The myth Trump wants to perpetuate – the warrior leader as a physical specimen of manly strength was deflated pretty quickly Monday night, as quickly as his lungs deflated causing him to gasp for breath.
He wanted to emerge from the helicopter the Conquerer of COVID, returning victorious to the White House after his brief stay at Walter Reed Hospital. Wanting to project machismo, Trump appeared in full makeup, his brass hair freshly coiffed. Nothing shouts virility like orange foundation spackled on a face.
Ripping off his cloth mask in a gesture of macho defiance, Trump mocked any protocol for a COVID 19 infected patient. Science is for sissies. And suckers
Pumped up with enough steroids as an Olympic Russian athlete, Trump’s Mock Mussolini impersonation was more Looney Tunes cartoon dictator, a pathetic last gasp ( literally ) for a failed president and a failed man.
Hero or Loser
Trump envisions himself as an American hero.
A warrior. Virile, courageous, selfless. Someone with lasting cultural implications.
An Abraham Lincoln or General Eisenhower. Standing on the White House Truman Balcony at twilight he seemed less Lion King than a pathetic, sick, man. Sick in mind and body, this Looney Tunes dictator with his chest dramatically puffed out not in pride but in gasping for air.
Trump never has nor will he ever be an American hero.
He will never be added to Mt Rushmore. There will be no monuments or marble statues erected in his honor. A hero is distinguished by his achievements. A hero is someone who does not consciously think of himself during an emergency situation or crisis.
The hero is a big man, the celebrity is a big name.
At best Trump was a third-rate celebrity known by his manufactured image and brand. That brand concocted of smoke and mirrors will smolder in the ash heap of history. This self-styled golden boy forever tarnished.
America Needs Help STAT
But there was also a deep sense of shame in bearing witness to this travesty on the balcony of the Peoples House.
The state of our nation, the decline of America was revealed for all to see in Trump’s stunt balcony performance. Our country is unrecognizable. We have long been complacent, taking our system of democracy for granted leaving us vulnerable and susceptible to this virus that has infected us, weakened us, disfigured us. The virus is Donald Trump. The virus is in full infection mode now.
We had been on a slow trajectory of decline shifting from a country of ideals to one celebrating images and illusions. How fitting that our pseudo president should have been plucked from the world of reality TV, a failed businessman repackaged and repurposed as an ideal.
The health of our nation is close to being on life support even if Trump delusionally insists he has never felt better. Just like a real macho man.
© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Along with the art of Michele Castagnetti featured here, I am honored to be included in “Not Normal- Art in the Age of Trump.” This timely book is a densely rich visual protest featuring 147 artists with over 350 works astutely amassed by curator Karen Gutfreund. The abundance of artwork is accompanied by equally gripping essays.
“Not Normal Art in the Age of Trump” by Karen M. Gutfreund is available on Amazon
Well said, Sally. The irony is that John Rambo was a complex character driven by his selflessness. That he was flawed, in most ways it was a result of his military experience. Need one say more?
An interesting point about Rambo, as that part of his character, is often forgotten. Even more reasons why Trump is no Rambo
Sally, that is probably the image Trump has of himself. As an old fart, here are several underlying truths:
– if someone has to tell you how tough they are, they are most likely not (we cannot forget Trump was scared to do a debate with Meghan Kelly as she might ask him more tough questions).
– if someone has to tell you how smart they are, they are most likely not (Steely Dan sang “You’ve been telling me you’re a genius since you were seventeen. In all this time I have known you, I still don’t know what you mean.”)
– if you have to shout over people to win an argument it means you don’t have a very good one to begin with. If you want your kids to listen, whisper to them.
– if a person in a leadership position ridicules staff, his or her direct reports will tend to emulate that behavior (Trump has his own COVID-19 cluster, in part because he flouted cautions and in part because he and his senior staff mocked junior members of the staff for wearing masks). That is beyond poor leadership – that is dereliction, even sociopathic behavior. It is also a key reason Trump has had more turnover in his White House than any previous president. Congratulations Mr. president, you are #1.
So, Rambo was more about action than perception. Trump is more about perception than action. Keith
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Your closing line is a perfect defining summation.
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I think you’re right when you say Americans took their democracy for granted for too long. But that’s the case with almost every democratic country: people have short memories and they forget that things like the right to vote and choose your own leaders was hard won, and could be lost again. A democracy is only as good as the people who vote for it. But the decline didn’t just happen because of people taking democracy for granted. It depends too on people’s overall level of education, and American education seems to have been suffering from an ongoing dumbing down over a long period, general standards of literacy, numeracy etc dropping. Then people also have to be interested enough and willing enough to make informed decisions. Many people are simply too busy or lazy so they do not give the whole democratic process the oversight it requires. But that also happens everywhere.
There are a number of issues I’d take with your portrait of Trump though. I’m not a fan of his, that’s my disclaimer out of the way.
The first is you assume Trump is not a hero to the American people. Well, maybe not to people who voted for Clinton, but clearly he got enough votes to demonstrate that to many, whether he is a hero to them or not, he represents to them concerns that they feel have been overlooked or dismissed by politicians like Clinton for too long. That he got elected at all – over a fairly serious contender like Clinton – demonstrates he struck a chord with a sufficient number of Americans.
For the record, I’d have voted for neither of them.
Secondly, there is something a little unkind or even mean-spirited in your picture of Trump wheezing for breath, no longer the virile hero. Let’s consider how that might look were we to speak of Clinton, who likes to project herself as ‘an empowered woman’. Were she to leave a hospital wheezing with coronavrius, would we not find it a little unkind to stand round jeering at her weakness? Here’s your ’empowered woman’ barely able to crawl into her Presidential car? Would we not raise accusations of lack of charity at best, misogyny at worst? Would we not be more inclined to pen a portrait of a heroic woman ‘who battled the illness’ etc etc. In other words, there’s many ways of viewing an event, depending on which glasses we peer through.
Which brings me to point three – isn’t there some irony in the way that Trump’s personal appearance is endlessly commented on (and here as well) while out the other side of our confused mouths we say this is not acceptable, especially when the public figure in question is female?
Where you wrote – “…Wanting to project machismo, Trump appeared in full makeup, his brass hair freshly coiffed. Nothing shouts virility like orange foundation spackled on a face….”
Once again imagine the uproar were we to describe Clinton in similar terms? I had an example in mind to pen, but I think it would be rather unkind, and I’d prefer not to subject Clinton to such treatment, but you get the point.
I agree with you though that appearances are far too important in US politics, but that is precisely what we’d come to expect when you have a generally lazy populace that doesn’t want to be bothered reasoning through the issues and prefers soundbites and the media to explain things to them. Obama, for all his suave charm, borrowed his election catchphrase “Yes, we can!” (yes, we can ‘what’?) from a children’s cartoon character ‘Bob the Builder’. In some European countries at the time, he was even nicknamed ‘Bob the Builder’ for this reason. And money and connections are still far too important in US politics: the country may have had a ‘black president’, it may someday have a ‘female president’ but it will never have a ‘poor, unconnected president’. And so the presidents, however easy on the eye they may or may not be, will never represent anything other than a degree of privilege to begin with, whether black, white, male or female, whatever they may spout out their mouths. That dishevelled homeless middle aged white guy panhandling for the price of a cup of coffee on street corners and that represents the epitomy of ‘white male privilege’ will never become president.
Trump may be easy to dislike, he may not be a hero to Democrats (or some Republicans too, I guess) but ‘it’s an ill wind that blows no good’ as they say. King John of England was one of the worst kings England ever had, far more unpopular even than Trump, if you can credit such a thing. He was also a true despot, burning homes, sacking cities, using mercenary armies to keep control, the list is endless. Yet precisely because he was such a bad king, it was under his reign that the Magna Carta came to be signed – he was forced to sign it – a charter which clipped the king’s arbitrary power for the first time in English history. Colonial settlers brought a copy to America in the 1600s and some concepts of the US Constitution was developed from its clauses.
Trump may not be a ‘hero’ like Lincoln, but in fairness, not many US presidents have had that stature. The much revered George Washington was a slave owner (even if a benign one), Kennedy had his string of mistresses etc. Obama oversaw several periods of ‘quantitative easing’ – i.e printing money – to ease the economy, but that is a short term solution that will increase problems for future presidents and increase the poverty gap in the long term. They tend to be set on a pedestal by later generations who overlook their human flaws, and we have yet to see how Trump’s real legacy will pan out. Only time will give us that perspective.
Whatever his faults, to his credit it may be that Trump will go down in history as the US president who –
1. was the first President in a long time not to invade anywhere
2. recognized the militant nationalistic trends emerging in China as a threat, while the rest of the world was happy to continue appeasing in order to keep their economies afloat: money over human rights (because if you think the USA is bad, you should take a closer look at what’s going on in China)
3. led to the overturn of Roe v. Wade, thus finally ending the silent slaughter of around10,000 innocent human lives every weekend of the year in America alone. Note that this 10,000 figure includes a disproportionate number of ‘ethnic minority’ (eg ‘black’) unborn babies, meaning that Trump would be doing something far more practical about saving black lives than the BLM protestors tearing up city centres at weekends.
Now some people might in the future recall him as a hero for doing these things, and maybe even erect a statue to him, who knows? We probably won’t be round to see it, but the future may judge us very differently to how we suppose.
All the best!
Just for clarity in regards to your thoughts of my being unkind about the state of Trump’s health. I did not make that comment of a man as he exited a hospital. That would indeed be unkind. I remarked that he chose to present/expose himself in a very public way as a “strong man” standing on the balcony of the WH as soon as he returned from Walter Reed. Anyone returning home from a very serious illness would not choose to have a very public photo op, clearly fully made up. It was clear he was short of breath which makes perfect sense given the severity of his illness. The disparaging remarks about Hillary Clinton were made when she faltered getting into a vehicle.
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Thanks for your reply, Sally.
I get what you’re trying to say about Trump, I think, that it was foolish rather than heroic to make a public appearance, and he didn’t look very macho or heroic with his makeup on and all coiffed. That he put other people at risk. And that normally people don’t do this. Is that a fair summation?
Of course Trump is not a normal person like you or me. He’s one of the world’s most powerful Presidents. There might even have been political expediency in making such an appearance – his opponents might otherwise exploit the fact of his illness to make him seem an unviable option in soon upcoming elections. For public figures like Trump, making a brief appearance after an illness is far from unusual. By way of example, Margaret Thatcher did it after a bout of flu which landed her in hospital. And she wasn’t even a Prime Minister by then, but still very well known. From the pages of the Guardian newspaper:
“A frail-looking Thatcher made a brief appearance outside her home, immaculately coiffed and wearing a wine-coloured dress with brooch and pearls, before returning inside….”
The full article here –
Her case is far from unique, and in general it is unusual for such reports to be accompanied by any suggestion of impropriety or poking of gentle fun. Then there are also the hordes of celebs and social media influencers who post pictures of themselves battling this or that illness and no one ever thinks to criticise them for it or suggest their appearance is pathetic in any negative sense or that they’re milking their illness for publicity. But the rules applied almost universally to other public figures don’t seem to be applied to Trump.
I didn’t know about Hilary Clinton faltering going into a car, that’s interesting; I suppose no one in the media at the time gave her a hard time over it or suggested she was getting on in years, betraying her ’empowered woman’ image by taking a misstep. It would seem petty if we did. Again, such considerations don’t seem to apply to Trump (who is also advanced in years).
Did he put anyone at risk? There are a multiplicity of opinions on coronavirus, and even medical experts seem to revise their scripts every so often as new facts come to light. The Presidential SUV can be hermetically sealed, he didn’t mingle with the crowds and shake hands, he didn’t take his mask off till he was facing out over the balcony (with no one in immediate range of him) – at least in the videos which were circulated, as I wasn’t there in person. It’s hard to see how anyone was really so much more at risk than they were when he was flown by helicopter to hospital before treatment in the first place. Maybe he should have walked all the way to hospital by back roads while ringing a bell loudly and crying ‘unclean! unclean!’
I joke of course, but my point is the media tend to reserve a special kind of treatment for Trump. I get that too, I didn’t much like Bush Jr, especially after the invasion of Iraq and it was easy to caricature him because he didn’t seem to have a wisp of charisma. But it took me a while to realize that my ad hominem approach meant that the substantive issues were left entirely undealt with. And that seems generally to be the case with Trump when it comes to the largely left-leaning media. The problem then is that the very many Americans who differ in opinion from the left-leaning media feel their PoV is almost completely dismissed until they think ‘Oh, here’s a guy who’ll at least give two fingers to the left media and politicians!!” In that sense, the far liberal left is as much to blame for Trump as the people who voted for him perhaps as a form of protest.
all the best, thanks again for your reply.