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Beckett, Ionesco, and Trump

One year ago, something quite remarkable happened. Donald Trump, an obscure TV personality obsessed with conspiracy theories, became the most powerful man in the world. His wife, whose naked body he so awkwardly and lewdly described in the famous session on Howard Stern’s Show, became the First Lady of the United States. Put in his own words: “the world is a mess”.

Yet, to describe this mess we currently find ourselves in, we have to go back a few years. “I promise you… we will win this election and, you and I together, we’re going to change the country and change the world.” These are not Trump’s words. They are Barack Obama’s. Trump and Obama may be as different as people as one can imagine. But the character of their sudden political rise was closer than we would like to believe. It doesn’t really matter if their slogans read YES WE CAN or MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. Both promised change. Now, that’s nothing really new. Politicians all over the world has been promising change for the better since the planet started spinning. Yet Obama’s and Trump’s changes were supposed to be truly deep, almost revolutionary. Though with other words, both of them had promised to “drain the Washington swamp”. It shouldn’t surprise us that neither of them really did.

Both in 2008 and 2016, the revolt against the establishment was probably the most important feature of the American President-elect’s appeal. If not alarming, it is certainly remarkable. It is tempting enough to flesh out here a lengthy treatise upon the deep crisis of the “Liberal International Order”. Not even as bright a scholar as Niall Ferguson has avoided this fancy commonplace, when he recently redubbed the term’s common abbreviation LIO to LIE. Most likely, the world we live in is not a lie; but it is now fairly obvious that – to pair it with another Trump’s favourite saying – “there is something going on”.

Yet however deep the roots of Trump’s presidency may be, they don’t take away any of its grotesqueness. Probably not since the Roman Emperor Commodus has there ever been as ignorant a person possessing so much power. And as Commodus – unlike the rest of Rome – believed he was a top gladiator and forced the senators to watch his matches, Donald Trump exhibits similar tendencies. Apart from knowing “much more about ISIS than the generals do”, understanding “taxes better than almost anyone”, he is also “the best 140 character writer in the world”. Fortunately, there is no Colosseum in Washington, D. C.

Although claiming he has a “very good brain”, Trump’s intellectual capabilities are rather doubtful. His spiritual routine is watching the channel of the insane Illuminati hunter Alex Jones, whereas the two greatest books in the history of literature were, according to Trump, written by himself. These are his – actually ghost-written – bestsellers The Art of the Deal and How to Get Rich.

According to Michael Wolff, whose book Fire and Fury has lately provoked such an uproar in the White House, all of his closest staffers think “he is like a child”. At the end of his presidential campaign his aides were constrained to confiscate his Twitter account. Since he became president they have proved to be more discreet. During the James Comey testimony, they at least “tried to keep him busy with meetings… hoping to keep him away from televisions broadcasting the hearing so he wouldn’t be tempted to tweet.”

Sure, every politician lies now and then. It’s simply part of the job. But Donald Trump has shifted this habit to a completely new level. His speeches are a fact-checker’s gold mine. He lies even when he doesn’t have to. He lies even when the evidence against his claims is so abundant that it’s almost embarrassing to present it. But he doesn’t care – and he knows his supporters won’t either. Facts are obviously not important to them. They are just another name for fake news. The most important thing is perseverance. If you keep lying long enough, people will finally believe…

Whether or not he will be impeached, Donald Trump will really have served as President of the United States. Beckett and Ionesco created their works in vain, since nothing can illustrate the absurdity of the world better than this.

 

Stepan Hobza graduated from the Charles University in Prague. As a freelance writer he has contributed with poems, short stories and essays to many literary and political magazines (Česká pozice, Host, Tvar, A2, Listy, Literarni.cz, Weles, Psí víno, H_aluze). He lives in London.

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