Generous Orthodoxy  




Thursday, February 23, 2017

Trump: A man without a soul?

Is Donald Trump anti-Semitic (or, as he says, "anti-Simetic")? Is he a racist? I am somewhat embarrassed to admit how much time I have spent analyzing the unique way this man speaks (but would be even more embarrassed if so many other people weren't confessing the same thing). Is Trump really a Republican, or a populist, or a conservative, or what? Here's my answer, for what it's worth:

Trump is not anti-Semitic, nor is he a racist. He isn't a Republican or a populist. He isn't a conservative. He isn't pro-gay or anti-gay. He isn't anything. He is entirely hollow inside.

I have never before listened to anyone speak who apparently has no significant connection to anything outside himself (a friend contributed the word "solipsistic"). As far as I have been able to discover, he does not belong to any association of other human beings--no church, no clubs (except of course his own), no groups, no special friends with whom to kid around. He pretends to care about veterans, but there is no evidence of his actually doing so. No one has been able to show that he has made any significant donations to charity, or that he has ever really supported any causes other than his own. He will pass out hundred-dollar tips frequently, at his whim, but without any real human connection to the recipients. None of his children, not even Ivanka, have ever spoken with authentic feeling about any loving attention he ever gave them until they were grown and could be groomed by him (and from all I can gather, he has ignored Tiffany and Barron altogether). We have not heard him speak with any genuine, sustained affection about anyone except himself, or any organization except his own businesses. He does not seem to have any stable beliefs. One day he's in favor of free transgender use of public bathrooms, the next day he's against it. He does not seem to have any genuine attachment to any groups of people in his past, or mentors who have helped him; he seems only to need flatterers, sycophants, minions, and people he considers larger-than-life like "my generals" and flamboyant ideologues like Bannon. David Brooks has written that what he needs most of all, even more than prudence, is "fraternity," and that is a good word for what he so obviously lacks.

But even more striking than the lack of connection to those outside himself, there does not seem to be any connection to anything inside himself either. He has no hobbies, no interests, no soul-filling pursuits. He has never shown the slightest appreciation of the natural world, unless it's the "beautiful" views from his golf courses. He has only two changes of clothes--a suit, or golfing attire (can he be imagined as a member of an actual sports team?). Photos of him at religious events (like the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner) have shown him as the only person who does not bow his head during prayers. He does not look at art, or listen to music, or read books, or analyze ideas. He does not seem to have what I would call a sense of himself at all. To say that he is not reflective would be to understate the matter. George W. Bush (candidate for worst president ever) was famously lacking in curiosity--he would walk through museums and historical sites as quickly as possible, taking no interest in anything; he said, "I don't do nuance," without any self-doubt; he habitually (and sometimes hilariously) mangled the English language; but he had at least some modicum of intelligence, read at least a few books, was capable of critiquing himself occasionally, enjoyed many friends, sincerely cared about poverty and disease in Africa, had a mature and faithful marriage, and definitely had a sense of humor (it speaks well of him that Michelle Obama enjoys him). In contrast, in recent years at least, Donald Trump has never been seen to laugh. He seems to have no sense of humor whatsoever. Not to have a sense of humor, it seems to me, would be one of the worst traits of all; one would be trapped forever inside one's own self-regard. And if there was nobody home to be trapped with, that emptiness would be a kind of hell.