In his essay “The Eighth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon,” Karl Marx quotes the Hegelian idea that “all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice.
“He forgot to add the first time as tragedy,” Marx went on, “the second time as farce.”
On Thursday, the world marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy to liberate Europe of Nazi tyranny. The Allies have been marking it as shadows of themselves. During the American Revolution, the British invaded the colonies, bringing death and destruction. This week, we returned the favor. We sent them Trump.
It’s a measure of how far America and the mother country have fallen that no sooner did the president arrive than he became embroiled in controversy over whether or not he called Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, a critic, “nasty” (he did); the size of the adoring crowds (miniscule but the protests were large); and his running war of words with London Mayor Sadiq Khan, whom he labeled short. (Anyone whose appearance can recall the walrus-like William Howard Taft in tails should not be commenting on the appearance of others.) Nor should guests be commenting on the policies of their hosts, as in Trumpet’s Brexit meddling.
The British must be careful in any trade negotiation with Trump. Look how he’s squeezing the Mexicans with the threat of a five percent tariff if they don’t crack down on illegal immigration. El Presidente isn’t going to do them any favors.
If the D-Day commemoration in Portsmouth, England proved anything, it was the crisis of leadership we’re now in. The sight of Trump striding across the stage to read President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s D-Day prayer against the backdrop of an FDR blowup made me tear up. We’ve come a long way down. And yet, there remained an example of leadership on that stage in Roosevelt.
History is not the past. It’s the story of the past — one that is ever new as it provides us with courage and hope.