Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Traitor Week #3: Benedict Arnold—"Whom can we trust now?"

Benedict Arnold
      No, I'm not Nostradamus—I conceived Traitor Week months ago, starting with Catiline, then Judas, and continuing today with the most famous traitor in American history, posting it now because I'm on vacation. Not that I knew Trump would put in a jaw-dropping display of obsequiousness and betrayal in Helsinki. But because he was a traitor last week, and last month, and last year. Only now it's finally dawning on some folks who have spent years being willfully blind. Welcome to the club. What took ya? And what's going to prevent you from doing that Terminator II metal man thing you do where, however the Trump is Great worldview is blown apart by reality, your folly somehow manages to reconstitute itself and keep plodding forward? 

     Whoever glorifies the past is displaying a profound ignorance of it. People weren't nobler or better back then. They were always people, alas. What happens is we forget the long stretches of selfishness and meanness, remembering only the stuff we want to remember: the moments of splendor, chiefly.      

      Although there are exceptions. With traitor Benedict Arnold, we tend to remember the treason and forget the glory that went before.
      Benedict Arnold was a hero of the American Revolution. He was with Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys when they captured Fort Ticonderoga. Half his men died or deserted during the long march to Quebec City, where Arnold's leg was shattered by a British musket ball. He was brave, daring, dedicated.
     But Arnold's heroism, rather than fortify the man, only embittered him, and he felt less appreciated, more passed over (not without reason; he had powerful enemies). He sulked. He complained to Washington, who summed up the American mood of the moment in a way that would shock our veneration of the Spirit of '76.
     ''Such a dirty, mercenary spirit pervades the whole," the Father of Our Country wrote, "that I should not be surprised at any disaster that may happen.''

     That disaster was Benedict Arnold, who took his greed and jealousy and began putting out feelers to Mother England around 1779. He made contact with the British and, as befits the business man he had once been, carefully negotiated just how much he would get for the specific treason he had in mind—the surrender of the key American fort at West Point. 
      He earned the command, and all was going according to plan when one Maj. John Andre, of the British Army, fell into American hands carrying incriminating papers of Arnold's plot. Often it is not the traitor himself but his confederates, who first give away the game.
     "Arnold has betrayed me," Washington despaired. "Whom can we trust now?''    
     Not as many as Washington would have liked. A quarter of colonists, remember, supported the Crown, and given they had been subjects a few years earlier, it could hardly be considered treason, and more a case of picking the wrong side of history. With Arnold, the treason is more direct, since he wore a uniform.
     Arnold not only escaped, but published a letter, rationalizing his treason with the classic taken-out-of-context defense. As is common with traitors, he insisted he was a patriot, trying to make his country great again:
     "Love to my country actuates my present conduct," he wrote. "However it may appear inconsistent to the world, who very seldom judge right of any man's actions."
     Arnold escaped to serve the British during the war and to live in London afterward, his only punishment being that his name would go down in infamy for the rest of American history. Although I would suggest that another name might soon be synonymous with treason, drawing even more scorn that Arnold's
     Although we are in different times and the amazing development now is that while Trump's treason has long been suspected and openly discussed, his supporters show an astounding resilience. There is no development so explosive that its radiance penetrates through the hands clapped over their own eyes. The skill of ignoring sins, honed on gaffes and insults, has proved strong and durable. The issue of just how strong and how durable are the institutions on which our country's future will depend. 


  1. Our current president is using his relationship with the Russian president and oligarchs associated with Putin's government who help bring him to power as a lever to threaten our allies in Europe poltically and economically. Likely for his own personal benefit and those of his cronies.
    This plays well with his base for some reason because he frames it in such a way that Americans who feel harmed By international trade policies that benefit foreign countries. many of these Americans feel like their economic difficulties are a result of those policies. They fail to realize that elevating the circumstances of the less fortunate around the world benefits the American economy in many ways and gives stability to the political relationships we have with many of these countries .
    The reason Trump can play it this way is because our trade agreements do not benefit the average American directly but wealthy Americans.

    many people who have been unable to achieve the American dream or even see their children do better than they did are flocking to this man and I believe it's more people everyday.

    You're right Neil his actions while while damaging to our nation are seen by him and his followers as patriotic.
    Do his actions rise to the level of treason? Possibly
    Clearly the man is drunk with power which he weilds like a despot. Mainly for his and those around hims benefit.
    President Obama warned of the end of democracy and strong man politics leading to tribalism.

    We are witnessing a leader who is bent on taking the world in that direction. He must be stopped

    1. Yes, but how? The senate will not impeach.

  2. I'm starting to see why the "deep state" is a necessary component of Trump loyalty. It answers all questions, settles all doubts, calms those bothered by Trumpean bluster. The "deep state" is capable of anything and everything. Of course nobody can prove that it doesn't exist. Like dark matter/energy to physicists, it is necessary to balance the scales, to explain the inexplicable, to demonstrate how appearances not only can deceive, but must deceive.


  3. There are traitors of all stripes within the Republican Party like the ones that call themselves Sovereign Citizens, who believe they are exempt from the laws and taxes of our country, and file ridiculous lawsuits against our government. People like racist rancher Ammon Bundy who don't pay their grazing fees. Now there are traitorous rich Democrats filing a stupid lawsuit. Reading that article was so exhilarating, if schadenfreude were an opiate, I would have OD'd. Even as you read this I'm writing a letter to Trump, Ryan and McConnell, not with crayon as would be appropriate, but a thick colored pencil that will give it an aura of authenticity. It will suggest a new tax, a flat 50% tax rate on non-charitable distributions, including management fees, from any kind of charitable trust. If it comes to pass, insert earplugs to dim the howling from people like Pritzker, Kennedy, Buffet, and Gates. The beautiful part of this scheme is if they dissolve the charity, there is no mechanism to transfer the funds back to the Board members or managers, remaining funds must be distributed as set in the charter.

  4. Oops sorry, I meant to say Cliven Bundy is the racist, Ammon Bundy is normal, as these things go.

  5. What pushed Arnold over the edge into treason was not getting any of the credit he richly deserved for the victory at Saratoga, the colonists' greatest triumph of the war up to that point. He didn't get credit because he was badly shot up on the last day of the battle (due to his habit of leading his troops from the front, unlike most generals of that or this day) and was unable to file any reports. This left Horatio Gates to hog all the glory, a task at which he was far better than at actually commanding troops, as he went on to prove in the Carolinas.

    The moral, maybe, is to let your subordinates get the credit they deserve. Otherwise, you never know when they might sell you out.

  6. impeachment is the wrong way to go. It makes him a martyr. Let us wait until after mid-terms and censure.
    Invoke congressional powers and reestablish the checks and balances. Vote against every nominee until his presidency is a wounded and dying duck.
    Sometimes our actions have unintended consequences And impeaching Trump has ONE BIG ONE.
    Do not allow Pence to take the reins of power. If you think Trump is terrible, you don't want to imagine the damage that Pence could do with his evangelical base supporting every hateful and reactionary action he would take to implement his unchristian "christian" views of society upon us.
    A dying man needs medical attention. Pence says he didn't pray hard enough. Screw that non-sense running our nation.
    Your town gets hit by a Tornado - God is showing his power. And who is the government to deny the will of God.
    You don't want Pence. Believe me. You don't.
    I'm a One time Hoosier who came running back to Illinois.

    The KKK will be welcomed to the Whitehouse as representatives of a Christian denomination on par with a Lutheran Bishop.
    This guy is not one you want anywhere near the button that would bring about Armageddon.
    He would deploy nuke and destroy the planet to spite what he thinks is America's evil bent towards acceptance of LGBTQ rights, let alone the abomination of interracial marriage and "brown people forcing their culture on God fearing white Christians". He has to destroy America in order to save it.
    Do you really want that kind of person as ruler of the free-world..

    1. The logic of the deeply religious amazes me. Take Steve Scalise at his news conference after recovering from his gunshot wounds. He thanks god for putting an experienced doctor nearby to save his life. I am wondering, if a god chose to intervene why didn't he stop the shooter? People will go to the most convoluted extremes to credit their god and when he doesn't intervene in some tragedy they say "it's a mystery". Yeah it's a mystery that people buy that bullshit.

    2. The most sensible plea for divine assistance is attributed to Prince Leopold of Anholt-Dessau, who prayed thusly before the battle of Kesselhof (1745): "Lord help us to victory, but, if you can't, at least avoid helping those scoundrels on the other side."


  7. At the Saratoga Battlefield, there's a monument to Arnold which is known as the Boot Monument.
    The inscription is this: "In memory of the most brilliant soldier of the Continental army, who was desperately wounded on this spot, winning for his countrymen the decisive battle of the American Revolution, and for himself the rank of Major General."
    Arnold's name is nowhere to be seen.
    There's also an obelisk that has the statues of three of the generals who won the battle, the fourth is empty & will remain that way forever, as that side would be a statue of the traitor!

    1. It turns out that New London Connecticut holds an annual burning of Arnold's effigy every September. In September, 1781, he led the last British victory & ordered that every building in the town be burned. So New London hated him.

  8. I agree with you about Pence, He would keep the religious wing-nuts and white nationalists, but I think he would lose the Trump zealots...those people who love him no matter what he does. Trump could take a dump on your dog in your backyard during your kids BD party while the bank forecloses on your house because you lost your job due to Trump's tariff bullshit, and they'd still salivate over him. That has to be, what? 10-15% of his supporters. Pence has the charisma of a roll of nickels; I think he'd serve out Trump's term and be out the door.

  9. The Bible-thumpers and white supremicists and the folks I call "Christian Fascists" would love Forty-and-Six-Pence, but their numbers are not large. Even so, if he finished out the final year or two of the term of His Orangeness, Mikey could still do a helluva lot of damage. Collateral damage, you might call it.


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