My wife and I belong to a book club where we study only one book. It’s an old book but we find passages that are relevant to modern times. In the Book of Kings, we found some parallels to our new president. Solomon had to quit as king and his son, Rehoboam, succeeded him. After he took the job, Rehoboam went to the elders to seek their advice about governing.
The elders told him that if he became a servant to his people, they would always serve him. This is not what Rehoboam wanted to hear, so he conferred with his buddies. They urged him to be harsher than his father. When Rehoboam addressed the people, he said, “My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.” He then introduced his buddy who was in charge of forced labor.
The people responded by picking up rocks and stoning Mr. Forced Labor to death. Rehoboam barely escaped with his life. They also abandoned Rehoboam’s kingdom. Only his own tribe remained faithful to him.
Whenever we elect a new president, we’re concerned about the advisors they select. George W. Bush chose the elders who had advised his dad. Unfortunately, they gave him some bad advice about invading Iraq. Barack Obama also got some bad advice from his financial advisors. Instead of calling bankers on the carpet to help out homeowners, he bailed them out.
When I took over the family detective business, it wasn’t as monumental as becoming King of Israel or POTUS, but I did get advice from an elder. My father gave me three nuggets of wisdom:
1) Never tell a lie that can be checked.
2) Don’t write something that can be waved around in a courtroom.
3) And no matter how tempting, don’t fudge a report or inflate a bill. He warned that I could only sell my integrity once.
I followed these principles and we’re still in business after 53 years. I wish the current president had gotten this kind of advice. He routinely makes false statements that can be easily fact-checked. He tweets statements that can be waved around in a courtroom. And he reportedly was less-than-honest in his business dealings.
After he was elected, he didn’t go to elders for advice. Instead, he listened to contemporaries with extreme views. They didn’t tell him to be a servant to his people. They advocated harsh policies that targeted the weakest segments of our society: minorities, women and immigrants. His executive orders spread needless fear among these people.
He also did not show compassion for the poor and struggling. He threatened to strip them of social programs, which fat cats like to call “entitlements.” Politically speaking, this was not smart. You don’t want to end up like Rehoboam, with only the tribe that elected you remaining loyal. You also don’t want to waste your political capital on pointless squabbles over petty issues.
For the sake of this country, I hope the president gets some better advice and doesn’t create a cabinet position called Secretary of Forced Labor. As for whipping us with scorpions, that sounds as impractical as building a border wall. If he studied our book, he’d find that walls didn’t work in Jericho. They also didn’t work in ancient China and modern Germany.
By the way, my dad never advocated scourging employees with scorpions. Instead, when they weren’t productive, I’d have to learn to fire them.
Isn’t that the catch phrase of our modern day Rehoboam?
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.