Trump's Border Ruffians and Twain's War Prayer

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Mark Twain wrote with enormous sentiment about a great patriotic movement, as “a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun.”  Thus is the receiving line of the disaffected for Donald Trump, of whom legend and song shall be duly recorded in history.

Leading in the polls, standing tall above all the other GOP candidates, indeed above Her Majesty Hillary Clinton, whose shine has turned to a patina in the manner of copper left in the rain, Trump’s supporters wax heroic about their leader, ready to defend him with their honor for the glory to come.

Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths.

And into the church of Trump’s triumph walks the Old Man from Twain’s “The War Prayer,” bringing with him the reality of God’s economy.  For this is the price of ego, and glory, and victory at any cost; it is the price of striking down all who oppose, and calling forth the fealty of those whose allegiance is demanded.

The Old Man prayed:

“Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth into battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended in the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames in summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it —

For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!

We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

What Donald Trump seeks to achieve, in his candidacy (laying aside what he might want in his presidency), through petty feuds with media personalities, a trophy-room of snarky videos, an obsession with his own wealth, worth, and ability to break the rules with impunity, is no more than the triumph of anti-political populism.  Donald’s disaffected followers are no more than Trump’s Border Ruffians trying to capture Bleeding Kansas.

The Border Ruffians were no more motivated for their own self-interest than hard-core Trump supporters (though the actual Border Ruffians in Kansas were titularly “pro-slavery,” very few of them actually owned slaves, rather they were motivated by hatred of East Coast elites and fear of free blacks).  Replace East Coast elites with—East Coast elites, Washington, D.C. version—and replace free blacks with illegal immigrants, Chinese and all the others in the world who are “beating America” and you have the typical Trump supporter.

Are their fears and issues real?  Absolutely.

Is our government, and our party, doing anything about those fears and issues?  Nope.

On that Trump (as well as many of the GOP candidates) are 100 percent correct.

But is the price of victory Trump-style a smoking ruin, just as complete as Bernie Sanders would impose on the ‘rich’?  There’s only so much mileage to be gained from pure reactionary impulse–Trump will eventually exhaust his supply, and then move on to the real conquest—if he isn’t buried first by knocking Bush out early and then losing to someone who can coalesce the remaining GOP base.

As the Old Man said at the conclusion of his prayer, “Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits.”  Trump supporters’ response is the same as the congregation in Twain’s story: “It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.”