Donald Trump has become the first American president facing criminal charges. My first thought was the ancient idea of fate and retribution. There’s no point trying to escape. You can attempt to cheat your fate, but one day fate knocks on the door.
Da da da dah!
The most famous telling is the myth of Oedipus, the moralist’s ultimate moral tale of fate and the cruelty of judgement day. Or as another gloomy Roman poet put it, those whom the Gods will destroy, they first drive mad. Quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat.
Another ancient version of the fable was related by Somerset Maugham in his account of The Appointment in Samarra.
The speaker is Death, presented as a woman.
“There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions. In a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said,
Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture. Now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.
The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went on his way to Samarra,
Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?
That was not a threatening gesture [Fate told him], it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Bagdad … for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra”.
So, on to the story of Donald Trump. He is not one calmly to accept his downfall. There’s tragic heroism in his madness.
He tried to stay ahead of his fate by announcing it. The conspiracy against me continues, he cried. It’s all fake news. He is promising to make as public a spectacle of his arraignment as possible. This could be arranged away from the public gaze. Or, as fantasised by Donald Trump, there would be TV shots of him in handcuffs doing his perp walk, maybe in a prison suit from central casting.
Or maybe not …
It’s still a long ride to his appointment in Samarra.
Meanwhile, in the U.K. a similar story is developing over charges against Boris Johnson. But that deserves a blog of its own.