On the day Virginia seceeded from the Union, there was a scramble for control of Navy ships. The USS Merrimack was a steam powered frigate which had been in federal service for five years. She was moored at the Norfolk Navy Shipyard, along with many other Union vessels. In preparation to move the Merrimack to Philiadelphia, her engines were lit and plans were made to take her out to sea, away from advancing Confederate forces. However, during the night, small ships were cleverly sunk by the enemy, thereby blocking the Merrimack in dock. Her commanding officer ordered the crew to set fire to the ill-fated vessel and burned her down to the water line to prevent her from falling into Confederate hands. The USS Merrimack sank right where she had been moored.
Desperate to develop a navy, the Confederates raised the USS Merrimack and remade her into an ironclad ram. Nearly two years after being burned and sunk, she was renamed the CSS Virginia and put to use to disrupt the Union blockade. The Virgina saw action on several occasions, but was eventually trapped in a bay and faced the threat of being taken by the Union. The Confederate commader ordered her to be stripped of all value and destroyed (yet again). After plundering guns and munitions, the CSS Virginia was filled with a good amount of gunpowder. The resulting blast ripped her in two and sent her once again to the depths.
Scuttling, the deliberate sinking of a ship by it’s commander, commonly involves opening valves and hatches, lighting fires, or blowing a hole in the vessel. Donald Trump is the commander of the USS America. Surrounding himself with former military leaders, there is a wartime-like obsession with disabling our great vessel. To his devoted crew who romanticize authoritarian rule, scuttling makes perfect sense. It is adrenaline charged action against all that has stood in the way of right wing rule. The crew cheers with each destructive event, even as water rushes into the hull and our government rides low in the waves.
Never in the history of political transitions have there been so many unfilled leadership positions. Many agencies are running on autopilot. And in those cases where leaders have been appointed, many of those chosen have openly professed the intention to cause damage to the agencies they lead. Before being appointed as the 14th Secretary of the Department of Energy, Rick Perry ran a campaign to shut that department down. Before being appointed as the 11th Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos made it clear her intention was to divert public education funds to private schools. And before becoming the 17th Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson said poverty is a state of mind and stated his intention to cut services to the poor.
Domestically, Trump has knocked great holes in the side of our boat by defunding insurance subsidies for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), threatening the program’s solvency and ultimately threatening the health insurance of 20 million citizens. With another blast, he has defunded the Chidren’s Healthcare Insurance Program (CHIP) blowing 9 million poor children out of Medicaid coverage. White Supremacists have and been made to feel confortable on deck with their guns and axes and torches. They are chopping away at civil rights and setting fires. Smoke is billowing into the sky.
Internationally, the historical good will and trust of our allies has been badly damaged. Explosive charges have been detonated, blowing holes in the base of our great ship by questioning the US commitment to NATO, backing out of the Paris Accord thereby hampering an international response to global warming, decertifying the Iran nuclear deal and opening the door to future military engagement, and brushing aside diplomacy in favor of threatening North Korea with nuclear strikes.
Finally, plans are underway to remove plunder from our sinking ship. Beautiful yachts, the best money can buy, have pulled alongside the USS America. They wait greedily to load their hulls heavily with tax cuts for the richest citizens while Commander Trump falsely assures passengers there is no cause for concern as this massive removal of wealth will benefit everyone.
Like the USS Merrimack, the USS America is moored in her home port. The engines are lit, but she will not be going out to sea. No course has been charted. On the distant horizon, a potential rescue can be seen coming toward us, but it won’t arrive until November 2018. Will we be prepared to lend a hand?
[Special thanks to American Research Writer Micah Crittenden for critical input]