PETER DAY. Trump’s Tower of Babel

Feb 2, 2017

Indeed, “May God well bless America”, because what it needs now appears to be well beyond the scope of mere mortals.  

“Let’s make America great again,” said the leader of the free world on a big stage. 

“My dad’s going to buy a bigger and better car than what your dad’s got,” said the four year old as he reached for the sky on a swing. 

“America First,” said the leader of the free world from an imposing lectern. 

“Me, Me, Me,” said the four year old standing tall on a milk crate. 

You are no longer welcome here,” said the leader of the free world to seven of his neighbours – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Sudan. 

“You can’t play with me; I don’t like you anymore,” said the four year old to one of his classmates.

Is the United States set to become the world’s largest gated-community under President Trump: a community shaped by fear and childish self-centredness; one that closes itself off to outsiders who just don’t ‘speak our language’?

One is reminded of that instructive narrative from the Old Testament, the Tower of Babel, which tells the story of a proud peoples’ desire for greatness, containment, and control:

“Let us build for ourselves a city and a tower with its summit touching the heavens so we will make a name for ourselves lest we be scattered over the face of the earth.” (Gen 11:6)

But, like all ego-centric dreams, like all delusions of grandeur, it ends in tears and confusion: the Tower is never built and instead of one, united voice, the peoples are left divided and scattered; no longer able to understand their neighbour’s language – indeed, the word “Babel” is a pun on the word to “confuse”.

There is another cautionary tale that seems awfully apposite here: the one about a young Greek hunter known for his good looks – a man so proud that he disdained even those who loved him. His name: Narcissus.

Now, Narcissus’s character flaw was noticed by the goddess, Nemesis, whose role was to enact retribution against the proud. She lured the young, good-looking man with the world at his feet to a pool in order that he might see his reflection. It worked. And so enamoured was Narcissus by the beautiful creature looking back at him – he didn’t realise it was a mere image of himself – he fell in love with it and refused to leave the pool. He died staring at his own reflection.

The United States, too, has much beauty to it:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (From the U.S. Declaration of Independence)

The United States, too, has much to be genuinely proud of:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty… [a] nation, under God, [that]shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. (from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address)

And, the United States, too, is a young nation with the world at its feet.

Alas, the peoples of the United States appear to have abandoned the better angels of their nature by electing, not a towering man, but rather a man of towers; a hunter who seeks to dominate: potentially, another Narcissus leading not only himself, but his peoples, to a pool of emptiness and confusion.

Indeed, “May God well bless America”, because what it needs now appears to be well beyond the scope of mere mortals.

Peter Day is a Catholic Priest in Canberra.

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