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IN PURSUIT OF MOBY DICK

September 25, 2011 - Ray Hall (Archive)
I was a young boy the first time I read Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. My reading comprehension had yet to mature and I remember having empathy for Captain Ahab. Captain Ahab, a pious Quaker and a pacifist, was injured by Moby Dick on a previous whale hunt, thus I took him for a sympathetic figure. After a sixty year span I read the book for a second time and was introduced to an entirely different tale.

This time around it was clear that Ahab became so obsessed with exacting revenge on the Great White Whale that he lost all sense of reason and sacrificed his ship, his life and his crew save one, Ishmael, on a fool’s errand. As in the first reading I could still hear Ahab’s wooden leg thump, thump, thumping across the wooden deck at all hours, day and night, driven by a single, maddening obsession. Ahab was not satisfied just to slay the whale, he wanted the whale to suffer indignities, to know why it was being slain.

When I finished the book I thought of President Obama and the Tea-publicans. Like Ahab, the Tea-publicans were so injured by the election of Barack Obama that they are willing to sacrifice themselves, the ship of state and its inhabitants to rid a man from office. An office, that in their view, he was never entitled to hold.

For whatever reasons, some of which are racial, Tea-publicans have never accepted that the man Obama is entitled to be in the White House. Hard-core Tea-publicans remain unable to accept that Obama is “one of us.” Obama’s birth is questioned, his religion questioned and his loyalty to America is questioned. Now, despite multiple national polls that show 80% of the American people favor raising taxes on the rich, he is accused of engaging in class warfare.

We can hear the rancor of the crowds wherever the Tea-publican presidential candidates are assembled. In one debate the Tea-publican audience cheered at the thought of a young man dying because he did not buy insurance. That applause was later supported by Newt Gingrich who told supporters that it was the fault of the poor, presumably the unemployed, if they failed to provide for medical emergencies or the necessities of old age. I guess words like that come easy to a man who has for most of his life lived on the public payroll and had a million dollars charge account at Tiffany’s.

There was also raucous, perhaps bloodthirsty, applause when Governor Perry boasted of executing 235 convicts, but perhaps the most sorrowful and revealing episode of all occurred during the debate in Orlando. Stephen Hill, a gay soldier from Iraq was loudly booed when he asked if Senator Santorum would reinstate the ban on gays in the military.

Crass, vulgar, or profane behavior from Tea-publicans has become so commonplace that I wasn’t surprised that Stephen Hill was booed by debate attendees, but what was shameful was the behavior of the uninspiring presidential candidates. Not one of the nine candidates on that Orlando stage paused long enough nor had the common decency in that moment of self-revealing glee to thank Stephen Hill for his service to his country. Especially since only two of the nine on that larger stage ever served in the military.

The obsession to haul the presidential carcass along side the Tea-publican ship has created a single, maddening obsession and sullied the political atmosphere. But, like the Captain of the Pequod, Tea-publicans are so intent on pursuing this President that they are becoming hopelessly entangled in the ropes attached to their harpoons.

As Tea-publicans set sail on their version of the Pequod for the final chase I can see and hear Captain Ahab annihilate his crew as he raises his harpoon and screams his final words; “... to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee.” —Moby-Dick, Ch. 135

 
 

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