What the Evangelicals call "the end times"!



by Selvam Canagaratna

"Even God has been defended with nonsense."
– Walter Lippmann, A Preface to Politics, 1914.

"In the Book of Revelation, six hundred sixty-six is ‘the mark of the beastʼ. For some two thousand years, that number has been associated with the Anti-Christ and with what evangelicals nowadays call "the end times", wrote Andrew Levine, a ‘regular’ CounterPunch magazine contributor. "The number 666 figures in esoteric mystical and satanic practices, and in the folk traditions of peoples throughout Christendom. It is a point of reference in the popular culture of our time."

How ironic therefore, observed Levine, "that the address of the skyscraper office building that is playing such a prominent role in Jared Kushner’s fall from grace is 666 Fifth Avenue!"

As if to top it all, Jared’s father-in-law "has been losing it a lot lately, mentally decomposing. The more he does, the more likely it becomes that the world will end with a bang. We cannot rule out a whimper, however – not with the Commander-in-Chief’s mind, what there is of it, fluttering hither and yon. Or maybe Providence has something more Biblical in store."

The demonic connotations of that building’s address, wrote Levine, have been part of the folklore surrounding it from the time that Tishman Realty and Construction, a far bigger deal than the Trump Organization, had the office tower built in the late fifties. Tishman had no problem renting out office and retail space on that account; in those saner times, Christian eschatology was less commercially and politically consequential than it has since become.

The Kushner Real Estate Group, which under Jared’s leadership acquired 666 in 2007, has had trouble making ends meet. Not all the blame lies with the resurgence of archaic modes of thought in recent decades. A bigger problem is that the Kushners who, as ‘modern Orthodox’ Jews, know a thing or two themselves about archaic, beliefs and practices, borrowed heavily to purchase the building, and more still to maintain it. The income 666 brings in does not justify their level of indebtedness.

Even so, the building remains one of New York City’s prime addresses. Thank the First Law of Real Estate for that: location, location, location!

However, Jared paid too much for it, just before the market for Manhattan office space collapsed as the Great Recession unfolded. By now, that market has recovered somewhat, but not enough to get the Kushners out from under water.

Thus the man whom Trump put in charge of nearly every thorny issue facing his administration put his own family’s business seriously in debt.

Debt is something Trump knows well. If only for that reason, if he has any capacity for empathy at all, Trump must be feeling Jared’s pain. In demeanour and personality Jared and the Donald are as different as can be. However, as real estate tycoons, the two of them are cut from the same cloth.

Plainly, Ivanka and her psychoanalyst, if she has one, have a lot to talk about: father (even in public she calls him "daddy") and husband – same syndrome.

The two loves of her life both had sleazy landlord fathers, though only Jared’s actually did time. Both had fathers who provided them with money and political influence to spare. And they both set out from the metropolis’s hinterlands (Queens in Trump’s case, New Jersey in Kushner’s) to take Manhattan by storm. In the process, both indebted themselves up to the gills.

Trump Tower is an over the top monument to Trump’s vanity, greed, and insecurity; it is an architectural mediocrity, a gilded flat screen TV, bulked up on steroids and turned on its side.

Kushner has more refined ambitions for 666. He wants to replace the existing structure with something more luxurious, more profitable, and more distinguished than the building there now.

To that end, he had enlisted the architectural firm of Zaha Hadid, an Iraqi architect living in Britain. Zaha had an outstanding reputation, and many fine buildings to her credit. In 2004, she became the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize, the equivalent of a Nobel Prize for architects. Zaha died in 2016.

Jared may be as unfit for the tasks his father-in-law assigned him as Trump himself is for his own responsibilities, wrote Levine, but at least he still believes in the "American dream" – or "at least the part of it that has children being more couth than their parents and parents-in-law."

Kushner also has another smart move in mind; he wants to change the building’s street number – to 660. But getting all this done is going to cost money; in this case, at least $12 billion.

Levine noted in passing that each day’s news brought fresh reports of meetings in the White House or at foreign venues between Crown Prince Jared and the world’s leading moneylenders. But many, maybe most, of Jared’s efforts to raise money for 666 and his family’s other holdings have involved foreign oligarchs and potentates. It could hardly be otherwise. On the merits, no sane capitalist banker would want anything to do with his plans for 666, and America’s homegrown high flyers have not quite yet descended to the level of their counterparts in modern day equivalents of banana republics and Third World dictatorships.

In a withering if well-deserved comment, Levine wrote: "Even up to the moment Trump surprised everybody (including himself) by winning the 2016 election, major American banks would have sooner flushed their money down the toilet than lend any of it to him. Deutsche Bank and other foreign-based financial titans would work with the Trump Organization from time to time, but American bankers, having been burned too many times in the past, wanted nothing to do with him.

"It is also looking more likely than not that Russian oligarchs and similarly unsavory characters from distant lands with lax financial regulations figure in the explanation, and that persons connected to criminal organizations or to Russian intelligence services played a role as well.

"The way to find out is clear: follow the money. In this instance, there is a via regia, a royal road, a (comparatively) easy way to do that: look where the son-in-law has gone begging. What are Kushner’s problems, after all, but ‛Russiagate’ writ small?"

"Because the United States is and long has been the world’s foremost serial meddler in the affairs of other countries, their hypocrisy is mind-boggling. That aside, the peril they warn of is almost certainly a red herring. On the other hand, financial shenanigans involving Russia and the Trump organization almost certainly did take place. If ‛Russiagate’ investigators do their job properly, it is extremely likely that they will find that this, not his campaign’s ‛collusion’ with the Russians, is what Trump is trying so hard to cover up.

"Whether of not Trump’s Teflon armour keeps on protecting him, the fact remains: the gods are closing in. ‛Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad,’ wrote Longfellow. We can see it happening before our very eyes.

"There is a certain satisfaction in taking Longfellow at his word, and look upon the goings on in the Trump White House as the handiwork of pagan gods amusing themselves at our expense. Or, better yet, and in a more sullen and less imaginative Christian vein, as a sign of demons portending the End Time.

"In that spirit, let us therefore relish the profound, possibly terminal, disorder portended by the Mark of the Beast. Kushner seems like a harmless enough airhead but as Trump’s early backer and erstwhile crony, Chris Christie, can attest, that boy can be one vengeful son of a bitch. Christie was the prosecutor who put Jared’s father behind bars

"Not long after the government of Qatar turned down Kushner’s pleas for help, Qatar became the victim of a United Arab Emirates-led, Saudi-supported, and Trump-endorsed blockade. It is hard not to see Jared’s hand at work here. The consequences for the region have been grave – for Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and, above all, for Yemen, one of the most war-devastated places on earth.

"Even in an administration where the outrageous has become normal, letting the pecuniary interests of the President, his children, and, in the case of the Donald’s favourite daughter, his children’s spouses dictate the course of world events marks a new low.

"How bad will it get, and what role, if any, have the Russian government and its intelligence services been playing? Will it lead to Kushner’s undoing? To Trump’s? As with the reality TV shows from which Trump learned most of what he knows, stay tuned and relish the spectacle.

"Evangelicals surely will. They must be thinking that with 666 so prominently involved, the End Times – not just for Kushners and Trumps but for everybody, saved and reprobate alike – is near.

"Or perhaps they are not quite as crazy as that, and are instead just looking forward to a time when Mike Pence will be the one calling the shots. He is one of their own, after all; and, if only by being less unhinged, he can do more for them than Trump can.

"Mark of the beast, indeed! With or without Trump himself in the leading role, the Trump Show has at least two and a half more years to run. That is Hell enough already."


animated gif
Processing Request
Please Wait...