“Some people are so poor all they have is money. “ —Bob Marley
Where’s My Roy Cohn is a timely movie, not only revealing what makes the power-hungry tick, but specifically connecting Roy Cohn with his protogeé Donald Trump. Cohn was the right-hand man of Joe McCarthy who conducted the witch-hunt (the real use of that term, not the co-opted spin Trump is using) against Communists and later homosexuals. Part of the complexity and irony with a person like Cohn was that he ruthlessly and expertly aided that hunt even as he himself was gay. In fact, he likely had a sexual relationship with another hunter on the team, David Schine and when Schine was drafted, Cohn tried to use his influence with the military to give Schine an easier deal. When the military refused to give preferential treatment, he and McCarthy turned the hunt against ferreting out Communists in the armed forces. But you don’t mess with the Pentagon. It backfired and McCarthy’s Communist/homosexual purge came to a halt when a Senator declared, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” The Committee disbanded and that was that.
Of course, Cohn kept on as a lawyer, defending Mafia bosses, hobnobbing with the rich and powerful and twisting things around always to his personal gain. He helped Reagan get elected and defended Trump against various law suits involved racial discrimination in housing and non-payment of employees. His main strategy was, “Spin the charges to make the accusers look like it’s their problem, never apologize, never admit anything, never show remorse, lie, lie, lie.” And so he set in motion the main strategies of the Republican party carried on by Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News and today’s list of evil, evil people purposefully manipulating the easily-duped public for their own political and financial gains. When asked if he could have helped Nixon, Cohn shamelessly suggested he could have gotten Nixon off, advised him to burn the tapes and so on, without a shred of thought that this would be a betrayal of the American people, illegal, anti-Constitutional and just plain wrong. In short, if asked “have you no sense of decency?” his answer would be “Of course not! That’s for weak people.” In his world of caring only for riches and powers, all of his actions made sense. As do Trump’s.
But just desserts often comes around at the end. Cohn, the witch-hunter against homosexuals, died of Aids. And won’t it be delicious when Trump’s lies finally catch up with him and he’s escorted from the White House, hopefully into jail? Cohn managed to keep avoiding various charges against him, but he was disbarred and from that moment on, all his “loyal” friends, including Trump, abandoned him. Such loyalty is always based on “what can I get out of this ‘friendship?’” and if the answer is nothing, well, that’s the end of that.” I don’t suspect Sean Hannity will be visiting Trump in jail.
Meanwhile, just as Cohn was driven to climb up the ladder to hell by hanging out with the rich and powerful, so am I driven to descend the steps to heaven by spending my days with the small and the meek— children. Jesus is not my savior, but I like his blessing of the meek and the idea that they shall inherit the earth. (But they better hurry before the power-crazy destroy it!). Equally, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Hey, Republican Christians and Wall-Street moguls who go to church, are you getting this memo?
Of course, little children are powerless in one sense and pretty powerful in another. I’d like to see these vicious pseudo-adult predators carry on their work while caring for a baby. I’d like them to try to teach preschoolers for a day and then they’ll see how powerful they really are. But what I’d really like them to see is what a bad deal they’ve made for themselves by ruthlessly following the wrong dream and let the children lead them back to some sense of the wonder of life, the appreciation of beauty, the value of real friendship, the expressive artistry that frames the 3-year old’s day as they sing, dance and play their way through the world. It takes just as much energy to learn how to teach children and be taught by them as it does to claw your way to more riches and power, but the rewards are so much greater. The real power is the inner spiritual power, the moral power, the sense of having something beautiful to give back to the world in exchange for the gift of a human birth. Telling Trump and his type to “be nice. Tell the truth. Listen to others. Etc.” makes no sense whatsoever in the context of the dream/nightmare they’ve chosen. It’s the driving narrative that has to change and then decency can take its rightful place back in the world that is driving it out.
It’s Sunday and while folks are dutifully going to church to mindlessly mouth the inert platitudes that they’re not living, this is a sermon to consider.
And then go see the movie.