Most of all we want to understand, but we don’t understand Donald Trump, probably never have. Will we ever? I’ve never seen a good explanation of many of the wacky, oddball and hurtful things he’s said (said and not yet done as he’s only in the second week of his presidency).
Why did he assert, was it a couple of years ago, that John McCain was not a war hero because of how he fought the war, but that he was not a war hero because he was captured. “I like,” Trump said, “people who weren’t captured.” And why was he one of the very first to join the so-called “Birther” movement? (Did he found the “movement”?) Why did he repeatedly call for the President to release his full birth certificate and then question the authenticity of the documents once he did so? Then as a presidential candidate, he declined to say the President was born in the United States — until September 16 of last year?
Crazy I thought at the time, but at the time I didn’t believe he would ever be selected as the Republican candidate, let alone ultimately elected president. Why during the campaign in response to George Stephanopoulos who had asked him what he would say to a grieving Gold Star father, did Trump respond without even a single understanding, comforting phrase, but only said in his own rough “Apprentice” language: “I’d say, ‘we’ve had a lot of problems with radical Islamic terrorism.’”
In general our way of understanding oddball happenings is to use a metaphor, or figure of speech, in which a word or picture, a phrase or story is applied to an object or action to which it is not ordinarily applicable, and thereby helps with our understanding. And this is the way that right now many thinkers and writers are trying to understand the president. Here are three examples:
Daniel Henninger in the WSJ uses the metaphor of a kaleidoscope. The Trump kaleidoscope, he says, has at least two reflecting surfaces. One is Trump Himself, a phenomenon that changes at every turn. The other is the Trump government, which, Henninger says, is not going to break free of the American system’s more stable institutional realities and constraints. Let’s hope he’s right about that.
Then we have Michelle Goldberg of Slate Magazine, with this guest column in the NYTimes, Donald Trump, the Religious Right’s Trojan Horse. She writes: “Once Mr. Trump seized the Republican nomination, religious conservatives realized that their only path to federal influence lay in a bargain with this profane, thrice-married Manhattan sybarite. So they got in line, ultimately proving to be Mr. Trump’s most loyal backers…. With hindsight, Mr. Trump’s libertinism made him the perfect Trojan Horse for conservative values. Because he’s such an irreligious figure, social issues barely figured in the campaign. Even as Christian conservatives put their faith in Mr. Trump, opponents of the religious right’s agenda were able to convince themselves that Mr. Trump wouldn’t enact it…. [but he did of course with the result that] The religious right has been elevated to power without having to contest its ideas in an election. Sometimes, a deal with the devil pays off, big league.”
It was Odysseus who told the Greek warriors to build a big wooden horse on wheels, big enough for a bunch of Greek soldiers to hide inside it. It was Trump himself who chose his own “wooden horse,” the conservative Christian Mike Pence as his vice-president. And just as the Trojans paid no attention to the big wooden Horse in their midst filled with Greeks, during the campaign no one paid much attention to vice president designate Pence. I know I didn’t. And I didn’t suspect that Trump knew exactly what he was doing when he chose him.
When finally in Troy everyone had fallen asleep the Greek soldiers came out of the horse and proceeded to kill the men and enslave the women and children. Similarly when the election was over and Trump had won (not the popular vote, of course) the true believers , the conservative Christian born agains led by Pence came out into the open revealing their true faces, and ultimately the true fundamentalist colors of the new Trump administration.
Whatever liberal and secular remnants of previous Bush and Obama administrations still remained in Washington now found themselves no longer at home, their entry to the Oval Office blocked, and although it didn’t happen that they themselves were killed and their women and children taken back to the Red States as slaves, they understood that religious zealots were now occupying the principal seats of power in the Trump administration, having won the big battle for the country.
Following Daniel Henninger’s Kaleidoscope and Michelle Goldberg’s Trojan Horse I propose a metaphor of my own, that of the circling, hungry bottlenose dauphins (who I trust will pardon the comparison) that, in order to catch and eat the mullet,
such as these from Tampa Bay where I live, create clouds of sand and mud that frighten and arouse the fish who then become easy prey almost seeming to fly into the mouths of the circling dauphins.
Here is the uTube video of what happens:
Whichever dolphin first figured out how to create “fish mud nets” should get a prize! Donald Trump should get a prize himself for having figured out how to create “people mud nets,” that is, mind nets where people, you and I, are caught and no longer know what is going on. Trump himself probably knew, almost from the moment he began making all those zany statements that would keep us all tied up, and most important keep his legions of followers from changing their minds, perhaps even getting in his way and blocking his otherwise clear path to the presidency.
Here is the picture, in the Oval Office, of Trump and his team. There is Mike Pence, Michael Flynn, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, and Sean Spicer (other team members, Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner, and Jeff Sessions are absent but very much of the same ilk). Trump is speaking on the phone with President Putin while his team looks on, waiting perhaps to seize and make their own, as the dauphin the mullet, whatever comes out from the mud net of Trump’s words.
Like Trump’s team of advisors Bottlenose dauphins are also commonly found in groups of varying sizes, as little as 2 to 15, as in the video, but also in herds of several hundred individuals. Trump’s herds now number in the millions. Will they, can they be stopped?
But the. metaphors never go far enough. What’s really happening is never fully caught by the figure. There is no kaleidoscope, no Trojan Horse, and no herd of Bottlenose dauphins that will bring us greater understanding of what is going on in the country. We do know that we now have a president who with his team is creating “mud nets” with his words to confuse us, and we really don’t know what is to come. But we suspect it won’t be good for the country. Having zealots and liars in charge is never good.
We’re only in the second week of Trump’s presidency and the pronouncements coming from Trump himself and his team have already begun to destroy the Republican Party, revealing a group of representatives in Washington without the courage to oppose their president of untruths, one after another. And much worse than destroying the Party Trump et al. are seriously weakening our liberal democracy by abandoning the secular and humanitarian vision of the Founding Fathers. For what else can one call closing the door to the world’s refugees?
What’s next? Taking down the Statue of Liberty?