As a kid growing up in Yakima, the Central Lutheran Church was a regular feature of my life. My sis and I went to Sunday school every weekend, though later in life we made other choices about what we believed. My father had an untrained but professional-quality tenor voice and the whole family — all four of us — sang in the choir. As a child of six or seven I had memorized the Nativity story in the King James Bible and was often asked to recite it when guests arrived around the holidays. (The King James is still my absolute favorite translation of the Big Book.)
The story ended when the three wise men — by tradition Balthazar, Melchior, and Gaspar — arrived to see the baby lying in a manger. They brought gold, frankincense and myrrh. (OK, I understood gold, but the other material substances had such strange magical names.) But even way back then, at the birth of baby Jesus, there was political intrigue involved. The hypocritical and divisive King Herod had called for the wise men and ask them to find this child and report back to him so that he too could pay homage. But the wise men were tipped off. After following the star, bending their knees to the child and opening their coffers, they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod. So “they left for their own countries by another path.”
That seemed pretty wise. Herod no doubt wanted to keep this birth — one that everyone seemed to be talking about — secret, or at least pretend it didn’t happen. Those wise men would have been killed and that troublesome baby too. Herod went on to order the “Massacre of the Innocents” — all male children in Bethlehem under two years of age were killed. He hoped it would protect his reign from this new “king.”
This incident, and others, has left a black spot on the history of Herod’s rule. His legacy has polarized historians in their evaluation of him. He evidently is known for spending lavish sums on “colossal building projects.” He was also known for his despotic tyrannical rule, for creating an aristocracy and then for dividing his kingdom among his three sons and his sister. While Herod was in power he used secret police to monitor public opinion and took measures to suppress the contempt of his people. He prohibited protests, and had anyone who opposed him removed by force. He reputably had a bodyguard of 2,000 soldiers.
Anything about that sound remotely familiar?
So who and where, oh where, are our Three Wise Men? Is it Robert Reich, Paul Krugman, and David Brooks? Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, and Trevor Noah? Wendell Berry, Noam Chomsky, and Cornel West? Jon Bon Jovi, Bob Dylan, and Public Enemy? It certainly doesn’t seem to be any male in the government right now.
Instead we’ve got the three wise guys of Lyin’ Ryan, McTurtle and TheRumpusRoom, along with their sidekicks the Evil Elf, SycoPence and Darth Vader (still orchestrating chaos from the sidelines). Until last week, this committee of devolution was too incompetent to get much done — except for things that could be undone in the dark. But now, they have managed to pass legislation that will give those individuals called “corporations” and the wealthiest one percent of the one percent more money, while the middle and low income folks get a poke in the eye. Oh, and children will only have health insurance through March, maybe, then it’s, “Get busy and get yourselves a pay check.”
As far as colossal infrastructure, which could actually benefit the empire, well, let’s just build a wall so our neighbors can’t come over here to help us with the work that needs to be done. Meanwhile, our high-speed trains can’t stay on the rails at 80 mph. (In Japan the trains run around 200 mph quite safely.) TheRumpus sent out condolences for the Nisqually train accident, but only after cutting the budget for Amtrak maintenance by $16.2 Billion (tinyurl.com/yaoorqyn). Maybe now the committee for devolution will reconsider?
And now that we’ve got a despot in charge, I guess it makes sense that he would change the Presidential Challenge medal from “E pluribus unum” to “Make America Great Again,” and add his name, not once, but four times to the gold medallion. After all, “Out of many, one” has been the motto of our country since 1782, so it’s probably time for a change (tinyurl.com/y9dxj6xo)
By the way, TheRumpus and friends have also proposed cuts of $1.2 Billion for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention; taken $5.8 billion from the budget for the National Institutes of Health; and $2.5 billion from the Environmental Protection Agency. (Just for comparison, the last Republican in charge, Shrub, proposed increasing NIH funding by $2.8 billion.) Destabilize the health insurance market and cut national health spending anyone? — if you didn’t know better, you’d think our fearless leaders were trying to kill us.
There will also no doubt be continued attempts to cut funds for or even prohibit abortion at the same time the safety net for women gets slashed; women who might need support after bearing a child for childcare, health insurance for their kids (see above), food, or other unnecessary “entitlements.” We don’t need more kids anyway — they’re just too needy.
So it goes. But maybe if there are enough of us still awake we can unseat some of these wise guys and figure out how to right our Ship of State. Or we could hope that this Ship of Fools flounders in the Graveyard of the Pacific, and we find a few good Wise Women to put in charge.