Charlatan Magazine

Ship of State

DECEMBER 28, 2020

The Founding Fathers foresaw Donald Trump's America. Editor DREW GOWING remembers the historic presidential election, coronavirus pandemic, and the turning point of a republic.



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via NPR

When Plato compared the governance of a city-state to the command of a naval ship, he took a seat amongst the Founding Fathers of Western Civilization. In the oft cited metaphor he penned; workers shall produce, soldiers will protect, and a wise philosopher king will preside. These were the three classes upon Plato’s Ship of State and embark in his magnum opus, The Republic. The expedition for a just city-state, and the search for a virtuous man, would sail for thousands of years before reaching the American Colonies.

The 2020 U.S. presidential election brings the nation forward in time and to the brink of constitutional crisis. Not because President Donald Trump refused to concede the election, nor because he contested the result, but because he attempted to obstruct those votes which had been legally cast and certified. A free and fair election is the cornerstone of a democracy.

From Watergate to Reconstruction, steel strikes and civil war, it was the seventh and perhaps most senseless time for the government to go off script. The Founders were concerned that “if our nation was ever taken over it would be taken over from within” and with the coronavirus pandemic raging, and an economic recession tossing the ship, the republic was sailing perilously close to the wind.

More than a civic right or duty, I, we, and the non-binary they have all been swept up into this sea of democracy to find ourselves either duty bound or indentured to this ship of fools. Tonight, we unclench our fists. We relinquish the ores. We approach the stern and stargazer. We retake this ship and return her to the cause and fight for freedom.

We the People

When the Founding Fathers began gathering at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, many had already turned to the Classics. James Madison, in particular, had fiercely studied the republics of ancient Greece and drew lessons from their experience. Plato, for example, may have envisioned a mixed government, but the Founders spin and modern delineation on the separation of power was a savvy innovation. In fact, each of the seven key Founding Fathers had turned in some way to the Classics to inform their own more perfect union.

From my small corner of the ship I am an editor. I sit amongst a sordid array of users in a bottomless sea of data that is now collected, analyzed and optimized by tech companies. The frightful five — Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and Alphabet — are collectively more powerful than many governments and effectively act as Ministries of Information around the world. Sorting through political polarization, confirmation bias, post-truth politics and propaganda is where the political editor shines, and where our Founding Fathers began in scratching out the first principles of their republic.

Amongst our ranks are the essential servants who conduct a range of operations and services that are critical to a society. These are they who provide a critical service at perhaps the highest risk of exposure to the coronavirus. Each and all were bound not only to a critical mission, but to a code of conduct where civic responsibility often came at the cost of survival. Each of them stand shoulder to shoulder with the suffragists, civil rights activists, and revolutionary era soldiers who began this journey with a simple phrase, We the People…

What’s in a Word?

The U.S. National Archives has a whacking database of all the Founder’s writings and opinions, and a simple search on Founders Online reveals our founding fathers’ most frequently used word. From the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution, to the Bill of Rights and beyond, this word represented their ideal citizen and appears more often than any other including; freedom, democracy, or even the very republic they were trying to create. Without it, they said, a tyrant will inevitably reign.

The casualties of an autocracy are considerable and at year’s end include;

  • 350,000 Americans are dead
  • 2.3 million are without health insurance
  • 73,000 refugees have been turned away
  • 400 miles of barrier wall was erected
  • 666 children, seized at the U.S. boarder, remain separated from their parents
  • Over 80 environmental rules/regs were reversed
  • Our trade deficit now exceeds 600 billion, and
  • The national debt soared by 7 trillion.

All autocratic leaders have but one guiding principle. They consider self before the crew and state;

  • They’ll make 25,000 false or misleading statements.
  • Their campaign will collect 200+ million after an election.
  • They’ll file 50 post-election lawsuits and refuse to concede.
  • They’ll sue their own states even encourage them to secede, and
  • They’ll throw their own overboard, or anyone who disagrees, into the deep and into the darkest sea.

Sailors who sat in the Crow’s Nest were commissioned to look out for land, but more often were guided to the shore in Newport Rhode Island by the Lime Rock Light. The vaccines are here, the anchor has dropped, we’ll soon have our boots on the ground. But when we emerge from the incredible storm of the Coronavirus pandemic, and U.S. presidential election, let our legacy be: We the People

“The institutions of democracy held,” president elect Joe Biden said, and perhaps because the three classes on Plato’s Ship of State — producer, protector, philosopher king — all coexist within each of us. Together, they culminate not only into a status and right to participate in the state, but into the Ideal Citizen: The first and most important step of statesmanship.

Greek and Enlightenment philosophers, together with our illustrious founding fathers, all distrusted democracy and warned it could devolve into tyranny if but for a valiant few. Devil to pay and long overdue, let us join their search for virtue.

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Coronavirus Mutating In London.

U.S. health officials are monitoring the new strain of COVID-19 emerging in the United Kingdom,” U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on Sunday, adding “any mutation shows people must keep protecting themselves from the novel coronavirus while awaiting vaccination. Viruses mutate all the time.”

A new strain of the coronavirus may be responsible for the faster spread of the virus in London and south-east England, it has been announced. Called N501Y — this particular strain has been increasing in frequency since August.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson lent his voice to the concern announcing yesterday “the variant, which officials say is up to 70% more transmissible than the original, has prompted concerns about a wider spread.” Tightening the COVID-19 restrictions in London and surrounding areas is disrupting Christmas holiday plans of millions of people.

Since COVID-19 was first diagnosed on December 8, 2019 over 77 million have been infected, 54 million have recovered, and 1.7 million have perished. While the idea of a mutating virus breaking out into new strains is disconcerting, those fears are not justified by science. Nelson Michael, director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research at Walter Reed said, “It stands to reason that this mutation isn’t a threat.”

Viruses work through generations far faster than large organisms such as ourselves, and groups of small changes can cluster more quickly into significant differences. However, in the case of the newly identified variant in the south-east of England, there is no evidence as yet that this mutation makes the virus any more transmissible or harmful. In fact, it is proof positive that both the coronavirus and the British tabloids are both running their expected course and foregone conclusions.

The Vaccine’s Second Act

More than 128,000 people in the U.S. received a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine last week, but Moderna’s vaccine left warehouses yesterday for 37,000 healthcare facilities across the country.

They’ll be delivered first to 1) healthcare professionals, 2) long-term care facility residents, 3) populations over 65, and 4) people with pre-existing conditions. However, companies and industry groups are lobbying to get their U.S. workers classified as essential and next in line for the vaccine. Those making the most noise are meatpacking plants, the agriculture sector, and retail environments.

The first Moderna vaccine shot, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Friday, will be given on Monday morning. The U.S. government plans to deliver 8 million vaccines this week and remains on target to get 20 million Americans inoculated by years end.

The End of an Era

With 30 days left in his presidency, Donald Trump has been conspicuously absent from the White House Pandemic Response Team, the massive rollout of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and the $900 billion Coronavirus Relief Plan reached today that will spare millions from falling into poverty this Christmas and the nation into recession. We reflect upon 2020 with David Record’s rendering of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

All the World's a Stage


Make sense of the week's news. Charlatan reviews the world's show & message.


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Finally, a word from the Father of the Nation…

We citizens of America are, from this period, to be considered actors in a most conspicuous theater, which seems to be peculiarly designated by Providence for the display of human discourse, civility, and dignity. — George Washington, 1783

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