Drain The Swamp

A pearl from the Trump collection is today’s leitmotif. This one was a firm favorite, along with ‘Build That Wall’, and perhaps trumpsters viewed Comey as part of the fauna—there are certainly many who have come forward to praise the decision.

Personally, I’m quite fond of swamps, which form unique ecosystems. The species they contain are superbly adapted to low oxygen conditions, typical of slow waters, and the United States has some fantastic swamp and marsh areas, including the Louisiana Bayou and the Florida Everglades.

The thing about swamps, is that mostly when they’re drained what you see next is property development—and real estate cowboys are far more unsavory fauna than alligators and crocs.

The hapless US president isn’t draining the swamp—instead, the swamp seems to be draining him—swamps, by their very stillness and endurance, have a way of assimilating nearby objects.

Trump displays increasing signs of mental derangement, including, at the very least, paranoid delusion, megalomania, and pathological lying—if I had a family member exhibiting these behavioral traits, I would definitely be considering him for medical treatment.

History is full of mad monarchs, emperors, and princes. Some of these cases were caused by inbreeding, and some rulers were just plain nuts—since this is a mental health issue, there’s absolutely no reason why it cannot occur in this day and age, but it might be instructive to look at some emblematic examples of loonies.

We’ll start with the Romans: Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero are perhaps the best known, and suffered from such joys as paranoia and histrionic disorder. The latter is very interesting, and is defined by Psychology Today as (abridged):

Individuals with histrionic personality disorder exhibit excessive emotionality and are attention seekers. People with this disorder are uncomfortable or feel unappreciated when they are not the center of attention. Behaviors may include constant seeking of approval or attention, self-dramatization, theatricality, and striking self-centeredness or sexual seductiveness in inappropriate situations, including social, occupational, and professional relationships, beyond what is appropriate for the social context.

People with histrionic personality disorder commandeer the role of “life of the party.” Interests and conversation will be self-focused. Emotional expression may be shallow and rapidly shifting. Their style of speech is excessively impressionistic and lacking in detail. They will probably have difficulty with tasks that demand logical or analytical thinking.

Nero is said to have played the lyre after having set Rome on fire—to watch it burn.

Justin II took matters to a new level—as he descended into total madness, he was transported around his palace in a wheeled throne, ‘biting attendants as he passed.’

Insanity knows no religious boundaries, and there are several examples of Islamic rulers in our portfolio of nutcases. Having said that, a quick review of the antics of the ‘mad caliph’, and a couple of Ottoman prospects, reveal the usual obsessions with murder and sex—not really enough to sink my teeth into, as old Justin might say.

Compare that to the glorious dementia of Charles VI of France, known as Charles Le Fou. He reigned between 1380 and 1422, just before The India Road, and at points believed he was made of glass. Chaos following attempts to depose him led to a war between the Armagnacs and the Burgundians—now that’s what I call a satisfying war, presumably consisting of spirited battles. I suppose a US equivalent would be a war between the crafts and the bourbons.

If I had a hammer… Luther nails his colors to the mast at Wittenberg

Others do not satisfy my exacting criteria on the subject. Spain’s Joana La Loca seems eccentric at best—she apparently supported Martin Luther, but anyone forcibly confined to a nunnery would be keen to encourage a feisty man hammering on the church door; and Eric XIV of Sweden exhibits only marginal tendencies—a penchant for Icelandic women, and his efforts to marry Elizabeth I of England and Mary Queen of Scots—though not simultaneously.

The Middle Kingdom had Emperor Hui, who ruled over the last decade of the third century AD—as a youth, when near a pond (or perhaps a swamp), he said in all seriousness: “do the frogs croak because they want to, or because the government ordered them to?”

And lest you think modern-day leaders are exempt (and why would you?), I think a good case could be argued for Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, and Ghadafi—in some form or other, and sometimes in all forms, they were all as mad as a basket of fish.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, Clear Eyes, and Folk Tales For Future Dreamers. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

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