We became hooked on a BBC Canadian show called the Murdock Mysteries. Not only were the characters very entertaining but the writing was fascinating. Essentially, this is a historical fiction show based around the turn of the 20th Century. It was a detective show that had historical characters and situations woven into each episode. For example, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle makes several appearances based on his research trips to Canada. We also meet Marconi (the radio guy) and Thomas Edison.
Leo Tolstoy, who died on 11/07/1910, in a train station, of pneumonia (I’m not sure why I remember that) was also into historical fiction as War and Peace, while written in the late 1800s, shows in his story about Russian aristocracy during the French Revolution in the late 1700s. There is a discussion between several of the characters as they debate Russia’s involvement in Europe either to defend the continent from Napoleon’s military advances or join him. The characters remark that he was at one time a hero of the people, freeing them from the cruel French aristocracy but soon named himself tyrant, I mean emperor. He had members of his “cabinet” lurking the halls of all the French palaces looking for those still loyal to the now dead Louis XVI and the cake promoting Marie Antoinette.
Let’s take a side track here for a moment. Marie Antoinette never really said, “Let them eat cake”. She actually said, “Let them eat brioche” which is a rich bread made with eggs and butter, almost as luxurious as cake. This, essentially, showed she had lost touch, or perhaps never had been in touch, with the struggles of the French citizens. Fast forward 200+ years and you have Melania Trump showing up as disaster relief in high heels and child holding pens in a jacket that read, “I really don’t care, do you”. Aristocracy not in touch with the people??
Back to Napoleon and his “spies”. There have been several references comparing Napoleon and Trump. Both had won favor with the electorate / people and were extremely popular, at first. Napoleon brought great liberal reforms through much of Europe. His “Napoleonic Code” was the basis for legal systems in 70 (that’s right) countries. Philosophical ideas like equality before the law; property rights; religious toleration; modern secular education; sound finances; rational and efficient government; and end to rural outlaws; the support of the sciences and arts; and the end to the surf system. But then, he wanted to become a king and finally an emperor who’s personal value system was horrendous. Cutting to the chase, he fell out favor, to say the least, and wound up serving the rest of his life in prison on an isolated island.
Trump barely made it into office with his populist wave of change. But, he is the anti Nepoleon. He wanted to use eminent domain laws to take land from people getting in the way of his construction projects; he clearly has no tolerance for Muslims; his choice for education secretary is dismantling the public education system to favor “charter schools” – essentially businesses that have little success in educating; he has been bankrupt several times; he is dismantling many of the core governmental offices and chaos rules; and finally, based on his discussions with Kim Jung Un, he would like us all to stand and take notes when he, Trump, is speaking.
And the final, most dangerous comparison surfaced on June 13th when reports began to circulate about Mari Strull. She is an advisor to the State Department appointed just two months ago. She has been quietly vetting career diplomats and American employees of international institutions to determine whether they are loyal to President Donald Trump and his political agenda. Having a very impressive (NOT) qualification for the job – writing a wine blog and bashing Jimmy Carter, she goes about her day researching government officials to determine whether they signed off on Obama-era policies.
She has gone out of her way to exclude those on the naughty list from participating in diplomatic meetings with their counter parts. Essentially, more chaos.
Trump and his single focus on personal loyalty and self advancement may be the perfect example of those who do not learn history being those who are doomed to repeat it. Napoleon ended up in prison.