Saturday, 19 November 2016

** FATHER FRANK’S RANTS Rant Number 702 15 September 16 HEROIC TRUMP

Muhammad, Cromwell, Friedrich II, Napoleon, Dante, Shakespeare, Martin Luther, John Knox, Rousseau, Robbie Burns, even the god Odin: what do they have in common? They are heroes, claimed Victorian writer Thomas Carlyle – author of ‘Heroes and Hero Worship’. And heroes explain human history. Marx was dead wrong, see? It is not impersonal social forces like the economy but big, charismatic personalities, exceptional men who drive the march of world events: heroes.

What would Carlyle make of Donald Trump? ‘A charlatan, a demagogue and a rogue!’ his foes scream. Hold your horses. For his supporters the next President is not that. The millions who elected him have great expectations. Mega ones. Reversing US industrial decline. Building a Great Wall. Kicking out aliens. Bashing China. Making America glorious again. Almost superhuman tasks. Indeed, for his fans Trump is more than a hero – a Hercules, a demi-god, a saviour, a superhero!

Not even the Donald’s most ardent fans would claim he is divine. Or eminent in poetry or literature. Or that he boasts a vocation as a prophet or religious reformer. A Cromwell, a Napoleon, maybe? But Cromwell and Bonaparte were military geniuses. They won wars. And, despite his downfall, Napoleon bequeathed on France the famous Code Napoleon, the civil code that has shaped the law of many European countries. As to Trump, he is very rich. A billionaire businessman into real estate, hotels, golf courses and famous for the TV game show The Apprentice. But a hero? Carlyle would raise a bushy eyebrow…

Politics is Trump’s realm, however, and in politics what makes a hero is success – of a kind, despite adversities. Friedrich the Great was besieged in Berlin, about to kill himself but fate saved him and he went on to conquer and make Prussia feared. Cromwell won the civil war and became an all-powerful dictator. After his death his body was dug up and scattered and the monarchy restored but the divine right of Kings was buried forever. The petty Brits imprisoned Napoleon in St Helena where he wilted away but his myth never died. Success can reach beyond the grave.

And Trump? Actually, he has already succeeded. His electoral triumph has stunned the world. (And me: when I heard the news I thought it a hoax.) His violent, outrageous non-PC remarks and postures supposedly had made him a pariah. Virtually all the media, CNN, BBC, SKY, ITV, Channel 4, the ‘experts’, the progressive forces, moderates, liberals, feminists, abortionists, LBC James O’Brien, George Soros – all that smug gang were ranged against him. He was a misogynist, a racist, a rapist, a fascist and whatnots. How could such a hideous monster win? And yet he has. Against all the odds. A titanic deed worthy of a Hercules, a hero. Bigger challenges lie ahead, however.

Paradoxically, it is the fear and loathing emanating from the pro-Hillary camp that has boosted Trump’s fame. The dividing line between an anti-hero and a hero is thin. Napoleon for the English was a shady Corsican adventurer, For Royalists Cromwell a scoundrel and his fellow monarchs thought Friedrich a warmongering madman. But demonising them only increased their lure. It is the same with Trump. Call it a perverse admiration for the dark side – it’s a fact.

Nor is it necessary that a hero should be flawless. Napoleon’s scandalous wife Josephine repeatedly cuckolded him. And the Emperor had an innocent young Prince, the Duke of Enghien, kidnapped and murdered. Queer Friedrich was a woman hater and Cromwell a bully. Literary heroes are no better. Shakespeare penned Goebbels-like lies to extol the ghastly Tudors and Rousseau gave away his five children to an orphanage. No one would call Trump an angel but, again, that cannot per se count against his heroic status.

The Donald makes no pretence to intellectualism. He is a man of action. Fine for a US President but not sufficient for hero cult. Friedrich the Great’s military genius went hand in hand with his interest in philosophy and music. He played the cello and turned Voltaire into his PR officer. Cromwell had Milton to sing his praises. Napoleon mesmerised Hegel, Hazlitt, Manzoni and Foscolo. Hhmmm...difficult to imagine writers and poets taking to Trump. But the point is wider. Trump’s enemies are ‘the Establishment’. That includes ‘the intellectuals’ and you can only answer that lot in condign, sophisticated ways. Unless Trump can gather under his banner some substantial cultural figures, his heroics will appear opaque.

And Islam? Did not Trump a year ago suggest banning Muslims from entering the US? The priest discussed that heroically dubious statement back in Rant 589 bis. I asked: does this shrewd businessman really intend to ban Saudis, Qataris and other Gulf Arab sheiks? Flocking to glittering American spots like Las Vegas, where they delight in gambling and whoring? Come off it! Arab oil billionaires are too filthy rich, too useful in finance, the economy to be made persona non grata. Or does he mean to ban only lowly and poor Muslims? All water under the bridge now. Has Trump not just received in his Tower, along with Nigel Farage, British Muslim Rahim Kassam? So, there!

Socrates argued that a hero is someone possessed by Eros, a god. Trump’s portly figure looks unlikely in that role but then…who knows?

Revd Frank Julian Gelli


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