Sally Yates: The First Sacrificial Ox in the Purge

by Bob Schwartz

Only ten days into his administration, Trump has begun the purge of government officials who disagree with him, with the firing of Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. It took Nixon almost five years before he got rid of a conscientious Attorney General. Elliot Richardson left on 20 October 1973, an event now known in history as the Saturday Night Massacre. Things seem to move much faster in the 21st century. There is more of the same undoubtedly to come.

For people of conscience, government posts and titles have always been dangerous. Here is a story from Chuang Tzu (c. 4th century BC), “one of the most intriguing, humorous, enjoyable personalities in the whole of Chinese thought and philosophy.”

Someone offered Chuang Tzu a court post. Chuang Tzu answered the messenger, ‘Sir, have you ever seen a sacrificial ox? It is decked in fine garments and fed on fresh grass and beans. However, when it is led into the Great Temple, even though it most earnestly might wish to be a simple calf again, it’s now impossible!’ (The Book of Chuang Tzu, Chapter 32)