A familiar children’s tale is “The Pied Piper of Hamelin.” It’s the story of grim revenge: a man is hired to do a job, does it, isn’t paid, and responds by abducting 130 children. Now Donald Trump is enacting a similar narrative: leading thousands of Americans to their deaths from COVID-19.
Based on a 13th-century German legend, The Pied Piper has four parts: The town of Hamelin hired the Pied Piper to get rid of its rats; the Piper took care of the problem; the town refused to pay him what they promised; and the Piper responded by luring away most of the Hamelin children.
The Pied Piper of Mar-a-Lago also has four segments:
1.Contract: Hamelin had a rat problem and hired the Pied Piper to deal with it. In 2016, those who voted for Donald Trump hired him to fix a problem: the economy of the United States was not working for the ninety-nine percent and the government needed to be shaken up. Hamelin hired an outsider to exterminate its rats; Trump’s base hired a Washington outsider to “drain the swamp” and “make America great again.”
2. Action: The Pied Piper fixed Hamelin’s rat problem — legend says by playing his flute and leading the rats away from the city. It’s not clear that Trump fixed the problem that his base hired him for, but he did shake up Washington and, for the first three years of the Trump Administration, the stock market went up 52 percent (by-the-way: during the comparable three years of the Obama administration, the market went up 78 percent).
3. Breach of Contract: The Pied Piper fixed Hamelin’s rat problem but his contract was not honored; instead of the promised sum of 1000 guilders, the Hamelin city fathers offered 50.
Donald Trump wasn’t looking to be paid in money — although he’s made a lot of money by capitalizing on his position. Trump seeks public favor; he wants to be acknowledged as the greatest President in U.S. history. Many times, he’s claimed this accolade; for example in 2018 at the United Nations, he boasted, “I don’t believe there has been any administration in the history of this country that has done more in two years.” (https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/25/politics/donald-trump-un-speech-laugh/index.html) While his base appears to accept this boast, it’s rejected by others — at the United Nations speech, Trump was laughed at.
Not all Americans view Trump favorably. On December 18, 2019, Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives. (On February 5, 2020, he was acquitted by the Senate.)
4. Revenge: After his contract with Hamelin was broken, the Pied Piper responded by abducting most of the town’s children — legend says 130.
Trump has not been acknowledged as the greatest President in U.S. History. In fact, he was impeached, and, more recently, has been lambasted for his incompetent response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While Trump retains support of his base, he is a controversial figure — as of this writing, Trump is disapproved of by 53.6 percent of voters and approved of by 42.6 percent. (https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/trump-approval-ratings/ )
The Pied Piper of Hamelin took his revenge with a horrific act: abducting the town’s children. Donald Trump is taking his revenge by advocating policies that, so far, have resulted in the deaths of 103,000 Americans.
Analysis: There are three interpretations of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Some observers treat this tale as an allegory: the event occurred during a period when Bubonic Plague ravaged central Europe — a plague many believe was transmitted via fleas on rats; from this perspective, observers contend the Pied Piper represents death and the tale serves as a reminder the plague caused the deaths of of many children. Other observers view the tale as transactional: the town elders didn’t pay the Pied Piper so he took their kids and either held them for ransom or sold them to others. Finally, some see this as pathological: the Pied Piper was cheated and responded by killing 130 children.
Donald Trump is contributing to the deaths of many Americans by his overall lack of leadership and his egregious behavior: not wearing a mask, not observing the protocols of social distancing, and, in general, not taking the pandemic seriously. No one interprets this behavior as allegorical but there are observers that see Trumps response as transactional or pathological.
Transactional: Trump botched the US pandemic response and this has diminished his chance of reelection. Rather than admit he made a mistake, Trump has chosen to ignore or minimize the pandemic; he has bet everything on the US economy recovering — regardless of the human cost.
Pathological: Trump is vindictive. No doubt he found the impeachment process humiliating. Donald has to be aware that a majority of Americans believe he abused his power: “52 percent … say they believe Trump abused the power of his office by asking a foreign government to investigate a political opponent to influence the upcoming election, compared with 41 percent who disagree.” (https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/meet-the-press/nbc-wsj-poll-country-remains-divided-over-trump-s-impeachment-n1128326 ) Viewing his behavior from this perspective: Trump is pissed off and this informs his pathological calculus: if you support him, you should live; if you do not, you should die.