March 16, 2016

Trump-y in Victory

Donald Trump won Florida on Tuesday with approximately 45% of the vote. Marco Rubio came in a distant second with about 17% of the vote. Last night, Rubio suspended his campaign. From the Federalist, we have this report of his conduct:
In his concession speech, Rubio spoke at length about his Christian faith and his belief that no matter what happens, God is in control. As he concluded his speech, he quoted a passage from 1 Chronicles 29 in which King David praises God for all his gifts. 
“Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours,” Rubio said. “In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.”
Of course, both Ted Cruz and Donald Trump responded to this announcement. Cruz responded in a very magnanimous way, saying:
Marco Rubio is a friend and a colleague who ran an optimistic campaign focused on the future of our party, conservative principles, and uplifting the American people. The Republican primary was stronger because of the ideas he brought forth. Marco's story embodies the promise of our great nation. I know he will continue to be a champion for limitless opportunity in America, and I wish Marco, Jeanette, and their four kids the very best.
Donald Trump seemed slightly less classy. According to the Washington Examiner, he "tweeted a final burn" to Rubio, namely:
Trump tweeted a clip of Rubio declaring last week: "I believe with all my heart that the winner of the Florida primary next Tuesday will be the nominee of the Republican Party." The video then cut to a screen showing Trump as the winner, followed by the words, "Thanks Marco We Agree!"
I wish to say a few words about magnanimity. Magnanimity, to use the Oxford English Dictionary, may be defined in several related ways, but for the purposes here, defined as either:
Well-founded high regard for oneself manifesting as generosity of spirit and equanimity in the face of trouble, etc. Also: greatness of thought or purpose; grandeur or nobility of designs, ambition, or spirit.
 Nobility or generosity of spirit; superiority to petty resentment or jealousy; noble or generous disregard of insults or injuries.
Magnanimity was once (and still often is, even if not known in name) an aspiration for men. Aristotle said of the magnanimous man:
He is not prone to marvel or to remember evils, since it is proper to a magnanimous person not to nurse memories, especially not of evils, but to overlook then
A famous aphorism from Winston Churchill regarding WWII is as follows:
In War: Resolution,
In Defeat: Defiance,
In Victory: Magnanimity
In Peace: Good Will.
The Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, had this to say on imitation of God:
If the Divine is faithful, he also must be faithful; if free, he also must be free; if beneficent, he also must be beneficent; if magnanimous, he also must be magnanimous. Thus as an imitator of God must he follow Him in every deed and word.
Donald Trump is a mockery of this virtue. He remembers every evil. He seems not to have grand or noble designs - instead, his every speech is flattery to the crowd. He reverses course when challenged on his own words, denying that he said them, or excusing them as an error of the moment. In fact, he seems more apt to live up to the OED obscure definitions related to his name: (1) trump - noun: "A thing of small value, a trifle; pl. goods of small value, trumpery;" and (2) trump - verb: "To deceive, cheat."

Men of magnanimity used to be admired. The term "the Great" was applied to leaders to were thought to be of great soul or spirit. Have we grown so small that the great-spirit among us now means very much the opposite of what it was? That the great-spirited in this day and age is the one who is cheered for stepping upon the defeated?

C.S. Lewis predicted the downfall of virtue as the result of certain educational moves in schools and society, even during his time, saying:

We have laughed at the idea of virtue in society, exchanging it instead for an ethics of utilitarianism. We are now on the verge of electing a man whose very nature is excess - excess in wives, in wealth, in appearance. He is the embodiment - the end, the telos - of an age dedicated to excess. His popularity cannot be denied, and I do not think it a stretch to say that his popularity is based in no small part upon his willingness to step upon and trample older ideals of virtue.

Trump may not be elected this time. But there will be another Trump, and another, and at some point, he or she will be elected. We should be prepared for it, and be sad, but not shocked when it occurs. The great Hilaire Belloc had this to say concerning men like this:
In a word, the Barbarian is discoverable everywhere in this, that he cannot make: that he can befog and destroy but that he cannot sustain; and of every Barbarian in the decline or peril of every civilization exactly that has been true. 
We sit by and watch the barbarian. We tolerate him in the long stretches of peace, we are not afraid. We are tickled by his irreverence; his comic inversion of our old certitudes and our fixed creed refreshes us; we laugh. But as we laugh we are watched by large and awful faces from beyond, and on these faces there are no smiles.

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