Saturday, October 15, 2016
Assault on the White House
This past week, parents all across America have had to talk to their daughters about a video in which Donald Trump talks openly and brazenly about how he forces himself on young women, kissing them and grabbing their genitals. At the October 9 debate, two days after the news broke, Donald Trump was told that what he was describing in the video constitutes a crime - sexual assault - and he was asked if he indeed commits such acts on women. He denied that he actually did such things and claimed that he was engaging in "locker-room talk." Living currently in the Philippines, I watched the news throughout the week as, one by one, more women have come forward to relate their experiences of Trump forcing himself on them, kissing them and grabbing them by their genitals. So far he has denied the accusations, claiming that there were no witnesses and that there was "no way" he would ever have done such things to the women accusers, suggesting that they weren't attractive enough for him to even consider assaulting them.
Two days ago, First Lady Michelle Obama gave a speech at a Clinton rally in Manchester, New Hampshire that seems to have galvanized women's feelings about Trump's remarks and alleged actions:
"This wasn't just lewd conversation. This wasn't just locker banter. This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior and actually bragging about kissing and groping women, using language so obscene that many of us are worried about our children hearing it when we turn on the TV."
I have a 14-year-old step-daughter who has been exposed to the repeated news reports about Trump's boasting about his sexual assaults. By now, she knows that Trump is a candidate for president and that the election is on November 8. She also knows my opinion of the man from well before his announcement to run for the Republican nomination last year. I have always thought that he is an obscenity as a human being, let alone as a candidate for president. I knew that his disgraceful character would eventually become an issue in the campaign and that it would be his downfall. But when my step-daughter expressed to me yesterday her bewilderment at the attention that Trump is getting for this latest "gaffe," I turned off the TV and tried to explain things to her.
Though English is her second language, she understands just about everything I say to her - even if she sometimes pretends that she doesn't. I told her that Donald Trump was born a millionaire, that his father was a wealthy New York real estate developer, and that he grew up with the knowledge that he was privileged beyond her wildest dreams. Having seen the Macauley Culkin movie Richie Rich with me, she had a good idea what kind of life Donald Trump grew into. Such a privileged life usually leads the privileged person to two different conclusions: that he is either "blessed" - somehow singled out by some unknown power for such a privileged life because he is somehow deserving of it, or that he is lucky - the recipient of a completely random good fortune that could have just as easily been bestowed on someone else just as - or more - deserving than he.
Trump, I told my step-daughter, grew up convinced that he is some kind of Chosen One. A story emerged recently from a writer who once worked in an expensive New York hotel. When Donald Trump got into an elevator with him one day and let slip a resounding fart, Trump was reported to have said that his fart probably increased the value of the hotel. What makes the story convincing - to me - is the certainty that Trump probably wasn't joking, that he actually believes that a noxious gas escaping his rectum adds value wherever he bestows it.
Donald Trump is incapable of seeing himself as virtually everyone else (except for his slavering supporters) sees him: a relatively undistinguished man who was lucky to be born rich, who has spent his life pursuing self-gratification, squandering several fortunes, marrying and disposing of attractive women (who bear him occasional children), and philandering without fear of any consequences - even if it comes in the form of a substantial divorce settlement.
He will probably die, not long from now (he's 70), without ever becoming acquainted with the truth about himself. Perhaps his children can come to terms with his terrible legacy: when, in one of those rare moments when they can be honest with themselves and with one another, are capable of judging him as a father and a man, without reference to his phenomenal wealth, to all his properties, won and lost, and all his business exploits, which often seemed oblivious of who was being exploited, they can judge him for what he was - and wasn't.
One of the problems with Dickens was his inability to see a solution to the obscene gulf separating the rich and the poor. The only way out for Dickens was a "change of heart" - the rich man whose humanity is as crippled as Tiny Tim's tubercular leg suddenly realizing the horrible error of his lifelong pursuit of money at the expense of every human relationship. Because Ebeneezer Scrooge is such a caricature, an irredeemable miser to the nth degree, his transformation into a decent, loving, compassionate human being is equally unbelievable. Try to imagine Donald Trump as Scrooge. He would make the old skin-flint Scrooge chillingly convincing, right down to his inability to sneeze (to allow himself to be natural). But Trump as Father Christmas? No one would believe it. He will die in his luxurious bed unreformed.