By now, we have all probably had enough of Donald Trump, from the atrocities of 1/6 and his leadership then in the insurrection to his criminal indictments, perhaps totaling four very likely before August ends, and all punditry and writings in-between. We cannot also forget the civil lawsuits like those brought against him by New York’s AG for trial in the fall, and those won and brought for sexual assault and defamation by E. Jean Carroll, where the federal judge last week found Trump to have raped her.
On the other side of this ledger are Trump’s own words, pronouncing himself as the victim who has done nothing violative of any of our laws and is being prosecuted only for political reasons. Through any objective lens, however, it is the very foundation of our country’s existence and way of life that is being threatened by what Trump has done and, with his minions without reason or comprehension, following like lap dogs. But what we see now in Trump’s 21st century words and antics not only can remind us of Hitler’s speeches in Germany, circa 1933, but, more of a memory, to what Tinseltown made for us to view in 1956.
67 years ago, the epic film, The Ten Commandments, hit the silver screen. It was produced, directed, and narrated by Cecil B. DeMille, and starred stage and screen luminaries Charlton Heston in the lead role as Moses; Yul Brynner as the Egyptian ruler, Rameses; Anne Baxter, Edward G. Robinson and literally a cast of hundreds. For those of us that remember, it was a story of Heston’s Moses as an adopted Egyptian prince who becomes the deliverer of his real brethren, the enslaved Hebrews, and thereafter leads the exodus to Mount Sinai, where he receives from the Almighty, the Ten Commandments.
While Heston’s character was at Mount Sinai to receive God’s will, impatience grew among the faithful that waited for him to return. They made a golden calf—an idol—to pledge their faith and allegiance. The faithful danced and pranced deliriously around this new “messiah” until Moses returned. He was angered by what he saw and how they were misled into delusional fancy. As depicted in the movie, he threw the tablets at the false god they made, destroying it into smithereens.
Again, that picture was made in 1956, 65 years before the cradle of our democracy was savagely plundered on that 6th day in January. The movie’s scene, though fictional, is a depiction of how a mob of wayward individuals can lose their moral compass. Fiction, however, has become fact. In the past many weeks and months for example, hundreds involved that day have been arrested, indicted, tried, convicted, and some jailed.
As well, the scenes involving the golden calf, though never a clarion call to protect ourselves from events to occur decades later, proved prescient given the reality of 1/6. The souls Moses intended to lead to the promised land with inclusion for all who substituted the words of the Lord with their own creation were just as ignominious as the insurrectionists who fashioned Trump their false deity. And with criminal indictments naming Trump as a defendant, with what happened to the calf, so, it is hoped, goes Trump by the rule of law stripping his veneer to judge his transgressions and, in the process, to save our democracy.
Though the horizon for this episode in democracy is a ways from coming into focus, Trump, if by way of only example, is but one more chapter of what our country has had to endure if American history be our guide. Protecting the existence of democracy is never tidy so we must contend with those Americans among our ranks—some who are violent, others misguided and not grounded in objectivity and reality—that cannot distinguish a golden calf from a false idol. So, what must be done?
“We the People”, embedded in our founding documents, is the guardrail for everlasting democracy. These three words, with the rule of law governing us all, are much like Moses’ tablets as if a metaphor—preventing either the golden calf created by a Hollywood film stage or, now taking the form of Trump, from being nothing more than a false idol incapable of enduring and lasting existence.
A graduate of Case Law School in Cleveland, Miles Zaremski is the longest-serving chair of the American Bar Assoc.’s Standing Committee on Medical Professional Liability and a past president of the international organization, The American College of Legal Medicine. He is also an author of many acknowledged and peer-reviewed publications, including several articles published by this site.