The Trees is an ideal (and pragmatic) leftist’s song

I love the song “The Trees,” by Rush, on their “Hemispheres” album. It’s the first song of Rush’s catalog that I heard, even though I didn’t know the band was Rush at the time.

It’s an incredibly leftist song.  I wholly approve. I am a leftist at heart.

I’ve been asking people I know what “left” and “right” entail these days, out of simple interest. If you’re reading this, it might be worthwhile to consider what these terms mean, without doing any research whatsoever. I promise I’ll explain in a few paragraphs.

I’ve gotten a lot of fascinating answers, largely centered on “Democrat” and “Republican.” These are somewhat valid, in that Democrats tend to be more leftist and Republicans tend to be more rightists.

But consider: Communists are far left. Fascists are far right. Yet these two groups tend to advocate for the same economic policies. They’re both boogeymen, politically.

How does this work? How can fascists and Communists be on the same page but be described so differently on a political spectrum?


Left and Right aren’t about economic policy: they’re social. In the time of the French Revolution, the revolutionaries sat on the left of the gallery, while the monarchists sat on the right side of the gallery. The “leftists” were all about equality, a lack of social classes, whereas the monarchists were reinforcing the concept of social classes, as you can imagine with the concept of royalty being involved.

Leftists are confronted by social classes, while Rightists are comforted by the same.

The Democrats, by advocating for populism so strongly, see social striata (often defined by money) as being at least somewhat a negative thing. The Republicans accept the existence of social classes. Both parties have extremists that advocate either a destruction of everything associated with the old classist system (in the case of the Democrats) or the absolute enforcement and recognition of acceptable class striation (in the case of the Republicans).

I am a leftist. I’m not an extremist by any measure; I just take the Declaration of Independence seriously when it says “All are created equal,” with rights endowed innately for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Yet I’m also pragmatic: there are social classes. There’s no way to argue with the idea that some are born with silver spoons, and I’d be the last person on the face of the earth to suggest that someone born poor is unable to climb the social ladder. (Likewise, someone born rich can fall down the social ladder… like me, for example, in that I was born upper middle class and now I’m probably back at the middle class after having been lower-middle and perhaps lower class, period.)

So this started out with “The Trees,” and by golly, let’s cycle back around to it at last.

“The Trees” is the story of a forest, where maples are in conflict with oaks: 

The trouble with the maples,
And they’re quite convinced they’re right,
They say the oaks are just too greedy,
And they grab up all the light.
The oaks can’t help their feelings
If they like the way they’re made
And they wonder why the maples
Can’t be happy in their shade.

Rush, Hemispheres, Anthem Records, 1978

In the end, after some absolutely rocking music, the trees’ conflict is resolved:

So the maples formed a union
And demanded equal rights
‘The oaks are just too greedy
We will make them give us light’
Now there’s no more oak oppression
For they passed a noble law
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet,
And saw

Rush, Hemispheres, Anthem Records, 1978

I find this to be beautiful in expression. Equality at last! … wait. The end result of the extremist expression of leftist thought (as the maples demand) is that all are equal… in being reaped. Yet the song still manages to advocate for a sort of pragmatic leftism: the maples aren’t wrong for wanting more! They just went about it in such a way that the “equality” wasn’t all that desirable after all.

I find that pragmatism – and the desire for equality – to be something close to a Platonic ideal.

Trump might be my new favorite President

I really do think Trump is working hard to become my favorite President — his position is solidifying every day.

This august position used to be Bill Clinton’s. Bill snatched it from such luminaries as Washington and Lincoln, something made possible only in the modern era where the common man had a chance to observe and admire (or abhor) the President on a regular basis.

Since Kennedy, we’ve really more or less converted our Presidents into kings, you see. For a country of individualists, that’s a bad thing; it gives the President much more responsibility and power than he (or she, if you like) should have.

I’m old-school. I don’t want a king. I want a citizen as President, nothing more, nothing less. I want my statesmen to be my peers, although hopefully better-informed and wiser than I am.

So President Clinton, through not being able to keep himself zipped up appropriately, did a lot of damage to the power of the Presidency; he illustrated the idea that a President was just this guy quite well — I wish the “guy” had been more upstanding, I guess, but we needed someone willing to take an axe to the root system of the office.

Perjury strikes at the very heart of the Presidency; Clinton, by perjuring himself in ways that would embarrass a third-grader caught with his hand stuck in the cookie jar, made his own office something to ridicule.

Then George W. Bush came along! For someone like me, Bush was a perfect candidate. Thick-tongued, a man of faith… here was someone who might not be a fantastic statesman but seemed to be a better human being than Bill Clinton, and that’s more or less what I thought we needed in the post-perjury years.

And then along came 9/11 and our President was converted right back into a king.

Obama was a good statesman and from all appearances quite a decent fellow, regardless of whether you approve of his political choices or not… but he still managed to cultivate a cult of personality such that he remained a king. Maybe that’s what he needed to do in order to be elected; I don’t know for sure, and if that’s the case, our system is broken. (Which is, of course, my core assertion; when the President is a king, we encourage only those who are willing to become a king to become President. And we don’t need that.)

Now we have The Ironically Titled Honorable Donald John Trump as President… and I’m not even sure where to begin.

A businessman of, um, let’s call them “pragmatic political beliefs,” Trump’s sigil isn’t ideally an eagle or a bull, a bear or a tiger — his best representative from the animal kingdom would be a boar, its head stuck in the trough, unaware of and uncaring about what crap went into its slop, as long as the slop keeps coming and coming and coming.

A man whose career was built on being observed, he apparently never quite caught on that America does actually have core political beliefs, and also has demonstrated a remarkable inability to read the crowd at a national level. His observational skills are limited to being in person at best, and asking him to speak to a wider, heterogenous audience is inviting disaster.

This is a man who employs Jews, whose daughter is a converted Jew, whose grandchildren are Jewish. I don’t believe he’s an anti-Semite in any way (again, because of pragmatism; committing to a belief such as anti-Semitism would require more effort than he’s demonstrated towards anything but the pursuit of the almighty Dollar.)

But at the same time, this same person was unable to recognize that “X is as bad as the Nazis” is untrue for any given value of X in human history thus far.

Further, this President is amazingly polarizing.

His support is bound up in all kinds of jingoistic, often racist-tinged publications. Those who support him politically and wholeheartedly have already had to do some soul-searching to figure out what’s wrong with themselves.

And those who oppose him… it’s hard to express the joy and horror I feel watching people oppose the President.

The joy is because I don’t want a king; opposing the President is a pastime that United States citizens are able to enjoy more than almost any other citizens on the face of the earth. And after watching the Left coronate Obama (“He can do no wrong”) for eight years, it’s good to see that they remember how to resist. And given that a lightning rod for the past few weeks has been racism and nationalism, it’s good to see the Left remember Jews positively for once.

The horror is in the form of resistance that it has taken. Images of the President beheaded in effigy; calls for his assassination; violence against those with whom disagreement has had; requests to dismantle the First Amendment, disregarding that this makes the United States a police state, and hands the keys to what is acceptable to think and say to… Trump.

At this point, I think the Left has as much to search its soul over as the Right does. They protested (rightfully) the calls for harm against Obama, and now they’re doing the same thing, in a sort of eye-for-an-eye reaction that does little but embolden their critics and diminish their own position.

So… yes, I think Trump is working hard to take over the position as “Best President” from Bill Clinton. (What’s odd is that George Washington, from whom Clinton took the title, was relegated to #2 for me… but when Clinton is toppled, he’ll drop to #40 or so. It’s all or nothing when you’re a cad, you know.) I just hope that the United States can emerge from under Trump’s Presidency in 2020 with its soul restored.