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My brain keeps nagging me to come up with an apt analogy that would make some shred of sense of the current catastrophe, the daily pain of living in the U.S.A. with Donald Trump in the White House (occasionally), and rats in the cabinet, snakes in the cellar, and filth in the water, literal and figurative, rising everywhere. Here are a few analogies that came to mind. Feel free to add your own.

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Analogy Number 1

What if you found yourself in a lifeboat, overloaded with people, children, treasured possessions, cats, and dogs. What if the boat was leaking rather badly, many of the people were sick, no one was sure just quite where they were, and there was even disagreement between all on board about the direction they should follow to find the closest possible land. What if that boat was being followed by a growing number of sharks, and what if the man at the rudder was seen by the huddled passengers, night after night, chipping away at the bottom of the boat, changing course at whim, and repeatedly lying to the people who were desperately anxious for reassurance and information about their destiny.

What if those passengers came to know that the man at the rudder was deliberately favoring a few crew members from the ship he'd been captaining, ensuring they got preference when provisions were distributed among the survivors from that ship? And what if, most frightening of all, the guy at the rudder seemed more and more unstable, erratic, and even insane. In such a scenario, at what point would the passengers decide that passivity was no longer an option?

Analogy Number 2

What if you bought a small widget business, sinking everything you had into it, then hired a rich real estate man to manage it because he made elaborate promises about how great he could make your new enterprise?

What if you bought a small widget business, sinking everything you had into it, then hired a rich real estate man to manage it because he made elaborate promises about how great he could make your new enterprise? You hired him despite the fact that he admitted he knew nothing about manufacturing in general, or about widgets in particular. He also refused to submit a resume or to fill out an application.

For reasons you never understood completely, reasons that became more and more inexplicable even to you, you hired him anyway because you liked the fact that he was different from other applicants. The fact that he claimed to be very, very rich also impressed you favorably.

But after he was hired, he seldom showed up at the factory, left early on Fridays for far-flung golfing weekends and put those trips on his expense account. He put up a lot of signs around the plant, calling them "executive orders" that addressed everything from dress codes to bathroom breaks, all of which depressed employee morale and increased employee turnover.

Worse still, he authorized the purchase of cheaper material resulting in a big drop in regard for your once highly-regarded brand of widgets. Sales dropped drastically. He also wrote new rules for Human Resources that blocked the hiring of a range of minorities, and required women on the assembly line to wear halter tops and shorts, prompting a series of lawsuits and the necessity to hire an expensive staff legal team.

It was also found that the new CEO had been dumping toxic waste into the nearby river that provided drinking water to the residents downstream. Though you were increasingly urged to fire him, the assistant manager was a fundamentalist Christian who believed in a hand's off management style based on the idea that God would reward the righteous, of whom he believed himself to be one. So you hesitated about making changes and, during that delay, you found that the CEO had sold off some of the real estate your factory was on. Every time you called the CEO in to question him on these and other matters, he was either off on "important" business, or he assured you that he'd have an explanation on your desk in two weeks.

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At what point would you come to the full and bleak realization that you were in big trouble, and that something would have to be done about the mistake you'd made in hiring?

Analogy Number 3

What if you were a parent with children in a school district overseen by a superintendent and a school board found to be hiring teachers who were abusing students in their charge, defacing the buildings, and selling school supplies for personal gain. What if it was learned the superintendent had lied about his educational attainments, lied about his attitudes about the value of public education, lied about his commitment to providing the best education possible to all students?

What if you learned he had separated out all students of color, relegating them to the shabbiest "temporary" trailer facilities that were unheated in winter and lacked air conditioning in the hotter months? And what if the members of the school board all turned out to have been elected despite the fact that none of them believed in public education and were found to be dedicated to making the system fail in order to prove that their antipathy to public education was well founded and right?

When might you urge other members of the PTA to make changes at the top for the sake of your children, if nothing else?

Analogy Number 4

Suppose you were impaneled as a juror charged with arriving at a verdict as to whether or not the elected President of the United States was guilty of obstructing justice. What if the evidence presented on the first day of the case was conclusive, that the POTUS had, in fact, already admitted in a television interview that he'd fired the head of the FBI to put an end to the investigation being conducted to determine whether or not he and others in his administration may have colluded with a foreign power to influence the election that had resulted in his election victory?

What if that POTUS also bragged to emissaries from that foreign power that he had obstructed justice, and what if damn near everything he'd said and done for months pointed to his guilt? What if every human being the POTUS seems to have known or interacted with in the last ten years turned out to have deep connections with that foreign power and its cast of crooked oligarchs? What if the slimy son-in-law of the POTUS and damn near half of the people appointed to his cabinet also had extensive connections with those foreign crooks and thugs?

And what if you and all the members of the jury knew the verdict they would return based on the evidence, but despite that, the trial kept going on and on, with new and largely redundant proof of guilt turning up daily? But still the trial dragged on and on. Might you not then begin to feel like an American citizen in a long nightmare in which you are that juror in that trial that will never come to court, let alone allow you to bring a verdict in a case that was clear cut before a charge was ever laid?

Would you come to feel like a character in a Kafka novel, not the one who was arrested, but never told his crime, but the one on the jury who was condemned to serving on a jury in a trial in which jurors were eternally denied the chance to render a verdict?

jaime oneill

Jaime O'Neill