Saturday, April 23, 2011

Donald Trump: America’s Übermensch?

Is Donald Trump an idiot?

Wait! Don’t answer yet. Try not to blurt out the one-word response that is no doubt poised on the tip of your tongue. I believe we should consider this question from multiple angles before we arrive at a definite conclusion.

First, let’s look at the birther argument that Trump has now made his own. Entertaining the belief that Barack Obama was not born in the US can get a person labeled as something less than a sharp thinker. But maybe the Donald is just one of those poor trusting souls who believe what they hear on Fox News. This kind of misplaced trust has led many otherwise intelligent people into dumb, birther-type beliefs. Or, it could be that Trump doesn’t really believe the birther nonsense at all; he may just be using it to get attention, in which case he would not be so much an idiot as a shyster, and by no means the first shyster to attract a large following.

Secondly, there is the Hair. The two things everyone knows about the Donald are that he is rich and his hair looks like some kind of mossy lid that seems to be hinged to the back end of his head.

Incidentally, the Hair is the reason that I believe Trump will not actually run for president. As of today he has successfully avoided environments where unpredictable winds and such could threaten the stability of his hair flap. But as a candidate, he would be obligated to appear at airports and other venues where a gust of wind might cause it to fly up into a vertical posture exposing his baldness to all the world, and thus creating an image that would haunt Youtube till the end of time. Fear of such an embarrassment will be enough to keep him out of a real presidential race, IMHO.

But wait -- we’re talking about Donald Trump here, a man who sees himself as superior in every regard. Could it be that he imagines others to be envious of his hair? Is that why he is willing to go on combing it over the top of his head, unconcerned with the commentary it attracts? Could he consider it a secret attention-getting weapon of some sort?

Or -- could the entire Trump persona be a put on? Could he actually be acting out a world-as-stage, post-modern performance in which, at the end, he reveals himself to be steeped in self knowledge?

Imagine if, at some point later this year, he were to make an eloquent speech in which he tells us all what dupes we are for believing that such a self-absorbed, self-deluded, self-appreciating character could actually exist in real life. And he would have a point. I mean, would, say, Don DeLillo create a persona like this in his fiction? Of course not; it wouldn’t be believable. So perhaps the joke is on us. Could the Donald be performing the role of a shallow-minded, ego-maniacal narcissist as a way of making an ironic statement on the gullibility of the American public?


I grant that the gullibility of the American public is a rich vein, but I don’t believe any actor is skillful enough to perform the role of an un-self-aware blowhard so convincingly. Therefore, Trump must actually be the un-self-aware blowhard he appears to be.

Born a rich, white male in a well connected family, with the self-confidence of an Olympian god, he imagines himself to be rich and famous because of what he refers to as his “genius.” Of course, his real gifts are the privileges he was born with, and the Olympian gall that has allowed him to bully his way through a number of bankruptcies and back again to being rich and famous once more.

Devilish thought: I believe it would be kind of fun, though unkind, to mail Trump a copy of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra on the Übermensch or "superman," and to write in it an inscription like, “Mr. Trump, you are America’s Superman!”

Nietzsche as "Übermensch"

It’s all too easy to envision the Donald regarding himself as a Nietzschean superman (assuming he would bother to read at least part of the book, or have someone explain it to him).

Nietzsche was an interesting thinker and a brilliant writer, famous for his pithy quotations. What would the Donald make of Nietzsche's aphorisms? I suppose he would do what he always does: Re-interpret them to fit his own view of the world.

For example, Nietzsche, in praise of independent thinking, once said this: “What? You seek something? You wish to multiply yourself tenfold, a hundredfold? You seek followers? Seek zeros!”

But Trump, on reading this, would be more likely to take it as an injunction against everyone but himself. “The rest of you, Seek zeros! For me, I’m gonna get me a zillion followers.”

Nietzsche: “In heaven, all the interesting people are missing.”

The Donald: “In heaven, all the interesting people are missing, but that’ll change when I get there!”

Finally, there may be those Nietzschean quotations that would require no editing, e.g., “Egoism is the very essence of a noble soul.”

Trump: “Suck on that, all youse out there that wish you had a noble soul like mine!”