Burke: Three of Aesop’s fables, fractured by Trumpian lore

Written thousands of years ago, Aesop’s morals still hold true when applied to the Trump presidency.

By Tom Burke / Herald columnist

* with apologies to Aesop

As I was reading some of Aesop’s Fables to one of my grandchildren I was struck by how they resonate even today, 2,500 years after being penned!

Aesop’s lessons, while seemingly pretty basic, are actually quite pointed, so on-target with the nature and behavior of this president I couldn’t help but share them.

So here’s a few, culled from the Library of Congress’s “bookshelf.”

“The Ass in the Lion’s Skin”

An Ass found a Lion’s skin left in the forest by a hunter. He dressed himself in it and amused himself by hiding in a thicket and rushing out suddenly at the animals who passed by. All took to their heels the moment they saw him.

The Ass was so pleased to see the animals running away from him, just as if he were King Lion himself, that he could not keep from expressing his delight by a loud, harsh bray. A Fox, who ran with the rest, stopped short as soon as he heard the voice. Approaching the Ass, he said with a laugh:

“If you had kept your mouth shut you might have frightened me, too. But you gave yourself away with that silly bray.”

The moral of the story: A fool may deceive by his dress and appearance, but his words will soon show what he really is.

Today’s tie-in: Think not a lion’s skin, but rather a blue suit and a too-long red tie. And it’s our NATO allies laughing at Trump’s silly bray, certainly not the Fox.

“The Fox and the Monkey”

At a great meeting of the Animals, who had gathered to elect a new ruler, the Monkey was asked to dance. This he did so well, with a thousand funny capers and grimaces, that the Animals were carried entirely off their feet with enthusiasm, and then and there, elected him their king.

The Fox did not vote for the Monkey and was much disgusted with the Animals for electing so unworthy a ruler.

One day he found a trap with a bit of meat in it. Hurrying to King Monkey, he told him he had found a rich treasure, which he had not touched because it belonged by right to his majesty the Monkey.

The greedy Monkey followed the Fox to the trap. As soon as he saw the meat he grasped eagerly for it, only to find himself held fast in the trap. The Fox stood off and laughed.

“You pretend to be our king,” he said, “and cannot even take care of yourself!”

Shortly after that, another election among the Animals was held.

The moral of the story: The true leader proves himself by his qualities.

Today’s tie-in: Consider Trump’s “qualities:” 13,000 lies; trying to bribe the Ukrainian president; stonewalling; gaslighting, witness intimidation, and Congressional obstruction. Plus sleeping with porn stars, paying them off, and then lying about it.

“The Leap at Rhodes”

A certain man who visited foreign lands could talk of little when he returned to his home except the wonderful adventures he had met with and the great deeds he had done abroad.

One of the feats he told about was a leap he had made in a city called Rhodes. That leap was so great, he said, that no other man could leap anywhere near the distance. A great many persons in Rhodes had seen him do it and would prove that what he told was true.

“No need of witnesses,” said one listening. “Suppose this city is Rhodes. Now show us how far you can jump.”

The moral of the story: Deeds count, not boasting words.

Today’s tie-in: Trump? Deeds? Where are his promised: Chinese trade agreement? Health care reform? Infrastructure? North Korean denuclearization? Tax relief for the middle class? Peace in the mid-East (Jared)? Building the Wall? Mexico funding the Wall? Balancing the federal budget? Growing the economy at 4 percent? Releasing his tax returns? Passing gun reform? Of course he did establish Trump University, but that didn’t turn out too well.

As Trump’s daily depredations are chronicled in the press, I don’t need to write about them here. But I cannot help reflect on his utter lack of morals, his repudiation of basic American values, and his “I am above the law” actions.

Our president, and those who support him, don’t measure up to the moral standards laid down circa 650 B.C. by a Greek slave. And certainly don’t come close to those carved in stone by Yahweh and delivered by Moses; preached by the Son of God crucified on the cross; communicated by Allah’s messenger, Muhammad; illuminated by the Buddha; or laid down by scores of other religions and ethical belief systems.

Amazingly, Aesop seems to have written about Donald Trump all those years ago when he posited, “The smaller the mind, the greater the conceit.”

And the president’s conceit is truly Trumpian.

Tom Burke’s email address is t.burke.column@gmail.com.

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