Tuesday October 24, 2017
9:40am — 11:00am
- We spoke about finishing the semester strong. in relationship to running a marathon. This idea that humans are built for marathons, even if the semester isn’t a literal marathon, resonated with me.
- We watched a clip of Donald Trump speaking to the CIA in which he says that during his inaugural speech, God stopped the rainfall and thus anointed him as a leader. I recalled an example of a pastor saying that he had been set to speak in a stadium when it started to rain. He said that God parted the storm so that it went around the stadium and did not interrupt the speech. Water seems to be a pretty common example used; rainfall or the absence of rainfall is very symbolic both in and outside of the church.
- We then moved to talking about the white house’s “Cyrus the Great Quote” which we know did not actually come from him. As we read back to the actual Greek translation it is clear that the original quote is actually talking about freeing slaves instead of this general and vague idea of freedom. We attempted to match the characteristics listed in the quote they used with the actual greek paragraph. What we found was that it is possible to draw some comparison between Trump and Cyrus but it is far from a direct link. I noticed that the class was a lot more willing to assume the best of Cyrus than Trump. When Dr. Sandridge pressed for evidence that Cyrus was morally better, we could not provide it. I think this comes from a fatigue of the Trump presidency in general.
Wednesday October 25, 2017
The digression from the original text and the white house’s statement is astounding. There are hardly any similarities between Cyrus’ original quote and the reconfigured one however a distant comparison can be drawn.
White House/Trump Quote
This version starts in the middle of the quote, ignoring the liberator altogether. It is phrased in a way that emphasizes American values and especially the values of the Trump White House which includes freedom and wealth. It has the tone of democracy; be good to your people and they will follow you willingly. People will be loyal if they are given the choice. The meaning of this quotation is congratulatory and to wish the Persian people a Happy New Year. It is also meant to draw a parallel between American values and Cyrus so as to show that we all have something in common.
This version is different from the White House’s in that it includes this idea of liberating people. The purpose of including this quote in the article was to highlight Cyrus’ leadership style. Instead of focusing on the part of the quote that talks about freedom, like the White House did, it focuses on “acting as a liberator wherever you can.” It is different in that it places some responsibility on the leader of the people. Instead of just holding the values listed in both quotes, the leader must also be radical and free people. This is also the first hint that we see of a mention of slavery. I think that if this quote had been used then the message would be too radical for the White House. Liberation suggests a major change and this quote, when it includes that section, does not fit in with a Republican White House.
This version is vastly different from the first two both in length and content. This is the first explicit mention of slavery and what was meant by liberation. It says that slaves are used to working hard with nothing and thus will be grateful to work hard with the promise of something. Freedom is just a piece of the puzzle instead of the main point such as in the White House’s version. The bigger picture is that freed slaves make the fiercest soldiers because they are forever indebted to their leader for freeing them. This sends a different message from the first two quotes that, understandably, skirt the topic of slavery. It would not be a suitable message from the White House because it speaks of exploiting slaves’ gratitude to make them loyal soldiers. Regardless it would not be an appropriate message to wish a happy Persian New Year.
The first thing that stands out about this version is that it lists the places where the slaves are from by name. The Persians are not the only group mentioned here. This version also hardly mentions freedom or any of the values that the White House version mentioned. It would be hard to tell that they were supposed to be the same quote, removed from context. It has more to do with battle than anyone else and freeing the slaves seems to be an act of practicality more than anything noble. It does not have an air of leadership like the Forbes article implies nor does it really reflect any American values like the White House version asserts. It is more similar to Hedrick’s quote than anything else but even then it talks more about the facts and less about the how the slaves might feel given their freedom. It would make the least sense to release this statement on New Years because it is not congratulatory and does not really seem to have anything to do with a celebration or fresh start.
I am not sure that the original quote is true whether it is real or fake. Providing people with freedom and wealth will make them grateful but it might not change circumstance or the disdain that they felt for their past owners. The fact that the White House used this quote actually calls to mind a group of Trump’s biggest supporters: the white working class. I think the fact that the White House used this quote that has to do with making slaves into loyal leaders reflects a lot more about them than about Cyrus. The White House has taken a group people who have been hurt by American society and capitalism and has provided them with some sense of freedom. They believe that they will no longer be held captive by the establishment and that Trump represents them as a leader that they can trust. He has given them a little and thus they are grateful and loyal. This might be a stretch but the mindset of this quote is reflected in today’s society. With this in mind I would say that Hedrick’s quote is the most in line with Trump’s agenda followed by the first quote. The first quote talks about American values which are an important part of the agenda that Trump perpetuates. However, the third quote (Hedrick’s) is more about loyalty which I think that Donald Trump desires above anything else. He does not hold slaves and probably does not agree with slavery but he does know that he can exploit those who are weak and gain their loyalty by throwing them a bone, like he has done with the white working class. The last quote is similar but I did not choose it because it names the specific places that the slaves are from. Trump would not welcome so many foreigners into his army. He would choose to keep his force American as much as possible.
I had a teacher in middle school who said that this quote was her favorite quote. (She had a fixation on slavery and was often accused of being racist but this is beyond the point) It bothered me because of the way it manipulates slaves for the pleasure of whoever owns them. I am not sure whether freeing slaves just to require them to serve in the army is truly freedom at all. I’m also not sure if their gratitude would last. It seems like leaving one set of shackles for another even more dangerous one. All of this to say that this passage has always rubbed me the wrong way and I don’t think it has any place in celebration.
Cyrus and Evangelical Christianity
The comparison between Cyrus and Trump is unsurprising because people in the church often equate modern leaders to people from the past or even people in Revelations. Before reading this passage I did not know about the comparison between Cyrus and Trump but I had heard in my own church that Donald Trump might be someone used either by God or the Devil as predicted in the end times. It is hard, I think, for people who are religious to make sense of what is going on in these days without attributing it to some higher power. However, it is a prime example of how making historical or biblical comparisons can be cloudy. When someone is a figure of the past, their image can be manipulated in whatever way one pleases. It’s clear from the conflicting reports there are coming from evangelical christians that there is no one clear comparison but instead there are many people picking and choosing what traits they want to use in order to assert their point. This is common in religion in general; every religious leader manipulates religious texts in order to further their agenda whether it’s good or bad. However, it gets messier when you apply the same logic to living leaders.
Part One: The Cleansing Outsider as King of the World
This description of Cyrus depicts him as a savior for all people regardless of their ethnicity. He comes in as this outsider but he is a liberator for the very people that he conquered. He goes a step further than what many conquerors would do, though. He doesn’t force his gods onto the people but instead says that their own god sent him to free people. I see a similarity between Trump and Cyrus here. They are both the kind of leader who need everyone to like them, even the people who they have to conquer to win. Loyalty is most important to this type of leader and that is evident from the text. It’s interesting that a leader like Cyrus would champion themselves a hero when they consistently conquer people. His own document of human rights was written on the occasion of conquest. But a running theme here is that because Cyrus was an anointed figure, his actions were justified. This is true in the biblical depiction of him as well. He was chosen by God and thus his actions were rightful even in the eyes of the people he conquered and he needed to be seen as such.
There are many more similarities between Cyrus and Trump than I initially knew. Besides the fact that they both see themselves as leaders beyond reproach, their intentions in leadership are remarkably similar. I am referring to the passage that talks about Cyrus literally ‘Draining the Swamp.’ While he does not mean to empty Washington D.C. of all of those who do not have the people’s interest best heart, he did drain the Babylonian swamp. I can see why the Evangelical Christians believe that Trump represents a modern day Cyrus figure. The symbolism is unnerving even to the non-religious.
Like Trump, he also creates this image of himself that he is a truth-teller, protecting the people from lies. When someone champions themselves the conqueror of lives, it is much harder to question their actions.