A well known lawyer was asked to give his support to a national ruler. He would not give his support. He did not criticize the leader; he spoke no ill words about said leader or the actions that leader had taken; he withdrew from his position and went home to live a quiet life. But his silence was not acceptable to the leader. The lack of support was so troubling to this leader, that he demanded, through penalty of jail time, an oath affirming what the leader was doing. For refusing to take the oath, this lawyer was vilified, even by former friends, and eventually thrown into jail, where a council of investigators repeatedly interrogated him on why he would not sign the oath, take the pledge, offer his public endorsement. Eventually, through the lies of another former friend, this lawyer was found guilty of denying the oath, and his head was cut off. His final words? “I die the king’s good servant; but God’s first.”
You know the lawyer as Saint Thomas More. The leader was King Henry VIII.
While I would not draw any kind of equivalency between those events and the recent kerfuffle regarding Ted Cruz’s lack of endorsement for Donald Trump, I would like to point out some similarities, because, as they say, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.
First of all, to get it out of the way, if Cruz had endorsed Trump during his speech, that does not mean I would have changed my own mind and supported the charlatan. I would have liked to hear his reasons, of course, since I respect Cruz as a man and as a thinker, but it would be impossible to give my vote to a man of no principle like Trump. That being said, I thought Cruz knocked it out of the park, and stood by his own convictions and his own conscience with his lack of endorsement. Surely, the vicious attacks on Cruz’s family by Trump were the more glaring reasons for the lack of an endorsement. What normal human being, what principled man would give support to someone who did the things, and said the things Trump did and said about Cruz’s wife and family? And continued to say when the whole thing was over. . . So many political prognosticators and opinion writers and politicians attacked Cruz viciously, along the lines of their chosen leader’s vein, following the non-endorsement. One wonders how they would react in a similar circumstance. I will not call into question their fidelity to their spouses and families. I will call into question their awareness of the basics of morality and hierarchy of values. Being faithful to one’s family is second only to fidelity to God. Political parties fall far below those two obligations.
And isn’t it interesting that Cruz let the repeated personal attacks of Trump (Lyin’ Ted) brush off him like the proverbial water off a duck’s back. Trump gets outraged at far milder perceived sleights. It is my humble opinion that another reason Cruz would not endorse Trump is that he truly believes Trump to be an unacceptable candidate for the office of the presidency. I happen to believe that, so I won’t be voting for him.
Let’s go back to Thomas More.
In one part of the series of events that led to his arrest and eventual execution, Henry had made himself head of the Church of England, gave himself a divorce from Catherine of Aragon, and prepared to wed Anne Boleyn. Many of Thomas’ former friends, including nobles and clergy, exhorted him to attend the wedding to show his friendliness to the king. Thomas told a story of ancient Rome, and I paraphrase:
There was a law that a virgin could not receive the death sentence. Yet a young virgin woman was found guilty of a capital crime. The emperor wanted to have her executed, but felt constrained by the law. His advisors told him, “Your excellency, all you have to do is deflower her, and then the beasts can devour her.” Thomas went on, “Gentlemen, the beasts may devour me, but you will never deflower me.”
Thomas saw attendance at the invalid marriage as a public repudiation of the very principles for which in his conscience he resigned his office as chancellor to the king, returned to private life and stood fast against accepting what Henry had done.
It is interesting to note, as I learned from Wikipedia’s entry on Robert Bolt, that he himself had been imprisoned for four weeks, because of his stance against nuclear proliferation. He refused to sign a declaration that he would not engage in such activities any more. A movie director visited him in prison after two weeks, and urged him to sign, so that they could get on with finishing a film based on one of his plays, “Lawrence of Arabia.” Bolt later regretted his actions and never spoke to the director again. Bolt had an awareness of the duties of conscience, something that comes out in his play about Thomas More.
Cruz received boos from the Trump hungry crowd for simply telling people to vote their conscience. Much has been written about this, but it is at the core of what matters. Those who deride and vilify Cruz for his non-endorsement have no idea what it means to follow one’s conscience. Like More, he has been called a traitor and many other vile things. It is absolutely amazing.
The most outrageous charge is that he is a narcissist. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” The irony is that those who charge Cruz with this moniker are supporting the third narcissist in recent history to run for president. And they gladly do so! If Cruz were the narcissist they claim him to be, he would have given his endorsement at the convention, and used that “leverage” for his own personal gain. Instead, since Cruz understands politics better than most people, he went against the tide of angry Trump humpers and the establishment and stood by his conscience, knowing that he would be attacked.
The term “political suicide” has been used to describe his non-endorsement. No one can say for sure how this will play out for Cruz moving forward. Much depends on the outcome of the election, of course. There will be those who blame him if Hillary wins, astonishingly from those who cannot see the disaster that is a Trump campaign. If Trump pulls it off and wins, my prognostication, for what it’s worth, is that people will see the horror of a Trump presidency for what it can only be, and perhaps look to Cruz or someone like him to primary Trump in 2020.
Let’s look at some of those attacking Cruz.
Chris Christie, a failed governor, has been quite vicious. This is the same failed governor whose head is so far up Trump’s what’s-it that he can taste the toupee. Did you ever see the video of Trump scooting Christie away to go back to New Jersey? Or mocking his obesity? Does Christie have any shred of self-respect?
Ann Coulter, whose brain has been turned to utter mush, has been quite nasty towards Cruz. This is the same lame-brain who said only Romney could win; who loved Chris Christie; who thinks Mitch McConnell is an honorable man.
Sarah Palin, whose folksy charm has become its own caricature, is one who declared Cruz’s political life over. I mean, come on. Loser vice presidential candidate and failed governor? Her obeisance to Trump has gotten her far, hasn’t it? So far that she wasn’t able to get on one of those flying things called an airplane to come to Cleveland from Alaska. That was Trump’s excuse for her non-participance at the convention. A lie, I am sure. He just didn’t want her there.
And so we could go on, but these are the ones who stick in my mind at the moment.
The oddest thing about the whole thing is that the anti-establishment Trump and his followers are so in bed with the establishment that the word “outsider” cannot describe any of this nightmare. It was the establishment that engineered the booing of Cruz, along with the Trump humpers. They knew he would not endorse, and they wanted to use the occasion to attack Cruz. I think of another Henry, angry at another Thomas (history rhymes), who said, “Will no one ride me of this troublesome priest?” That was Henry II who wanted to be rid of Thomas Beckett. Trump and his allies in the establishment wanted to get rid of Cruz politically. They all hate Cruz because he doesn’t tow their line. And now the establishment is wedded to Trump like Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII. For not endorsing the marriage, Cruz is the very image of an outsider.
But what about Hillary? The Supreme Court? Trade? Freedom? To quote Andrew McCarthy from his recent National Review article, “I will never be able to say I want him to win -- only that I’m certain I want Hillary Clinton to lose.” That being said, I cannot support a charlatan who is as dangerous as Hillary should he get the office. I truly believe that. Or let me borrow again from Thomas More: “It’s not that I BELIEVE it, but that “I” believe it.” Any candidate for any office needs to set out reasons for my support, and then show that he or she means it. Trump has been very clear he does not support what I am looking for in a candidate, and has even said he doesn’t want the vote of conservatives. Okay, then.
Thomas More lost his head because he wouldn’t lose his mind or soul for the privilege of the king’s good graces. Cruz may lose his political life, but he has kept his soul and his conscience clear.