|Matthew Arnold (portrait by Elliot and Fry)|
On his current trip President Trump will have traveled to three major religious centers, Jerusalem, Rome and Riyadh, the capital of a country which is home to the most holy of Muslim pilgrimages, the annual Hajj to the Saudi city of Mecca. But while Rome, Jerusalem and Riyadh may have deep religious meaning for Jews, Christians and Muslims, it’s the dichotomy between Athens and Jerusalem which has the most profound philosophical significance. In his Culture and Anarchy Matthew Arnold draws a dichotomy between the Hellenic “spontaneity of consciousness” versus the Hebraic “strictness of conscience,” with the former emphasizing speculation and the later action. From a geopolitical point of view there was no way that Athens was going to figure into the president’s itinerary. Greece, the birthplace of Western civilization, is a country that's struggling to stay afloat in EU. More importantly the president is someone who himself is all action. In fact, if one looks at the most recent gaffe with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about Comey being “a nut job” one might conclude that he often acts without thinking. Putting someone like Trump in the modern equivalent of Plato’s Academy would be tantamount to sentencing Alexandr Solzhenitsyn to the Gulag. This is not to say that Trump is faring any better amongst his action orientated buddies in Jerusalem. Though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave Trump a royal welcome, it came in spite of his ruffling the feathers of Israeli intelligence, who’d been implicated in the same conversation during which he’d reassured that the Russians that the firing of the FBI director according to the Times "had relieved 'great pressure' on him." ("Trump Told Russians That Firing 'Nut Job' Comey Eased Pressure From Investigation," NYT, 5/19/17, "Trump Accidentally Confirms that He Leaked Israeli Intel to the Russians," New York Magazine, 5/22/17).