Lessons (not) Learned From Aesop or Uncle Remus
John Hanno October 31, 2016
Whether employing Aesop, the Bible, Big Bird and Sesame Street or Uncle Remus, most parents attempt to plant the seeds of morality into their children, soon after the age of reasoning. I believe you can relate each and every one of these lessons to the 2016 Republican primary and general election. Its clear that many neo-con politicos and corporate types, either failed to heed those formative lessons, or were tutored from the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, while they’re little brains were developing. Can we even guess what stories Donald Trump was reading or listening to from his parents when he was growing up? He obviously didn’t even read the Journal because from all accounts, he’s just not a very good businessman.
Many rich people like Trump, #324 on Forbes world’s list of billionaires (who by the way is opposed to raising the minimum wage for the working poor), and the Koch brothers, 7th and 8th richest billionaires in the U.S and tied for 9th in the world with $42 billion each, (who support ALEC legislative efforts throughout the country, opposing labor and union rights, living wages for teachers and others in the middle class, and supporting right to work campaigns), must have been reading books like, “The Art of the Deal” when they were very young. Each of the Koch brothers wealth ($42 billion each) is the equivalent of the yearly income of 840,000 average American families, or 1,680,000 families between the 2 brothers. How can they possibly begrudge middle class folks like teachers, mail carriers and union employees, a living wage or collective bargaining. How much wealth is enough for these people? If they would have read the “Boys and the Frogs” maybe they wouldn’t try so hard to undermine the American worker. Its the story of boys throwing stones and killing frogs swimming in a pond. One of the frogs lifted his head out of the water and cried out: “Pray stop, my boys; what is sport to you, is death to us.” And the moral of the story is: “One man’s pleasure may be another’s pain.”
Charles and David Koch, pledged to spend $889 million on the 2016 election to promote an alt right agenda detrimental to working men and women, organized labor and the environment. The Donald and the Koch’s represent people who place winning above everything; who would do absolutely anything to win. I call them ‘Winuts’. They say America isn’t winning any more and our current leaders don’t know how to win, as if the only thing that matters is how much money or how many toys you’re able to accumulate. We all had friends like them when we were growing up; children who wouldn’t share. Their parents should have read them “Brer Rabbit and the Tarbaby.” Brer Rabbit wanted no part of working with his neighbors to provide water or food but just took what he wanted. Or read “The Miser and His Gold,” the fable about a miser who reduced all his riches to a lump of gold, which he buried. He came back every day just to look at it, but was spied on and his treasure was stolen. As the miser was crying about his loss, he was consoled by a neighbor, who told him that he might as well just bury a stone (or had returned each day to look at a big empty hole) because it would serve the same purpose for all the good his money had done him or had done to help others.
These folks also should have read: “The Dog and it’s Reflection.” A story about a dog carrying a stolen bone in it’s mouth. The dog is looking down as it’s crossing a stream and sees its own reflection in the water. Taking it for another dog carrying something better, the dog opens its mouth to bark at the other dog and drops the bone into the stream and loses it. For years, the Koch brothers have supported efforts by PERC and others to privatize our National Park System and public lands. They believe America should exploit public lands and our national parks for oil drilling, hydraulic fracking and the mining of minerals. They’re also big supporters of Governor Scott Walker and behind efforts to make the state of Wisconsin a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries, in order to exploit the states silica sand deposits used by the Koch’s for fracking of natural gas. Aesop’s Fable “The Old Women and the Doctor” involves a women who asks a surgeon to cure her worsening blindness but would not pay for his services unless she was cured. While the surgeon applied salves to her eyes, he was stealing her valuables during each visit. Once she was cured, the women refused to pay his fees because she claimed her sight was worse than ever since she couldn’t see any of her valuable belongings.
The Donald, mimicking all Republicans and many businessmen, trumpets that America’s GDP is anemic. And he screams daily that China and Mexico are stealing our jobs. But China and Mexico aren’t stealing our manufacturing plants and jobs, multinationals have and will continue to chase the cheapest labor, the least amount of safety and environmental regulations and international partners who will turn a blind eye to their exploitation of labor. These companies have off-shored about 60,000 manufacturing facilities. China and Mexico are just the latest destinations. And if TPP is passed, there will be another half dozen of these cheap labor pools to chose from. We used to have a vibrant manufacturing sector that balanced out the rough times for our economy; but thanks to unpatriotic multinationals, our economy now depends on a retail sector representing 71% of America’s economy. And since America’s middle class is struggling, so is our economy. Business titan Henry Ford realized this many decades ago. If his own workers couldn’t afford the autos he was making, his company wouldn’t prosper. So he raised his workers wages substantially. Donald constantly claims he will bring back American jobs but then buys steel and aluminum for his buildings from foreign manufacturers even though it’s readily available from American workers.
In reality, our GDP growth is anemic because America’s middle class has been under siege, since the Regan administration declared war on organized labor. Boomers like myself don’t really buy much of the cheap crap coming from low wage countries. Our homes are mostly furnished and most of our income goes for necessities like food, transportation and healthcare. Millennials, 40% of which still must live at home, can’t spend much because they’re saddled with a student debt albatross around their necks. They can’t buy a home, get married, start a family or can’t even afford rent and expenses while paying down these student loans. This should trouble the family values diehards who support Trump, but it clearly doesn’t. Many Millennials who live in urban areas don’t even drive a car. Low growth will therefore be the new normal for the foreseeable future. And there’s not much a president can do without cooperation from congress. Republicans in congress pander to corporations and the super rich, who want still more tax cuts, so there’s slim to no chance of getting any legislation passed to help the middle class, unless the Democrats take control of the Senate and make strong gains in the House. The fact is, most of us who don’t have investment funds or wealth, couldn’t care less about GDP growth. 75% of America’s workers live paycheck to paycheck. Probably 80% of American’s wages have been stagnant, adjusted for inflation, over the last 25 years. All the benefits from steady increases in productivity over the last 3 decades, has gone to the upper 10%. And unless Citizens United is overturned, nothing much will change.
As always, when it comes to the Republican controlled Congress proposing or opposing legislation to help America’s middle class, they trot out the discredited trickle down economic ideology that hasn’t worked in the last 30 years and has only contributed to worsening income inequality. The first thing that comes out of their mouths is, tax cuts for the rich and cuts to entitlement and social safety net programs. Empathy is not their strong suit. These new tea party controlled Republicans continually bash social programs for poor folks, mostly women and children. They demonize food stamps, unemployment benefits, Medicaid, and even Social Security, which is the most successful government program in our history and a program that has raised 10’s of millions of seniors citizens out of poverty. And by the way, a program that is fully funded as long as tax cutting Republi-cons keep their hands off the $2.8 Trillion Social Security Trust Fund surplus. They also opposed every single jobs bill, proposed by the Obama administration after the financial collapse, to help put our middle class back to work. Mr. Trump brags about not paying federal taxes, and after he loses (on paper, thanks to favorable tax dodges) one billion dollars in a single year, experts surmise that because of that write off, he probably hasn’t paid federal taxes in the last 18 years. He says that’s being smart. He doesn’t contribute to our military, which he routinely denigrates, doesn’t contribute to the crumbling infrastructure he bashes daily and doesn’t contribute to our veterans, even though they made it possible for The Trump Brand to flourish. He and many 1% er’s and some successful corporations refuse to pay their fair share of supporting our governments and society even though they have prospered the most from them. This reminds me of the fable “The Horse and the Donkey” a variant of the story of the overburdened ass who asks it’s companion the horse to help him carry his load. The horse refuses and the ass dies. The horse is then forced to carry not only the original load but also the dead donkeys skin as well. But the burden here is placed on the American taxpayer. Again the moral comes from La Fontaine’s Fables in poetic form: “Neighbours here should each other aid, For if one dies, it’s on your back, His burden surely shall be laid”.
I realize many people have a jaundiced opinion, when it comes to the ability of politicians to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but Mr. Trump is clearly in a class by himself when it comes to lying. When he repeatedly stands before the American public and lies to their faces, sometimes twice in the same sentence, how can true Republicans still support him? How can they tell their children to tell the truth and then vote for a pathological liar? How can family values type evangelicals continue to support him in spite of his lying, bigotry, deceitful and vulgar conduct and revelations concerning sexual abuse toward women? These evangelical family value ‘Winuts’ place winning the presidential election above absolutely everything, even moral integrity. And you must blame the Trump supporters even more than Trump himself. He said he could shoot someone in times square and they would still vote for him. That’s actually one of the few times he’s told the truth.
I read an article last week in Politico about fact checking the Donald. Daniel Dale, Washington correspondent from Canada’s Toronto Star, thestar.com, said there’s multiple media, CNN, Politifact, Washington Post and others, taking on the monumental task of fact checking Mr. Trump, but he wanted to compile the actual total number of falsehoods. He found that in a 33 day period, Mr. Trump made 253 false statements. He also made 67 false statements (34 and 33) in the first 2 debates. Politifact’s Truth O Meter revealed that 204 of Hillary’s statements were true, mostly true or half true; the Donald had 87. And that 75 of Hillary’s statements were mostly false, false or pants on fire; the Donald had 219. During the final debate they found that 100% of Hillary’s statements were true, mostly true or half true, and 72% of Trump’s statements were mostly false, false or pants on fire. Many people have rightfully labeled Trump a pathological liar.
It’s obvious Mr. Trump never heard the “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” or “The Honest Woodcutter,” which tells of a woodcutter who accidentally drops his axe into a river; and because it was his only means of livelihood, sat down on the river bank and wept. The God Hermes (Mercury) saw him and took pity on the woodcutter. The god dove into the river and brought up a golden axe instead. Is this your axe, asked Hermes? No it wasn’t said the woodcutter, and said the same thing when Hermes brought up a silver axe. But Hermes then brought up the real woodcutters axe and the woodcutter said that was his. Hermes was so impressed by his honesty, the god let him keep all three. Hearing of the woodcutters good fortune, his neighbor threw his axe into the river and sat down and began crying. When Hermes appeared and offered him a golden axe the greedy man said yes it was, but was then denied that and his own axe because he was not truthful. The moral is obviously, Honesty is the Best Policy.
Donald Trump has consistently tried to divide America into two basic groups; those who have always been in power and are reluctant to give that up, even if it means dragging us back to the dark ages; “To Make America Great Again.” And in the second group, “the others;” women, people of color, immigrants and others who just want their share of the American Dream. He denigrates Mexicans, Muslims, women, gays and even disabled folks. He should have studied “The Four Oxen and the Lion.” A lion visited a field where four oxen lived. He repeatedly tried to attack them but the oxen turned their tails to each other so that their horns always faced the attacking lion. But when the oxen fought with each other and went off on their own, the lion attacked them one by one and killed them all. The moral: United we stand, divided we fall.
Donald, like many rich folks and corporate executives, lives in a world where no one ever tells them they’re wrong. They’re surrounded by yes men, revered and constantly praised. Mr. Trump’s ego is bigger than Mt Rushmore; he obviously failed to learn the meaning of humility. He should have read “The Fox and the Crow,” a story about a crow that found a piece of cheese and flew up to a branch to eat it. The Fox, wanting the cheese for himself, flatters the crow, telling him he’s beautiful and asks if his voice is as pretty. When the crow lets out a caw, he drops the cheese and it’s eaten by the fox. The moral, in the form of prose from the La Fontaine’s Fables taught to French and Creole children:
Flatters thrive on fools’ credulity. The lesson’s worth a cheese, don’t you agree.
The crow shamefaced and flustered swore. Too late, however, “Nevermore!”
Everything that comes out of Donald’s mouth is beyond exaggeration. “Only I can make America great again, he says; in spite of the fact America is still great.” “I’m the greatest businessman,” even though he lost a billion dollars in one year, filed bankruptcy 6 times and refuses to produce his tax returns to prove it. “I build the greatest buildings,” even though he merely puts his name in really big letters on someone else’s buildings and then promotes it for his own benefit. “I know more than the generals” or “I alone will destroy ISIS”, even though he hasn’t put forth one single sentence of a creditable foreign police plan in the last 2 years. Donald frequently refers to best selling book, “The Art of the Deal”, as the second best book of all time behind the bible and brags about it as his own work, even though Tony Schwartz actually wrote the entire book. He says he’ll build a wall (the biggest and best wall ever seen) and make Mexico pay for it, even though anyone with half a brain knows it’s a pipe dream. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines demagoguery as the “use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power.” Aesop warned against these promises of politicians (“Great cry and Little Wool”) in the fable “The Mountain in Labour.” He also might have read “The Ass In the Lion’s Skin,” the fable about a donkey who puts on a lion’s skin to intimidate and terrify all the foolish animals, but as soon as the fox heard the donkeys voice he said: “I might possibly have been frightened myself, if I had not heard your bray.” The moral is of course: clothes may disguise a fool, but his words will give him away.
Donald Trump regularly brags about his charitable trust and all the charities he donates to but it’s been proven that he never gave what he claimed to schools, veterans, 9-11 victims and others. He took credit for the donations made to his trust by others. In contrast, the Clintons give 11% of their income to charity and their foundation has collected $2 billion for charities around the world, 90% of which goes directly to the various charities. Sen. Bernie Sanders gives about 5% of his income to charity. Mr. Trump should have read: “The Fir and the Bramble” It tells of a fir tree that boasts to a bramble. “You are useful for nothing at all; while I am everywhere used to build roofs and houses.” The bramble answered: “You poor creature, if you would only call to mind the axes and saws which are about to hew you down, you would have reason to wish that you had grown up a bramble, not a fir tree.” The brambles and scrub trees are small but strong and are used in the making of saw and axe handles. The moral: “renown is accompanied by risks of which the humble are free.
And of course Mr. Trump denigrates everyone just to pump himself up. I think he hides an inferiority problem. Mr. Trump led the campaign and propagated lies about President Obama’s birthplace even before he decided to run for office. The Donald hasn’t said one single positive thing about President Obama’s eight years in office. That, in spite of this administration’s success in turning around an economy in free fall, one that was losing 800,000 jobs a month and heading into a depression. They bailed out the American auto industry, which is again making a record numbers of autos. Job creation has averaged more than 200,000 jobs a month and the total is more than 15 million since 2009. The unemployment rate has been cut in half to 4.9%. And the President has cut the deficit by two thirds; you would think he could have at least gotten an at-a-boy from businessman Trump for that.
The New York Times used two full pages of their paper to print out every person and organization insulted by Donald Trump on Twitter since his presidential campaign launched more than a year ago. The list contains 281 “people, places, and things,” including each and every one of his fellow Republican competitors. When I first saw the supremely effective Hillary Clinton campaign video, depicting children watching Donald Trump repeating all the extremely vile and derogatory things he’s said about women, people of color, immigrants and disabled folks, it reminded me of the fable, “The Eagle and the Arrow.” The parable of the soaring eagle who was mortally wounded by an archers arrow. As the eagle fell to earth bleeding to death, he looked at the arrow that pierced his body and discovered the arrow had been made with his own feathers. The moral of the story is: “We often give our enemies the means for our own destruction.”
It also reminds me of the “The Bee and Jupiter.” A queen bee ascended Mt. Olympus to present Jupiter with her fresh honey. As a reward, he granted her whatever she wished for. She said ” Give me, I pray thee, a sting that if any mortal shall approach to take my honey, I may kill him. Jupiter loved the human race, but had to grant his promise to the queen bee. So he told her “You shall have your request, but it will be at the peril of your own life. For if you use your sting, it shall remain in the wound you make and then you will die from the loss of it.” The moral: Evil wishes, like chickens, come home to roost.
“Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing,” a story originating in a sermon by Jesus from the New Testament and later told as an Aesop fable, told of a wolf who disguises himself in a sheep’s skin in order to get close to the sheep he wanted to eat. The moral is that: one’s basic nature eventually betrays itself. There’s a variant story that tells us the shepherd was fooled by the wolf’s disguise and he locked up the wolf with his sheep at night, but when the shepherd wanted to eat a sheep for supper, he mistakenly killed the wolf. The moral: Doing bad things can have unintended consequences.
Mr. Trump says over and over that he alone can save the Republican party, that he’s brought millions of new followers into the party. But who are these converts? They’re the voters who Hillary correctly labeled the “Deplorables.” These Folks (The Winuts) will stand by Trump no matter what he does, who he hurts, who he disparages, how deplorable his conduct is, how much he lies, how many folks he cheats, no matter his ties to Russia and their oligarchs and even if he were to shoot someone dead in Times Square. And the media has been fully complicit; giving him as much free rope and coverage as he’s was willing to take. And then Mr. Trump has the nerve to say the election is rigged against him. An apt Aesop fable here would be “The Mischievous Dog” a story about a dog that keeps biting people on the leg. It’s owner ties a bell around his neck to warn people. The dog thinks the bell is a reward so he prances around the town showing off his bell until an older dog tells him it’s really a sign of disgrace. The moral is: notoriety is often mistaken for fame.
This new collection of voters is well; you can’t really call them Republicans because they’re nothing like the Grand Old Party. Those moderates were all drummed out long ago. And you can’t call them conservatives because they’re the least conservative folks I know. Spending $4 or 5 trillion on an unnecessary war is not being conservative. You can’t call them a party because they’re as divided as any group can be. It’s an organization cleaved together basically to oppose, beyond all reason, the first black President in our history. And if Hillary is elected, they will continue to oppose, without rhyme or reason, the first female President in our history. These ‘Winuts’ will work against the “others” no matter the consequences to the country because compromising to them means total capitulation.
The Republican leadership created the environment for this (NTP) Neo Tea Party group to flourish when they got together on the eve of President Obama’s inauguration and hatched a plan to obstruct everything the President attempted to do. They wanted him to fail and become a one term president. They couldn’t care less if America and it’s middle class failed in the process. As long as America’s first black President failed, it was a “win.” Eighteen months ago, no one would have thought Donald Trump would be the standard bearer of the GOP. No one took his candidacy seriously and when they still could have stopped him, they didn’t because he was useful in bringing excitement to a moribund party. Then when he was exposed as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, its was too late. Reminds one of the fable “Belling the Cat” or “The Mice in Council,” a story about a group of mice who crafted a plan to put a bell around the neck of a dangerous cat, so they were warned when the cat was near. But none of the mice would volunteer to put the bell around the cats neck. The moral: The story was used to teach the wisdom of devising a plan not only on how effective it was but also on how to execute the plan, the fundamental difference between an idea and its feasibility.
Or he should have read “The Blind Man and the Lame.”
A blind man was carrying a lame man on his back,
And everything was going well, everything’s on track,
When the blind man decides to take it into his head
That he needn’t listen to all that the lame man said.
“This stick I have will guide the two of us safe,” said he,
And though warned by the lame man, he plowed into a tree.
On they proceeded; the lame man now warned of a brook,
The two survived, but their possessions a soaking took.
At last the blind man ignored the warning of a drop,
And that was to turn out their final and fatal stop.
And in the end, the Donald should have read “The Fox and The Grapes,” about the fox in a vineyard trying to get at the grapes hanging from the vines. Hard as he tried, he couldn’t reach the grapes. He took solace in that they were probably sour anyway. The moral of that story is: people sometimes belittle things they can’t have. This fable brought about the popular expression, “sour grapes.” If he loses to Hillary, he’ll probably say that he really didn’t want to be president after all, that the job would have crimped his style. He wouldn’t have been able to speak his mind (what there is of it) or do exactly what he wants because, well “quite frankly” he would have had to sit down and compromise with the Democrats and even with those in his own party in Congress who disagree with him, and with the FBI and the CIA and the EPA and the IRS and the Pentagon and with NATO and Mexico and Canada and with our other neighbors like Cuba and with Arabs and Muslims and of course would have had to work with black folks and Latinos and with women (who now make up a majority of the work force) without grabbing them by the private parts. And “quite frankly,” he just can’t fire everyone who would disagree with him. And of course he’s said he won’t respect the results of the election “unless he wins.” If that’s not sour grapes, what is?
The simple fact is, 10’s of millions of American’s still haven’t recovered from the great recession of 2008. 100’s of thousands of innocent families, including mine, lost their homes and life savings. None of the culprits who perpetrated that calamity and crisis have gone to jail. Most of us can no longer say that our children and grandchildren will have a better life than we had. Many of the young people today are saddled with a 30 year mortgage of student debt and can’t find the living wage jobs necessary to get over that hump or shed that albatross. State after state is broke and on the road to bankruptcy because unpatriotic multinational corporations fled the country and abandoned the tax paying American worker for cheap labor and lax regulations.
America faces enormous problems. A large national debt that threatens necessary investments in social services and crumbling infrastructure, low tax revenue from low wage jobs, ballooning student debt, rich folks and prosperous corporations that aren’t paying their fair share and the angry taxpayers who resent having to pick up the slack for them and for the lowest 47% who can’t pay anything at all. We face the catastrophic threat of global warming and climate change and a congress half full of deniers. Because of gridlock and obstruction by the Republicans who wanted the President to fail, our congress has an approval rating in the single digits. That gridlock won’t allow constructive debate and compromise, on comprehensive energy reform that emphasizes alternative sustainable energy over destructive fossil fuel interests, on comprehensive tax reform that closes the loop holes that allowed Mr. Trump and others to shirk their responsibilities, on comprehensive immigration reform that takes into account fair treatment of families who took advantage of the welcome mat held out for workers who took the dirty jobs American’s really didn’t want, or cooperation from the Republicans to fix and improve the Affordable Care Act, instead of demonizing and repeated efforts (60) to repeal help for 20 million or more deserving Americans (20,000 of which die every year simply because they don’t have insurance) and on a whole host of other legislation, including real budget reform.
Before you cast your vote on November 8th, ask yourself the tough questions, void of political bias. Who held out their hand for compromise, like the President did; instead of slapping it away, like the Republican leadership? Who’s not afraid to talk about immigrants without being derogatory? Who’s willing to face head-on the growing threat of climate change? Who will make the tough decisions on the national debt, tax reform and a budget with a line item veto? Who’s willing to compromise on these issues without holding them hostage to special interests or to political pressure from contributors? If you answer these questions truthfully, your choice on who to vote for will be apparent.
Some might be tempted to vote for a snake oil salesman barking miracle cures, but There’s an Italian proverb sometimes attributed to Aesop: “Jumping from the Frying Pan into the Fire” a story about some live fish thrown into a frying pan of hot grease. One of the fish talked the others into jumping out of the pan but of course they ended up on the hot coals. The moral: The fable warns us that when we’re trying to avoid present dangers, we should not fall into even worse peril. John Hanno, www.tarbabys.com