This Unholy Mess


Like a Classical Greek Tragedy–With Jokes

What a relief to realize that Mr. Trump will likely not finish his term in office. There are lots of ways the end could come, of course, but come it must. And it will come not because of some alien force that wrestles him to the ground, or some political enemy that blindsides him. He will be vanquished by his most powerful, fiendish enemy: himself.
It’s kind of a cool Greek play: like one of the tragedies written by Sophocles; except this one is so idiotic its author would be more like Sophomoricles.
The play doesn’t lack for great dialogue, what with his never-ending flow of inane projectile tweets. Incoming! Dangerous shards of language flying everywhere. Lots of colorful supporting characters, too, not least being the spectacular Anthony Scaramucci and his colorful reference to forms of extremely gymnastic self-pleasuring. The “Mooch” provided us with rare opportunities for teachable parent/child moments: We’re making America great again, kids! And we’re doing it with some very public, super-creative X-rated language. Let’s close our eyes and say a prayer for all of our brave investment bankers fighting on the front lines of free speech.
So why is Trump bound to trip over himself? Because when you are sure you are the sun, the moon, and the stars, when you are certain that everything is about you, you can never get out of your own way. Such a juicy paradox. Total, overweening self-assurance implies the certainty of failure. The classical Greeks called it hubris, though today it might best be expressed as a question to Trump: “If you’re so rich, why aren’t you smart?”
Think of it: here is someone so full of himself that he began to think, yeah, I could be president. I did some big real estate deals, and hey, I was a reality TV star for more than ten years. That should do it.
He discovered only too late that it was the adulation of the campaign crowds and the rush of winning an election that he wanted. This governance stuff? Forget it. He clearly doesn’t understand the structure and function of our government; he doesn’t even appear curious about it. Getting a grasp of important policy issues? Such a hassle. Why not just go to Bedminster for a quick 18 holes?
Child-like—or, rather, child-ish–he figured being president meant giving commands, doing “deals,” and then getting strapped into his capacious tux in time for photo ops and a state dinner complete with a slice of the best chocolate cake ever. It’s even better than “hanging out with all the hottest people in New York,” a goal he recently touted to a huge crowd of Boy Scouts.
In truth: winning the election was the worst thing that could have happened to Donald Trump. It sent his grotesque, bloated self-image into hyper-drive. Before the election, he merely suspected he might be God. Afterwards? He was sure of it. He is now convinced he is truly the embodiment of America, and that his cartoonish views of America’s pressing problems must prevail. Like Louis XIV’s “L’etat, c’est moi,” he is the nation, personified. America’s power is perfectly exhibited in his adolescent-crunch handshake. America’s progress and dynamism are best described by the sweep of his greasy ducktail.
Any opposition or criticism, from any quarter, is wrong at best and evil at worst. So how could this man ever accept criticism or serious counsel from anyone, with the possible exception of his family members, who are, tragically, just as smart as he is? All those other sad little people, those career diplomats and government specialists? Who needs ‘em?
So Trump is doomed to continue steering into the storm of domestic and international politics without a navigator or an experienced crew. Shipwreck ahoy.
With the deepening of the tragedy, I confess I am even beginning to have some sympathy for Trump supporters. Not an easy thing. But in many ways it makes sense that they would fall for this guy. They watched him on TV for years, looking decisive and powerful—not quite realizing that it was, after all, just a show, and that showmanship was Trump’s only real skill. They never unmasked his mash-up of glitz and hype and bluster. They heard the promises, not realizing he had no idea how to keep them, but had lots of good instincts for deflecting blame when he didn’t.
Most of all, they were desperate. They were tired of the messy spectacle of our horribly-flawed but admirable democracy, impatient with the unglamorous work that goes into its operation: the dedication, the hard-won expertise, the perseverance, the teamwork. They were promised instant results and they took the bait. It’s just a shame that the whole nation is now on the hook.