April 21, 2018

522 words 3 mins read

The Odyssey of Eric Greitens

O Divine Poesy, goddess, daughter of Zeus, sustain for me this song of the various-minded man who, after he had plundered the innermost citadel of hallowed Troy, was made to stay grievously about the coasts of men, the sport of their customs, good and bad, while his heart, through all the sea-faring, ached with an agony to redeem himself and bring his company safe home. Vain hope – for them. The fools! Their own witlessness cast them aside. To destroy for meat the oxen of the most exalted Sun, wherefore the Sun-god blotted out the day of their return. Make this tale live for us in all its many bearings, O Muse.

– from Homer’s Odyssey, translation by T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)

I try to remember that I am the villain in somebody else’s story.

In 2016, Republicans took control of the White House, Congress, and ran the table in Missouri.

But that wasn’t good enough for many Republicans. Some wanted to win only on their own terms. They wanted Burkean conservatives or Establishment lap dogs. They wanted cradle cons, not converts. Sore winners. Perennial losers.

Those who despised Trump and Greitens from the get-go see themselves as the heroes of their story. Same for those who once championed the Greitens cause but have since turned on him. They see people like me as the villains. That’s just the way our brains work. We are each the protagonist in the hero’s journey that we write in our minds.

The archetypal hero’s journey is, of course, Homer’s Odyssey. After the battle of Troy, Odysseus wants only to return home with his crew. But many obstacles block his way. As Lawrence so perfectly described Odysseus' plight: “the Sun-god blotted out the day of their return.”

The more you pay attention the more you see Republicans destroying for meat the leaders who delivered them from their long exile. Trump and Greitens, being imperfect, have become for some Republicans sacrificial beasts.

I am sure the Republicans calling for Greitens to resign believe they are defending some lofty principle. A principle that prevents victory. They would rather see America become Sudan and Missouri become California than defend and support a president and governor whose styles and indiscretions deviate from the standards they hold for themselves.

In their narratives, they are the heroes. They see themselves as principled.

But I wonder.

[Question Josh Hawley’s motives here]

Odysseus could have (should have?) abandoned his foolish men and returned home alone. His men caused most of Odysseus’s pain and delay. Those men violated all the principles that Odysseus bound to himself.

But Odysseus never abandoned his crew, the fools who caused him so much agony. The crew, who were each the hero of his own mental story, died in the wine-dark seas.

For one instant they rode black upon the water, upborne like sea-fowl on the heaving waves past the black ship. Then the God ended their journey home.

For his leadership and loyalty, Odysseus returned home while his men, for their foolishness, did not.

In the odyssey of Eric Greitens, are you Odysseus or are you the crew?