Is Trump taking a page out of a 2,000 year old classical Chinese romanticized historical novel?
To the Point of Exhaustion
When I was in grade school, every Sunday after church my dad would drive us to a nearby Chinese restaurant for lunch and regale my sisters and I with stories about Sohn Oh Gohng (Sun Wu Kung in Chinese), the monkey king from Journey to the West, widely considered the 3rd greatest work of classical Chinese literature.
At some point around middle school, he deemed me ready to move up the literary ladder to work #1 Three Kingdoms (I guess he figured I could skip past #2 Outlaws of the Marshes, a bit of a shame since I hear it’s really good). I didn’t enjoy 3K as much as J2W – historical drama just doesn’t pack the same punch as a J2W’s brilliant magic monkey who flies, pees in the gods’ wine and stashes a shapeshifting stick in his ear to beat up his younger brother (who is a reincarnated pig). Still, between the interminable parade of loyalty oaths, honorable retreats, and shifting alliances, 3K had its share of memorable stories.
The best bits inevitably involved Zhuge Liang aka Kongming, chief advisor to the honorable but resource-poor Liu Bei. Kongming could always be counted on to come up with a clever strategem to psyche out his opponents, the most iconic example being when he was tasked with gathering 100,000 arrows in 3 days.
On a foggy morning, Kongming took 20 boats loaded up with dummies, hay, and a skeleton crew in armor, halfway across the river towards the enemy encampment, banging their drums and shouting to simulate a battle. The enemy unleashed volley after volley of arrows, which stuck harmlessly into the side of the boats and dummies.
The volleys stopped when the enemy’s supply of arrows ran out, at which point Kongming turned his vessels around and came home, mission accomplished.
I wonder if Trump is pulling a Kongming on the left: putting forth tempting targets specifically for the purpose of eliciting an overreaction, exhausting his opponents’ energy and resources that do only nominal if any damage.
Each time he puts forth some new outrage, we march on the streets. Maybe we even win, and congratulate ourselves on keeping him in check. But each round of protest costs us more in time, energy, and resolve than the inciting move on his part. So we are burning ourselves out sprinting the first 100 yards in a marathon war of attrition.
Now supposing that’s an accurate interpretation of where things are (which of course it might not), what are we to do then? NOT resist? cut straight to the inevitable capitulation? How is that any better than fighting on until the inevitable point of exhaustion?
Painting the Town
Last weekend while looking after my nephews, we bought a Wii game called Splatoon, which was the most insanely fun and addictive thing I’ve come across in a long time. This game does to first person shooter genre what Mario Kart did to racing: strips away the pretension of gritty reality in favor of a stylized and innovative gameplay that’s a zillion times more fun.
It is also provides a blueprint for how to restore balance to America.
The blueprint comes specifically from the game’s Turf War multiplayer online mode, in which victory is determined by how much of the map is painted your team’s color by the end of the round. While killing your opponents indirectly affects this metric (due to a burst of paint and lost time) the kill tally doesn’t factor into the final score.
Now what the heck does this game have to do with Trump?
Often, the winning team did not score more kills. Rather, they effectively used fewer of their own players to tie down more of their opponents, leaving a free agent to focus on converting the vacant areas of the map – especially those behind enemy lines.
And this is how progressive America needs to be expending its resources. Protest and resistance have their place, but fights are never won through reactive defense alone. We have to simultaneously seize the initiative, identify and empower sympathetic outposts deep within the red states, and convert Trump’s base of support out from underneath him. Put simply: we have to MOVE IN.
Now how we go about doing so is a whole nuther discussion…