The 1954 movie The Caine Mutiny tells the story of a newly appointed commanding naval officer, Captain Philip Queeg, assigned to resurrect an old destroyer-minesweeper and its crew’s morale during World War II. His subordinates, all competent individuals, serve willingly under his command—at first.
However, Captain Queeg’s authoritarian methods and reluctance to take responsibility for his poor decision-making begins to foster discussion and rancor among the crew regarding his leadership skills and mental health. Disregarding his staff’s recommendations, Queeg chastises and denigrates them for their own “incompetence” and disloyalty. He further alienates and isolates himself by making baseless accusations regarding the pilfering of dessert strawberries, subsequently ordering a complete search of the ship to produce an “imaginary” duplicate key to the ship’s commissary.
But a perfect storm would soon overtake Captain Queeg. First, while under enemy fire and escorting landing craft vehicles toward a beachhead, he disobeys the command of his superiors to move closer to protect those men and orders a yellow dye marker be thrown overboard, then reverses course out to sea.
The second incident occurs during a typhoon when, unable to make a competent decision to save his ship from foundering, he is relieved of command by his senior officer who cites a naval statute regarding mental incompetence. This last incident would involve court martial proceedings for this senior officer, who was charged with mutiny.
A pre-trial medical exam would have found Queeg mentally competent, but with symptoms of paranoid personality. Under vigorous cross-examination, Queeg has a mental breakdown while rationalizing his numerous past actions, displaying his paranoia. Still in denial, he continues to cast blame on other’s actions as being the cause of his troubles—and then summarizes for the court’s “edification,” his “successful” investigation of the missing fruit and the “undeniable” proof of who was culpable.
Perhaps a private movie screening for Mr. Trump and his White House staff is in order. With refreshments served after? Well . . . fresh strawberries, anyone.
E.G. Singer lives in Santa Rosa.
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