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Ozymandias has a Lesson for Trump

First publication in The Examiner

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert … Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

—Percy Bysshe Shelley (1818)

The 200-year-old words of English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley have seldom been more prescient than with the current occupant of the White House. Although, since by his own admission our president doesn’t read, he’s likely unfamiliar with classical literature and unaware of the warning carried so powerfully in Shelley’s poem: That the hubris of leaders consumed with their own greatness often leads to boundless and bare sands.

Indeed, as Trump is backed further into a corner by the desertion and criminal conviction of his formerly loyal associates, he has become increasingly frantic. As his personal lawyers, financial officers and advisers are hauled into court, his poll approval numbers have hit an all-time low while his disapproval numbers hit an all-time high of 60 percent. Even worse for his fantasy of greatness, 49 percent of those polled now support impeachment.

It’s so bad he has turned to condemning internet search engines because they bring up so many negative articles on his presidency as he spews even more unverified claims of bias against him. But the truth is much simpler. His policies, actions, words and threats are what generate the negative coverage and will continue to do so given the very real impacts our citizens — and the rest of the world — are experiencing from what he considers to be his great “leadership.”

So this week, driven from Washington, D.C., by the endless torrent of indictments and defections, he brings his message of hate and divisiveness to Montana. What hate? What divisiveness? Well, consider that this unhinged individual actually threatened the American people that there would be “violence” unless voters retain the Republican majorities in Congress this November — the very same Republican majorities that have kow-towed in shameful silence to his endless abuses of our nation’s highest office.

But Trump knows as little about Montana as he knows about classic literature. Here the heat of summer is quickly fading into the cooler nights and days of fall and we have already seen the face of winter in new snows on our high peaks. And while Trump may bellow away in his vanity and insult those who disagree with him in the crassest of terms, Montanans are busy with harvests, homes, jobs and families.

As those who live here know, Montana is not a place where we ask what political party one belongs to before we render aid and assistance to our fellow citizens, help them haul out an elk, or enjoy a quiet day together on the river. Nor do we need chest-pounding blather to make us appreciate our lives under the Big Sky.

So go home, Mr. Trump. And take your MAGA hats, your “frown, wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command” with you. For like Ozymandias, soon nothing will remain of your faux greatness but blowing sand.

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George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.

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