Absolute Power

King Cnut and Absolute Power

“The arts of power and its minions are the same in all countries and in all ages. It marks its victim; denounces
him: and excites the public odium and the public hatred, to conceal its own abuses and encroachments.”
-Henry Clay

King Cnut is better known by the anglicized name of Canute. Through war, birth, and supreme cunning he was able to form an empire that included Denmark, England, Norway and a large part of Sweden early in the 11th century. This was no easy job. After his death he developed a reputation for being fair and magnanimous, but we must take into account that he was extremely generous to the Catholic church during his tenure, and in those days the monks were the ones who wrote the history.
My first encounter with Canute was during a world history (which in those days meant Western history, since we were never exposed to the amazing accomplishments of Asians and Africans) High School course. Canute was pictured sitting on his throne, which had been placed at the shoreline of the sea. We were told that the king had dared the tide not to come in, in order to demonstrate to his subjects that he could defy Nature’s laws. Of course his robes got wet.
This story is almost certainly legend. But even this version of it is inaccurate. According to the “true” legend, if there can be such an animal, the king was showing his courtiers how humble he was. When he ordered his minions to carry him to the beach, his intent was to demonstrate that there was a limit to the king’s power, and that there were matters that were best left for God to rule.
Cnut did well in life. He kept two wives (one in Denmark, the other in England) and managed to avoid any criticism from the church. He trusted his noblemen and helped them out, again mostly in their dealings with the church. He probably died a happy man. By taking his last breath he confirmed his humanity and further ensured that people understood his limits.
I thought of King Cnut as I read still another Twitter post from our new president. He will not let go of his business empire. Countries that allow him to build one of his hotels under favorable terms may have a preferential ear when they need our nation’s help, and how are we to find out? Foreign diplomats who spend a lot of money in his hotels may have preference. This is, after all, the way business is done. Just not the president’s business, but let’s be fair: he didn’t think that he was going to win and he didn’t make a single plan as to how to deal with all of these potential conflicts.
More than half of the population wants clean air. He’s ready to do away with that. More than half of the population wants health insurance for everyone. He has no plans for such an endeavor. More than half of the population wants to use diplomacy to avoid disastrous and meaningful wars. He is ready to use threats and warnings.
A huge majority wants a balanced budget. He’s ready to blow a gaping hole into this dream. He has no intention of submitting a budget to Congress for the coming fiscal year. He doesn’t want his supporters to see just how much off balance his money suggestions are.
He won’t take questions from the press. He attacks anyone that he disagrees with, and he will have the enormous power of his office to keep dissenters in line. He has surrounded himself with aggressive generals and billionaires who have no idea of what it’s like to not have enough money to buy food, or pay for the doctor’s visit.
He knows best, and only he knows how to fix it. When things go south he will find a scapegoat; anyone. He will tweet until his fingers become numb; he will direct popular anger against individuals dumb enough to stand in his way. He will do anything that he can to suppress free press coverage of his actions. He will conceal his abuses and wash them with innocent blood.
More than a thousand years ago a king who had absolute power was insightful enough to realize that having the ability to make all of the decisions was not what would make him great. Would that our current leader acquires his wisdom, before it’s too late.

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This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Joe Kickham

    I do not agree with your post in any fashion. The President elect and all the other crying liberals are not even giving Mr. Trump a chance. You consider yourself a Catholic, but would go against your faith to vote for a pro abortion candidate. You took a Hippocratic oath to save lives?How sad!!! We need change, which many are afraid off. Because they lived off a government that gave them everything. I to am optimistic, but that is better than no hope at all. The other candidate and her husband are from the crooked establishment that has ruined our country for the past several years.

    Merry Christmas and God Bless!

    1. franciscogarrigamd

      Joe: you do not know how I voted. So any comment about my vote is out of line. As you know and have experienced, I take my profession seriously and have never demeaned its values.
      The incoming president deserves a chance but not a free pass. He needs to be transparent about his finances. He needs to let the public know how he intends to spend their money. He needs to answer questions from the press. I see absolutely nothing hostile or controversial about asking for transparency.
      In terms of abortion: his HHS nominee has repeatedly voted to keep poor women from receiving affordable birth control. This is the only measure that has proved to be efficacious in lowering the number of abortions (study done at our own Wash U). I have never urged a woman to have an abortion; in fact I’ve kept a few from happening. So I don’t know what you mean by “pro-abortion.” In my extensive experience as a doc I’ve found out that no unwanted pregnancy is identical to the other. We are all flawed human beings; we all deviate from our ethical norms at one time or another. I have found compassion and listening to be more effective than punishment and condemnation. I firmly believe that Jesus would do the same thing.
      I am not a fan of the other candidate, as you surely know if you have followed my blogs.
      We have to work together; half of the people are not talking to the other half. No matter who wins the results will be unsatisfactory if we don’t listen.
      Hope you’re well. Enjoy your Xmas. My love to Jo.


  2. lolaroig2013

    Rocky road ahead.

  3. Phillip Hinds

    In the spirit of America give the man (Trump) a chance. It will be hard for him to be worse than our last president.

    1. franciscogarrigamd

      I welcome opposing views and the man, like all presidents, deserves a chance. But please read my comment to my friend Joe: we cannot give him a free pass. He needs to let us know how he intends to spend our money. If he refuses to send a budget to Congress, which is likely, he will signal to us that transparency will not be a trait he espouses. If he allows our air quality to deteriorate, millions of people with asthma and COPD, many of them children, will suffer a great deal. I’m not pulling these disaster scenarios out of thin air. These are real consequences to policies that may be instituted. So yes, he will be my president, but I will be watching and commenting if I feel that he’s hurting us or our democratic institutions.
      I’d be interested in knowing how the last eight years qualify as a disaster. Lower unemployment; lower deficit; no needless wars; 20 million additional people with health insurance even when the total deficit has decreased; a booming stock market; a resolution of the mortgage disaster brewed by deregulation… There was a failure in Syria, but maybe Mr. Putin is beginning to reap the ill consequences that his intervention will produce: we’ll see. How do we (objectively) decide if a president has failed? What criteria would you use?

      1. Phillip

        The mortgage disaster was not resolved it was bailed out with tax payers money and little done to punish the wrong doers or stop it from happening again. Lower unemployment…. the unemployment numbers are lower because a very large part of the population has quit looking for work or takem lower paying jobs. Manufacturing is still moving out of the country. Health insurance….. Obama care is falling apart and could bankrupt the country. Many of us who had and could afford good health care insurance are not forcede to take sub standard coverage or pay for coverage that is sky high.

        1. franciscogarrigamd

          The mortgage disaster, which I had not mentioned, was a Bush issue. The taxpayer bailout, from everything that I have read (which is a lot), was necessary in order to prevent a worldwide collapse. All of this money has been repaid, with interest. I agree that the wrongdoers got off scot free and without any fines. Unfortunately the new cabinet, if approved, will have three Goldman bankers in it, and you know that Goldman is far from blameless. The unemployment rate has gone down, a lot, even if you make adjustments for people who quit looking. This is a fact. There is strong evidence to show that some of those are coming back into the job market. Wages are slowly rising; also a fact. Manufacturing efficiencies, such as robots, account for most of the decline in those jobs, although outsourcing plays a prominent role. Unless people decide that they want to pay more for what they buy, I’m afraid those jobs are gone forever. Which has nothing to do with the president, any of them. On health insurance: This I’m an expert on. The whole system is corrupt and riddled with inefficiencies. As a small example: Congress has chosen not to allow Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices (guess which party led that charge?). We have insurance company heads making tens of millions of dollars. BJC in St. Louis makes over $60 million in profit every year. You have specialists who work twenty hours a week and make $300,000 (and they complain it’s not enough). Democrats have tried to fix this and failed miserably, due to Republican resistance and their own inability to present a united front. There is more than enough money in the system to cover everyone, as all other developed countries have shown.
          If Mr. Trump can fix the health care mess I will, if he allows me, kiss his feet. Not talking about offering everyone the chance to buy insurance that subsidies won’t cover. I mean truly affordable health care for all; not better health for those who can pay. I have the feeling that he won’t, because either he does not want to or “they” won’t let him.
          So please let me know what Mr. Trump’s standards for a successful presidency will be. What do you think he’ll accomplish, and how are we to grade him four years down the line?
          Love talking to you.

  4. Cordell Webb

    Well I am proud to say I didn’t vote for him. It is hard to believe how anyone could have voted for him. America is going to be and is the laughing stock of the world. Dr. G. you should run for office. You would have my vote.

  5. Betty Townsend

    I have to agree with your information on Mr. Trump. We just have to give it a chance and pray that he can be up to the office.