Son of a Ship’s Captain: A Parable

Once upon a time, there was a ship captain.

His father was a ship captain, and so was he.

His father had trained for many years as an apprentice, learning the ways of a ship and the ways of the sea, and and on the day he became a captain, he was given a hat so that all would see it and know he was the captain of a ship, and when his son was grown, he gave that hat to him, and that was that, he was a ship captain, just like his father had been.

So the son went out into the world with his hat, and he found a ship in need of a captain, and he said, “I am just what you need,” and because he was a ship captain and the son of a ship captain, the ship’s owners agreed. The young ship captain set out directly towards the open waters, spinning the wheel of the ship as he went, because he had seen ship captains at the wheel before and he felt quite keenly that the main thing was to turn the wheel decisively. The ship’s crew, not being captains, began yelling and waving their arms, trying to shake his resolve. The captain showed character and discipline in the face of adversity, and instead spun the wheel even harder. When the hull of the boat crunched up against some rocks jutting out of the water, the captain remained calm in the face of this adversity, shrewdly filling his pockets from the ship’s cargo before sensibly leaving the doomed vessel.

He made his way back to shore where he told everyone he could meet how only his supreme skill and instincts for seasmanship had allowed him to not only survive such an unholy wreck, but profit by it. “If you let me pilot your vessel,” he said, “you might profit by it as I assuredly will.”

And so he was given command of a second ship, and on the day it departed the harbor, he ordered full sails. Every sail unfurled, every sail gloriously billowing in the wind. The crew protested; it was a crowded harbor and the wind was not right, and full sails were not only unnecessary, they were dangerous. But they were not ship captains, nor the son of a ship’s captain, and what did they know? He had a reputation to maintain, and full sails were impressive. This was a triple-mastered schooner, not some dinky little rowboat. It was huge.

In fact, he gave orders for a fourth mast to be assembled on the spot so they could fly even more sails, and while his crew scrambled to obey, the ship collided with another one just inside the mouth of the harbor and the two became hopelessly entangled and sank.

The ship’s captain did not stop to fill his pockets from his ship’s cargo, because he now had the skill and experience to know it would be necessary to do so, and so had made a point to loot the hold before the ship had cast off from the dock. This was the kind of acumen that he brought to the job. He left the sinking ship by means of boarding the other ship, where he filled a small sack from their cargo, which he claimed as salvage under the rights of maritime law.

“It’s a perfectly valid business strategy,” he said as he left the other sinking ship.

Back on shore in a tavern, the ship captain loudly boasted of his prowess in keeping a clear head amidst the danger, that he had, while others were cursing him and trying to untangle the ships or bail out the flooding holds, calmly done the only sensible thing and got out, that he had walked away while the other ship’s captain had stayed behind trying to right his vessel, only being saved from the waters by the intervention of his crew.

“What a loser,” the ship captain said. “If they hadn’t pulled him out, he probably would have gone down with his ship!”

While the young ship captain was making a name for himself as the son of a ship captain and the man who had survived the wrecks of two vessels and come out ahead, other captains were sailing their ships out of the harbor and over the seas, carrying cargo and conducting commerce, but none of them had pockets as full as the young ship captain and none of them were in the tavern every night, telling all who would listen of their prowess and instincts as a sailor. The son of the ship captain was making quite a name for himself, and so he decided that a man of his stature deserved more than piloting a ship that belonged to another. He would build his own. It was going to be huge.

Five masts; no, six! And every railing and knob  would be painted gold; no, solid gold! And the sails would be of the finest silk, and the decks tiled in granite; no, marble!

Such a ship would be quite expensive. The money he had inherited from his father and what he had pocketed along the way might have been enough, but a man has certain expenses. Certainly there was no need for a captain of his experience to front his own money for such a venture.

So he went to his friends in the tavern, and he said, “You have all heard the stories of my brilliant seasmanship, and now it is your chance to get in on the action. It is your chance to become a part of the lesson. It is your chance to touch the greatness that is my name. If you build this ship, and you put my name on it, and you give it to me to pilot, then I promise I will use the same golden touch I have used on every ship I have piloted. I will profit by it, and you will be my partners.”

So his friends raised the money and they built him the ship, and they send him off in it with all the pomp fitting the circumstance and more, because there had never been a grander ship and he had convinced them that making it a magnificent occasion would make their business venture all the more successful, didn’t they know they had to spend money for him to make money? It was the party to end all parties, and at the end of it, the ship sailed away, and at the end of the day, the ship captain was back at the tavern, trading a piece of the ship’s ornament for a meal.

“Well?” his friends-turned-eager-investors said.

“Look, it’s not my fault you didn’t do your due diligence before getting into bed with me,” the ship captain said. “This is entirely your fault.”

“Where is our fabulous ship?”

“I ran it aground somewhere,”the ship captain said. “But! You’re welcome to it if you can find it. I hereby dissolve the partnership. You own it outright. Just see that someone scrubs my name off the side of it. I have a certain reputation to uphold, see? I can’t have my name on a foundered ship.”

The investors were unhappy, of course, but many people had seen the fine ship setting out with such extravagant celebration, and had read the name of the ship captain on its side, and so many people were eager to meet such a celebrated person who could afford such finery and command such a ship, and many of those people were eager to do business with him, to trust their cargos and their ships and their bankrolls to him, to apprentice with him and learn all he knew of the art of seasmanship, and before too terribly long the young ship captain—no longer quite so young—had grown his reputation and his image of himself to the point where he was no longer content to be captaining mere ships.

No, ship would do for him but the ship of state itself. He would run for president.

“Folks, you vote for me and I will do for this nation exactly what I have done for the many ships I have sailed,” he said. “Who else has my experience? Who else is a better captain than I am? All of my opponents are losers. They say they are the best captains, but how many shipwrecks have they survived?”

He waited for the applause that came on cue, and then he finished,

“I’m Donald Trump, and I approve this message.”