the City of Rome in order to create space to build his ‘Domus Aurea’ – the ‘Golden House’, a sprawling sumptuous grand palace, unlike anything seen before – the grand vision of ‘America Great Again’ on the ashes of what had truly made America Great in the past, a ‘do good America’ that now Trump considers as weaknesses.

The Roman Senate did not agree with Nero’s plans and opposed him. In order to circumvent them (Trump’s machinations to get past all opposition), Nero had his men start the fire surreptitiously, which burned for days and destroyed two thirds of the city, as he watched while playing his lyre and singing (not dissimilar to the self confessed delight Trump shows in the chaos he creates; ‘I like chaos, I like conflict’ as he watches his favourites on Fox News).

To deflect suspicion away from himself Nero blamed the new Jewish sect called the Christians (like Trump’s blame of Muslims, Mexicans, immigrants today) and had them mercilessly hounded, imprisoned, thrown to the lions, crucified and burned alive for his and the people’s pleasure. He had former colleagues assassinated including his most ardent supporter who got him the throne, his mother (like the dumping of Bannon, Priebus, Tillerson, perhaps Sessions, McMaster, and no doubt more to come). There was no loyalty on the part of Nero for those that supported him in the past, but he demanded it of others and showed no mercy or tolerance for those that opposed him.

Nero spent monies that Rome did not have to build his new Golden City (like the grand unfunded promises of Trump’s, the greatest, most beautiful Wall, extensive infrastructure, greatest unbeatable military, most modern nuclear arsenal, biggest tax cuts - all that for which there is no money, and undertaking them would grow huge deficits), and Nero had to raise taxes later to pay for the extravagant expenditures that led to rebellions (Trump’s are still to come and if he continues in power they will certainly come).

As the flames of discord, distrust, dishonesty, injustice, public and political assassinations of people’s reputations and careers are lighted and fanned by Trump, and as they lap over an increasingly smoldering America, Trump gloats on twitter through his tweets. But there are lessons in history for Nero-like rulers with great visions of self-grandeur who are willing to destroy everything and everyone to gain personal glory, who were oblivious to the needs of others and only cared for their own self-gratification; they usually did not end well.

[As for Nero’s end, he was on the run hearing the Senate was going to capture and execute him for treason against Rome, and committed suicide by imploring one his few remaining loyalist to kill him.] - Trump’s Reign: Nero-Style - The Burning of Rome.

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