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Trump Is No Nero

May 24, 2017

To the Editor:

I recently finished the second reading of the May 10 Commentary titled “Democracy Smolders as Nero Plucks His Lyre.” Upon completion of the second reading my initial thought was that I had mistakenly overlooked a tag line indicating that it was just an April Fool’s trick, but then I realized April 1 had passed more than a month ago and Mr. Rooney’s thoughts were really legit. 

I have no specialized training in either historical or legal fields of study, yet we all know from experience that neither of those fields of endeavor can claim to have a perfect score when it comes to evaluation of past performances over time. Take, for example, the most publicized of all trials, the O.J. Simpson case, where money bought the best defense available and jury nullification produced a highly questionable and prejudicial verdict. And, historically, it is well known that Paul Revere did not make that historic ride, a fact that was drummed into our memory banks so long ago. It was, in fact, Israel Bissell.

So, rather than dignify Mr. Rooney’s long and tedious, highly partisan, error-filled, fact-distorting, demonstration-motivating, “sky is falling” and pre-pubescent name calling rant with factual arguments, which would obviously be lengthy and subject to severe editing, I’ll just concentrate on the first paragraph and a glaring error: the comparison of Emperor Nero of Rome with U.S. President Trump.

According to Wikipedia, Nero was nominated emperor by his mother at the tender age of 17 and eventually had her assassinated because she played too great a role in dominating his life. President Trump was legitimately and legally voted into office by the Electoral College system. Nero married his stepsister, Claudia Octavia. Does anyone see any comparison?

Nero was prone to extravagances and raised taxes to pay for private and public works he deemed necessary. Those whom he discovered were threats to his existence he had executed. President Trump has promised to simplify and cut taxes and is currently working on a tax reduction plan which should be released before the end of this year and there have been no reports of President Trump ordering anyone’s “termination” to date. 

Additionally, there has not been a scintilla of evidence produced that involves collusion with Russia. What is certain is that he has become a strong proponent of “law and order,” acting accordingly, especially as related to gangs, border security, sanctuary cities and illegal drug smuggling. He enjoys the overwhelming support of the country’s law enforcement professionals as well as the military, which suffered severe cutbacks under the former administration for the past eight years.  

In 68 A.D., Rome experienced a rebellion that resulted in a civilian military revolt and selection of a Roman named Galba as emperor. Nero fled Rome and was either captured and executed or committed suicide when told he was condemned to death by the new government.

Many Romans believed that the great Roman fire of 64 A.D. was initiated by Nero to clear the way for a new palatial complex and that many Christians were cruelly put to death in the inferno. Although Nero was considered a tyrant capable of absolute, cruel, unjust and oppressive behavior, there is only rumor to support the thought that Nero was in Rome plucking his lyre while Rome burned. According to Tacitus, while Rome burned, not an uncommon event at that time, Nero was in Antium, his birthplace and some 30 miles south of Rome. So much for the comparison of Nero with President Trump; it simply doesn’t exist.

Question: If so much of the Mr. Rooney’s first paragraph is questionable, how much of the remainder should you trust or believe is true?

The end of the first paragraph quotes the Washington Post’s new slogan, “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” and concludes it is one of two historical ideas that should inspire readers to speak, act and rescue America. How can a new slogan be historical? And, by the way, in actuality, the only place where darkness exists today, and where history has shown it has existed in the past, is where freedom of speech/press and those holding and/or espousing opposing viewpoints are either prohibited, boycotted or confronted with violent protests, vandalism or overtly crude and disruptive behavior – a scenario totally out of character for college-level students or graduates attending commencement exercises.

Darkness exists where students of any age are subjected to “it’s my way or the highway” presentations by college educators, which now seem to be occurring more frequently across America. Students should be exposed to all sides of a topic or subject and invite/encourage opposing viewpoints. At a time when diversity and tolerance should, and need to, be a top priority, it seems that both students as well as educators have a critical inability to tolerate diversity, in belief, ideas, thoughts, speech, the written word, and the tolerance to abide by the 1st Amendment.

While I totally disagree with 99.9 percent of what Mr. Rooney thinks and purports as facts, I wholeheartedly support his right, freedom and liberty to air his thoughts. The truly sad part is that individuals such as Mr. Rooney hold positions where their highly partisan and one-sided views can be directed toward totally vulnerable students (a captive audience) and other individuals who might not have yet acquired the necessary mental “filters,” which gradually materialize over time as a consequence of age, experience, education and training, and which make it possible to “filter” out and separate legitimate “news” from “fake news,” rumors, innuendos, supposition and editorial commentary.

And what’s even more disturbing is Mr. Rooney’s “dog whistle” call to anyone who may adhere to a more liberal/socialist ideology (about half of the voters) to do everything in our power to resist,” which I fear may be misinterpreted by some evil-doers as a call to foment confrontation, demonstration, obstruction, denunciation and demagoguery – the combination of which we have at times seen lead to violence, vandalism, damage and injury.

More than 100 days have passed since the last presidential election. Half of the country is optimistic, believing we’re on the right track, while half is beyond pessimistic, refusing to accept the election’s result. Those who are unhappy have two choices: accept the next few years and wait until the next election to vote their preference or leave the country. Voters have power, and as former President Obama said, “Elections have consequences.” Obstruction, violence, lawless behavior and anarchy are not viable solutions.

In closing, I can think of no words or advice more appropriate to offer politicians, reporters, educators and laymen than the following:

My mother always reminded me, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” In 1992 Rodney King said, “Can we all just get along?” and “Can we stop making it horrible for the older people and the kids?” Words to the wise. 

Sander (“Sandy”) Fox

Little Egg Harbor

 

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