Perhaps the most iconic scene in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” is when John Proctor, facing the gallows for alleged involvement in witchcraft, refuses to save his life by signing a false confession.
When pressed, Proctor cries out, “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!”
This scene immediately came to mind after reading an op-ed published in the New York Times last week, which the editorial board attributed to an anonymous senior White House official. This unnamed official spoke of an internal “resistance” to President Donald Trump’s often chaotic, “reckless” tendencies. It was, I assume, an attempt to reassure the American people that the White House is, as Trump would say, a “smooth-running machine.” It had the opposite effect.
By refusing to throw his/her name behind the piece, Anonymous undermined its purpose. A name would have revealed the character, context, and motive behind the op-ed, and without these things, it can’t be wholly examined or understood. This op-ed wasn’t reassuring, it was alarming.
“Many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office,” Anonymous writes.
I take no issue with officials close to Trump advising him toward better aims. (In fact, I think it’s this very thing that has made the Trump presidency as successful as it has been.) But this was not advice or counsel. Anonymous, rather, is admitting to secret “thwarting” and covert undermining. How does this reassure the American voter?
Anonymous is an unelected official who has taken upon him/herself the responsibility of guiding the country safely to shore. And publishing an op-ed about this supposed mission is not a service to the country, it’s political posturing. If Anonymous truly wanted to help the Trump administration, he/she would openly advise and criticize the president when need be. Instead, he/she took the coward’s route, revealing undercover goings-on while expecting to be praised for it.
Unfortunately, none of this is surprising. Grandstanding and dramaticized reactions are how today’s politicos make the headlines, so Congress is sure to see more Spartacus-like men and women in the days to come.
It’s sad — Washington could use a few men like John Proctor. He understood well the value of a man’s reputation and the honor and integrity assigned to it. It cost him everything, but Proctor refused to give up his name because it was the only thing worth keeping. We may not know Anonymous’s name, but when it’s revealed — and it will be — it will have very little value, simply because Anonymous didn’t think it was worth much either (or at least, it wasn’t worth more than his/her job).
Even Elizabeth, Proctor’s wife, refused to separate him from that which defined him: “He has his goodness now!” she says. “God forbid I take it from him.”
Kaylee is a senior studying politics.