Post # 359  EVEN HERMAN MELVILLE WAS STUMPED

There are tacit assumptions and mandatory expectations of every member of a society. As Rousseau famously stated, in his “Social Contract,” man gives up some liberty, contractually, in exchange for the benefits of living in society. This 18th Century legal observation is the keystone of all civilized and orderly communities of homo sapiens. To qualify as a participating member, there are tacitly acknowledged, “rules of the road,” including, importantly, behavioral expectations. In the event of exceptional violations of acceptable social behavior, there are written Statutes and Ordinances, to keep the peace and to provide for precedential justice. Essentially and fundamentally, it is the credible assumption of general compliance with expectations, that assures the interactive success of the human community.

There would be no practical way to recount the very many illustrative examples of compliance with societal expectations, such as, parents caring for their children, teachers teaching, postmen delivering mail, doctors and nurses providing health services, bus drivers driving buses. These sort of expectations, together with the expected, acceptable standard of interactive behavior, that furnishes the electrical current for the functioning of the appliance of society.

This Nation, in its past, has had the unfortunate experience of a few unsatisfactory heads of State, but did not find itself in the present unfathomable and thorny dilemma as to its resolution. The Constitution, indeed, provides two routes viable for the removal of a President, impeachment and Art.5 removal; the latter is, at present, virtually, a procedural impossibility, and, it appears that the former, in the present political climate, seems to demonstrate a unique and unprecedented conundrum.

We are  distressed and embarrassed at the President’s evident incapability, to perform the sworn duties of the most powerful and consequential office on the planet; his demonstrated ignorance, his acts of treasonous behavior, his intentional and immoral violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, his unrestrained and completely impulsive  acts and policies, nationally and internationally, his repulsive tolerance of white nationalists and other reprehensible bigots, his abuse of women and denigration of their human rights, his ominous denial of climate change, his disparagement of knowledge and learning, his daily obnoxious and uncivil behavior and tragically, so much more.

It might strain credulity, as being applicable to any President of a National community, but there exists an even more fundamental and insidious, characteristic of Trump’s unique persona, creating an unprecedented dilemma, applicable to this particular, bizarre and unique, head of State.

In 1853, Herman Melville, the brilliant author of the great classic novel,” Moby Dick”, wrote a novelette, “Bartelby the Scrivener,” which may be of some analogous utility to this writing. The protagonist, as the archaically worded title suggests, is a meek clerk, a copier, for an attorney. One day, when Bartelby was, routinely, instructed to copy some documents, as was his customary duty, he refused. In fact, the protagonist continued to refuse all further directions from his employer, including eventually, the command to get out, which was also refused. The employer, thereafter, after unsuccessfully failing to get the recalcitrant clerk to separate himself, actually thought that he solved the problem, by actually removing his practice to a new location; this, too, did not work.

What Melville was getting at, is that society’s existence (or weakness) is found in its necessary. practical dependency on the tacit, fundamental, and willing, compliance of its members, concerning expected and predictable action. Without such expectations and compliance, there can be no workable society.

Donald Trump has consistently demonstrated, that he has no intention of being bound by historical and legal, or ethical rules and expectations, regarding his behavior as President of the United States nor regarding his personal behavior; which behaviors, to him, presumably, and ignorantly, are indistinguishable. Debate is presently raging, as to those who believe that impeachment is necessary, in order to vindicate respect for law and propriety, and those who feel that the impeachment process would give Trump, more desired exposure to the limelight, which he neurotically craves, create more National divisiveness and consume valuable legislative time.

It is apparent that Mr. Trump will play no individual or professional part in the recognition of accepted societal or National expectations; nor even in a basic anthropological recognition of the universal social contract. He is unpredictable and, like Melville’s,” Bartelby the Scrivener,” sees himself as outside of the responsible context and the reach of society.

We may have to wait for 2020!

-p.

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plinyblogcom

Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Literature Student and enthusiast.

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