The world ac­cord­ing to Trump

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The word “trump,” ac­cord­ing to the dic­tio­nary, is an al­ter­ation of the word tri­umph. And be­cause Don­ald Trump, the US pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, ap­pears likely to be­come the nom­i­nee of the Grand Old Party of Abra­ham Lin­coln and Ron­ald Rea­gan, we owe it to our­selves to ask in what sense and for whom he rep­re­sents a tri­umph.

One thinks of a seg­ment of the Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion an­gered by the eight years of Barack Obama’s pres­i­dency, a group that is now feel­ing venge­ful. And one also thinks of the white su­prem­a­cist, seg­re­ga­tion­ist, na­tivist strain rep­re­sented by for­mer Ku Klux Klan leader, David Duke, whose noisy sup­port Trump was so hes­i­tant to re­ject last week and for whose con­stituency Trump may be a make-or-break can­di­date.

One eas­ily gets the sense, when try­ing to take se­ri­ously what lit­tle is known about the Trump plat­form, of a coun­try turn­ing in on it­self, walling it­self off, and ul­ti­mately im­pov­er­ish­ing it­self by chas­ing away the Chi­nese, Mus­lims, Mex­i­cans, and oth­ers who have con­trib­uted to the vast melt­ing pot that the most glob­al­ized coun­try on the planet has al­chem­ized, in Sil­i­con Val­ley and else­where, into prodi­gious wealth.

But, as is so of­ten the case with the United States, there is in the Trump phe­nom­e­non an el­e­ment that ex­tends be­yond the Amer­i­can na­tional scene. So one is tempted to ask whether Trump­ism might not also be the har­bin­ger – or per­haps even the apotheo­sis – of a truly new episode in world pol­i­tics.

I watch the head of this Las Ve­gas croupier, this kitschy car­ni­val per­former, coiffed and botoxed, drift­ing from one tele­vi­sion cam­era to an­other with his fleshy mouth per­pet­u­ally half-open: you never know whether those ex­posed teeth are signs of hav­ing drunk or eaten too much, or whether they might in­di­cate that he means to eat you next.

I lis­ten to his swear­ing, his vul­gar rhetoric, his pa­thetic ha­tred of women, whom he de­scribes, de­pend­ing on his mood, as bitches, pigs, or dis­gust­ing an­i­mals. I hear his smutty jokes in which the care­ful lan­guage of pol­i­tics has been pushed aside in fa­vor of sup­pos­edly au­then­tic pop­u­lar speech at its most el­e­men­tal – the lan­guage, ap­par­ently, of the gen­i­tals. ISIS? We’re not go­ing to make war against it, we’re go­ing to “kick its ass.” Marco Ru­bio’s re­mark about Trump’s small hands? The rest is not so small, “I guar­an­tee you.”

Then there is the wor­ship of money and the con­tempt for oth­ers that ac­com­pa­nies it. In the mouth of this se­ri­ally bank­rupt bil­lion­aire and con artist with pos­si­ble mafia ties, they have be­come the bot­tom line of the Amer­i­can creed – so much men­tal junk food full of fatty thoughts, over­whelm­ing the lighter cos­mopoli­tan fla­vors of the myr­iad tra­di­tions that have formed the great Amer­i­can pas­toral. In the se­quence about small hands, even an ear un­tuned to the sub­tleties of that pas­toral might have caught (though in a ver­sion per­verted by the ab­jectly low level of the ex­change) the fa­mous line from e.e. cum­mings, the Amer­i­can Apol­li­naire: “No­body, not even the rain, has such small hands.”

Con­fronted with this leap for­ward into coarse­ness and pet­ti­ness, one thinks of Sil­vio Ber­lus­coni, Vladimir Putin, and the Le Pens, father and daugh­ter. One thinks of a new In­ter­na­tional, not of com­mu­nism, but of vul­gar­ity and bling, in which the political land­scape shrinks to the di­men­sions of a tele­vi­sion stage. The art of de­bate col­lapses into catch phrases; peo­ple’s dreams be­come bom­bas­tic il­lu­sions; the econ­omy takes the form of the grotesquely phys­i­cal con­tor­tions of ver­bally de­fi­cient Scrooges who de­spise any­one who thinks; and striv­ing for self-ful­fill­ment de­te­ri­o­rates into the petty swin­dles taught in the nowde­funct Trump Univer­sity.

That’s right: an In­ter­na­tional with a cap­i­tal I: Glob­alised cor­rup­tion in the mu­tual ad­mi­ra­tion so­ci­ety of Putin, Ber­lus­coni, and Trump. In them we see the face of a car­toon hu­man­ity, one that has cho­sen the low, the el­e­men­tal, the pre-lin­guis­tic in or­der to en­sure its tri­umph.

Here is a uni­verse of fak­ery in which one con­signs to the obliv­ion of a now-ob­so­lete his­tory the pre­car­i­ous­ness of the ex­iles, mi­grants, and other voy­agers who, on both sides of the At­lantic, have built the true hu­man aris­toc­racy. In the United States, it is that great peo­ple com­posed of Lati­nos, East­ern Euro­pean Jews, Ital­ians, Asians, Ir­ish, and, yes, An­g­los still dream­ing of Ox­ford-Cam­bridge sculls now cleav­ing the wa­ters of the Charles River.

Ber­lus­coni in­vented this car­toon world. Putin in­ten­si­fied its ma­cho el­e­ment. Other Euro­pean dem­a­gogues are hitch­ing it to the foulest forms of racism. As for Trump, he gave us his tower, one of the ugli­est in Man­hat­tan, with its clunky, de­riv­a­tive ar­chi­tec­ture, its gi­gan­tic atrium, its 25me­ter wa­ter­fall to im­press the tourists – a Tower of Ba­bel in glass and steel built by a Don Cor­leone from the dregs in which all of the world’s lan­guages will in­deed be fused into one.

Care­ful, though. The new lan­guage is no longer that of the Amer­ica we dreamed would be eter­nal, the Amer­ica that has some­times breathed life back into ex­hausted cul­tures. It is the lan­guage of a coun­try with balls that has said its good­byes to books and beauty, that con­fuses Michelan­gelo with an Ital­ian de­signer brand, and that has for­got­ten that no­body, not even the rain, has such small hands.

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