|"Shield with the Face of Medusa" by Arnold Böcklin (Musée d'Orsay)|
Enough about President Donald Trump. I’m sick of him, too. He isn’t conceding. Not today, anyway. He may never concede the election he lost but will be dragged from the White House sobbing and pleading like James Cagney going to the electric chair at the end of “Angels With Dirty Faces,” his hands pried off a radiator.
Let’s talk instead about the Republicans who support Trump as he tries to overturn an American election. How can they shirk from their sworn duty at this moment of national peril? Is there anything in history to help us understand?
There’s no trouble finding traitors: Benedict Arnold, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Jonathan Pollard, and of course our current president, catspaw of the Russians, friend of dictators.
But when reflecting on the moral repugnance of men like Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio — four powerful Republican senators who know better, who see what Trump is attempting, yet do nothing, or worse abet him — I search history in vain for similar craven cowardice.
Literature offers a few: “Lord Jim,” by Joseph Conrad. Jim is a British sailor on the crew of the Patna, a ship on the Red Sea. The ship founders, and the captain and crew — and after some hesitation, Jim — abandon the ship and its 800 Muslim pilgrims.
Only the Patna doesn’t sink. It’s towed into port, and Jim and his shipmates are publicly vilified. He wanders the world, fleeing his shame. But that’s fiction.
I turned to Chris Walsh, author of “Cowardice” and director of the College of Arts & Science’s Writing Program at Boston University. So many leaders are hiding from their duty; why am I having trouble finding parallels in history?
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