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The Ptolemaic system

When the visible world is not satisfactory, we will create an invisible one that is. 

Let’s take a quick trip back to high school history class. From the first moment human eyes gazed up in wonder at the cosmos, we made an understandable assumption: that the Earth was the center of it all. In the second century A.D., Hellenistic astronomer Ptolemaeus formalized that assumption with his geocentric theory, a complex system of orbits within orbits all designed to explain the motion of the heavens without questioning  Earth’s position at its center. The Ptolemaic system held for more than a millennium until Copernicus proposed the far simpler heliocentric system which placed the Sun at the center of the solar system. It took a relatively short time, about a century, for heliocentrism to become commonly held knowledge.

Now let’s now run down the hall to current events class, where the clash between the two these ancient astronomical systems can be viewed as a metaphor to describe any conflict between a complex theory which supports a central non-negotiable tenet, and a far simpler one which dares to challenge that tenet. It’s what we’ve been experiencing the past two-plus years as the president and a shocking number of people on the right put forward a kind of have-the-Kool-Aid, Flat Earth Society mass delusion regarding what happened in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The Trump explanation: 

1) He won the 2016 election.

2) His enemies are sore losers (which may be true, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t right) who have mounted a vicious campaign to do anything they can nullify his win, aided by:

3) the Deep State; shadowy figures who also happen to be out to get Trump (Interestingly, it turns out to be easy to identify members of the Deep State: they oppose Trump.) including:

4) high-ranking members of the FBI

5) the U.S. intelligence agencies

6) the DNC

7) Crooked Hillary

8) Lying Comey

9) nearly the entire academic world

10) nearly the entire U.S. media

… and on and on.

The not-Trump explanation:

1) The Russians interfered with the presidential election, benefiting Trump, who refuses to admit it.

That’s it; just the one. Explains everything — and in the process does not destroy the credibility of America’s most-revered institutions and public servants.

It’s a fact. The Russians meddled in the 2016 presidential election, heavily favoring Trump over Clinton. Don’t take my word for it, take the words our “completely exonerated” president values above all others, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whose investigation reported on page one, “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion” and continues later, “The Trump campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”

It’s why we see him like Picasso in the 1949 Life magazine “Painting With Light” photographs, wildly filling the air with circles and shapes. But in his case, Trump’s creations are an increasingly bizarre parade of far-fetched explanations, tortured rationalizations, pretzel logic, hair-brained theories, and loathsome accusations of treason abetted by a conscienceless right-wing media empire and a political party willing to excuse any amount of Trump aberrance just so long as he remains able to focus his attention long enough to pick up a pen and sign pretty much whatever they put in front of him.

The ancients can be forgiven for the conclusions they drew when they looked up into the darkness. But we know better. Untruth is untruth whether it’s ignorance, or wishful thinking, or a straight-out lie. Bowing to the craven will of this president is tragic and shameful. So is refusing to dig down and find the courage to step forward and say enough is enough. I’m optimistic that an increasing number of conservative Americans are showing signs of thinking for themselves again, changing from “Why are they haranguing the president?” to “What is he trying so hard to hide?”

The plan is obvious: toss up so much garbage in the air that people can no longer see the simple truth: Our president is an narcissistic autocrat wannabe madly tearing down historic conventions that were plenty good enough for 44 presidents and 115 houses of Congress before him, hoping to work the system file nuisance lawsuits against New York City contractors until they were silenced; to cross the finish line to a second term; to get a chance to rewrite the history books the way he wants them to read; to create a new Ptolemaic system that suits him. 

A system with, at its center, Donald Trump.


Many of Charles Caratti’s stories, articles, and essays have been published nationally. In the fall his work will be included in the textbook “America Now” published by Bedford/St. Martin’s/Macmillan Learning. Contact him at Charles’s past Southpaw articles are archived at

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

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