Alden Graves | Graves registry: The convenient death of a very rich man
"Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." — Matthew 19:24
John Ford, the peerless American film director who gave us "How Green Was My Valley," "The Grapes of Wrath" and "The Quiet Man," made only one movie in his very long career that involved rich people ("The World Moves On," 1934). Ford was customarily blunt when he was asked why. He couldn't abide the rich and believed that the folks who lived on Tobacco Road were much more worthy of his artistry than the denizens of Park Avenue.
What an uncharitable attitude when we are supposed to envy the rich. Isn't that the real source of all our complaining about how receptive this nation is to their best interests? We are petty and we would change places with them in a heartbeat. Ah, the nights of peaceful sleep that thought must have induced in trendy suburbs while water rippled gently in the pools out back and others slept in cardboard boxes in dank city alleyways. (Ah, Graves is going at it again with the bleeding heart blarney.)
One of the major political parties has a devotion to them that ranks with the passion between Cathy and Heathcliff. Donald Trump has built his theme park persona on being the living embodiment of unbridled wealth in much the same way that Walt Disney made Mickey Mouse the symbol of his entertainment empire. I'm sure that there are other similarities that can be drawn between Donald and Mickey, but I won't do it here.
The obscene amount of green the rich have managed to acquire (or inherit) is supposed to trigger the green in the rest of us. But there is a point — and that point has come into much sharper focus during the past few years — when the resentment of the have-nots toward those who have begins to assume a force that can alter the course of history. What many dismissed as envy in the past finally manifested itself as fury. Ask Marie Antoinette or Tsar Nicholas and his family.
Lillian Hellman, in her brilliant American play, called them "the little foxes," taken from another Biblical passage in the Song of Solomon: "Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes." They are the same people, 70 years after Hellman's play opened in New York, who are still claiming, despite the evidence of the hottest summer on record, storms that have decimated parts of the world, and the consensus of over 95 percent of scientists, that climate change is a hoax.
They are the same little foxes who benefit so lavishly from the type of military grade assault weapons that can turn parking lots in America into scenes reminiscent of the Little Big Horn. They can look at statistics from countries that don't experience mass shootings because they have enacted sane gun laws and blame the American carnage on video games and spout self-serving gibberish about building more mental institutions with money they won't vote to spend.
Another great American writer had a very concise assessment of the rich. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote (I am paraphrasing) that they wreak their havoc upon the rest of us and then retreat into their money when things get uncomfortable for them.
The disparity between the affluent and the rest of us is so glaringly apparent in the judicial system, jails are now referred to as evidence of the New Jim Crow. The sordid history of Jeffrey Epstein's predatory deviancy might have been stopped over ten years ago, but he was a multimillionaire with connections to many equally wealthy and influential friends. Trump called him a "terrific guy" until the dissolute pair of high life hedonists had a falling out about (what else?) money.
In a facet of Epstein's first trial that would almost be laughable if his expensive freedom wasn't ultimately so tragic for a number of vulnerable children, one of his lawyers was squeaky-clean crusader Ken Starr, who was so mightily offended by Bill Clinton's lechery.
I find it very difficult to summon up even a smidgen of Christian sympathy over Mr. Epstein's suicide while he was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. It was, to say the least, a very convenient death for a number of people whose names have bubbled to the surface of the mucky swamp that was Epstein's life, including Mr. Clinton. Prison authorities, who have absolutely no training to make such conclusions, decided that Epstein was no longer at risk after an earlier attempt was made and, evidently, he was left unsupervised long enough to be able to successfully hang himself.
The whole business, to coin a phrase, stinks to high heaven.
Donald Trump has shown us how ugly and dehumanizing the relentless pursuit of wealth can be; what it can do to a person's soul. But the real danger that Trump has always posed to the United States has nothing to do with one man's petty vindictiveness or his complete inability to emphasize with other peoples' pain. Long before Donald Trump set foot in the Oval Office, he revealed himself to be an attention starved clown, claiming to be a fabulously rich businessman who still had time to appear on a dimwitted television series where he played at being a fabulously rich businessman.
Too many people looked at those dollar signs that seemed to hover around Trump like a beckoning mirage and thought it was all the qualification he needed. This is, after all, the country where realizing the American Dream will always prevail over the nightmare costs the pursuit may inflict upon others.
Alden Graves writes a regular column for the Banner.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.