Saturday, February 06, 2010
Messiahs & Martyrs in American Politics
In part one of The Trojan Horse, a scenario is presented in which Canada is politically merged into the United States under constitutionally unfeasible and politically unlikely circumstances.
In part two of the mini-series (also the concluding chapter), a more persistent theme in American politics is explored: that of the relationship between political martyrdom and an assassin's bullet.
There's a rare and hallowed place in the pantheon of American political history for many of those slain by an assassin's bullet.
Certainly, not all of the political figures killed by an assassin are considered central figures in the political mythology or civil religion of the United States. Presidents James Garfield and William McKinley are seldom-considered figures in the big picture of American history.
But Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr and John F Kennedy each occupy deeply hallowed positions in American history. Lincoln, of course, is cited for giving his life to preserve the union and free the slaves. King is recalled as the man who led a passionate crusade for the civil rights of racial minorities. Kennedy is remembered as a widely-beloved President struck down in his prime in what history widely regards as a senseless killing.
(The death of Kennedy's assassin at the hands of Jack Ruby has ultimately shrouded the motives for Kennedy's murder in the fog of history.)
In part two of the Trojan Horse, former Canadian Prime Minister (and later Presidential candidate) Tom McLaughlin (Paul Gross) is shot during what appeared to be an assassination attempt. McLaughlin is seen by many to be a potential contender for the Presidency, and thus his assassination attempt is viewed as politically motivated.
(It is, in fact, planned and executed by the international cabal supporting McLaughlin's bid for the Presidency, with his consent and participation.)
McLaughlin takes advantage with a dramatically staged hilltop baptism, and is henceforth treated by many with the hushed and reverent tones with many regard Lincoln, King and Kennedy -- in a manner ever-similar to that in which many religions regard religious martyrs.
In a sense McLaughlin is transformed into a political messiah -- eventually seizing upon the grave missteps of President William Stanfield (Tom Skerritt) in handling the hostage-taking of American schoolchildren in Saudi Arabia in order to win a historic Presidential victory as an independent candidate.
Of course McLaughlin's motivations are far from Christ-like. Having lost his country to the United States, his response is to make the United States more like the Canada it has enveloped -- a prospect threatening only in the context of the cloak-and-dagger tactics by which his Presidency is won.
Tom McLaughlin turns out to actually be a wolf in Messiah's clothing -- clothing donned first in the form of a hospital gown, following what is devised to appear to be a near-martyring.