Trump as tragedy

Tragedy: A drama or literary work in which the main character is brought to ruin or suffers extreme sorrow, especially as a conseqiuence of a tragic flaw, moral weakness, or inability to cope with unfavorable circumstances. – The Free Dictionary

I believe in giving credit where credit is due, even if somewhat grudgingly, as in this case.

But before I mention the name that might well send many readers rushing for the exits, allow me to set the stage. (But, of course, my A-team of headline writers have already done that, I see.)

Years ago, I read a series of books by Carlos Castenda about his formative experience as an “apprentice” to a wise man named Don Juan, of the Yaqui First Nation.

One of the things I often remember Don Juan saying in one of the books, The Teachings of Don Juan, A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, is this:

“For me there is only the traveling on paths that have heart, on any path that may have heart, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length – and there I travel looking, looking breathlessly”

As young men just starting university my several friends and I got to know our own wise man for a season. We used to used to meet him occasionally at an outdoor cafe in downtown Toronto’s old village. His name was Dan, and he spoke with a European accent. “Boys, I tell you something,” he said more than once, “a man can change the world.”

But, with a note of sadness in his voice, he stressed the importance of finding the right path, the good path, and of guarding against being led astray by the many corrupting temptations of the world, especially the lust for wealth and power. It was clear to us he was speaking from personal experience.

So, against that background I now introduce the main character, none other than Donald J. Trump, by some terrible coincidence of fate and circumstance, now President and Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America.


A man on the edge

Against the odds, and in defiance of all previous ideas of what political and personal qualifications and standards were required, he won election as the most powerful person in the world. Even Trump can hardly believe it. In his stream-of-consciousness way he can’t resist the temptation to turn every speech before a large gathering of people into a political rally, and replay of that fateful night of November 8, 2016 when the electoral-college map of the U.S. surprisingly turned mostly red, for Republican, as opposed to blue, for Democrat.

It’s an obsession that betrays a huge, underlying insecurity, the full nature of which perhaps remains to be revealed. But he’s always seeking to assuage that insecurity by re-affirming his victory, and his self-worth before a suitably adoring audience.

Trump’s speech at the Boy Scouts of America annual Jamboree has been widely criticized for the extent to which it inappropriately and rudely politicized that event. The man has a way of reading his audience. The 40,000 Scouts and their adult leaders often applauded and cheered his words, good and bad.

And, like I say, to give him credit, here’s an example of the good:

“You can do anything. You can be anything you want to be. But in order to succeed, you must find out what you love to do. You have to find your passion, no matter what they tell you . . .

“In life, in order to be successful – and you people are well on the road to success – you have to find out what makes you excited, what makes you want to get up each morning and go to work. You have to find it. If you love what you do and dedicate yourself to your work, then you will gain momentum.

“What you’re going to do is give it a shot again and again and again. You’re ultimately going to be successful.”

So far, so good, even wise. Those words come across as true and heartfelt.

Trump also told a story about an old man, once very successful, but later a failed businessman he spotted sitting alone at a New York City party. It too has been much criticized for being incredibly out-of-place for such a young audience.

Trump told the Scouts and their leaders he approached William Levitt, sitting sad and lonely at the party and asked what had gone wrong in his life and business. “I lost my momentum,” was the reply.

I see the point; but a heavily-edited version of the six-minute story would have made a lot more sense.

There’s a couple of things that stood out for me as interesting and revealing about those remarks quoted above:

First, Trump doesn’t love his job as President, and would rather be back dictatorially running his businesses, which is what he really loves to do. Is he subconsciously self-destructing?

Second, he has a heart, and certain wisdom about how one should live and work – with love, no less.

And yet, he’s so hateful. It boggles the mind.

No sooner were the good words out of his mouth at the Jamboree than the bad ones spewed forth:

“You know, I go to Washington and I see all these politicians, and I see the swamp, and it’s not a good place. In fact, today, I said we ought to change it from the word ‘swamp’ to the word ‘cesspool’ or perhaps to the word ‘sewer.’”

And: “By the way, just a question, did President Obama ever come to a Jamboree?”

Sadly, the response from the crowd, as if on cue, was an enthusiastic chorus of “No!”

Trump should be ashamed of himself. So should any adult/leader in the crowd who didn’t make a point of telling their young charges how disrespectful it was for the current President to invite mockery of the former on such an occasion.

Donald Trump has it in him to be a man of character. But he is deeply conflicted within himself, and is his own worst enemy. He is a walking tragedy.

And virtually any day now the whole world is going to pay a terribly tragic price for such a man having such power.


A version of this was originally published in The Sun Times in July, 2017


4 thoughts on “Trump as tragedy

  1. “…he has a heart, and certain wisdom about how one should live and work – with love, no less.” Perhaps I’m more cynical having observed the current occupant of the oval office during his long tenure in NYC. I’ve seen little evidence of either heart or wisdom. What I have witnessed is a master manipulator and marketer who has no compunction about profiting from anyone regardless of their ability to afford the losses he so seductively packages and offers in his gilded palaces, “universities” of questionable value, and claim to superior business acumen. I commend you for your sincere attempt to see value where there is none! 😉 xoM


  2. I agree with you about Trump. Awful as he is, to me there’s a bigger question: what is America’s fatal flaw that set the stage for his disastrous win? And it wasn’t the Russians!
    I can hypothesise about this ad nauseam but this is an American site and I do try to be polite. But I have bitten the end off my tongue keeping quiet about John McCain’s address in the Senate, when he concluded several paragraphs of ringing praise, supreme arrogance and questionable veracity regarding America by say ‘We are a blessing to humanity.’
    Even thinking about it days later I want to explode.


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