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Realizing Trump Is America

I have struggled for some time to understand Donald Trump’s appeal, even before he ran for president. His wealthy businessman shtick always seemed so transparent to me. People cited his wealth as evidence he might manage a strong economy even back when he was rumored to run for Governor of New York. I recall thinking “yeah but he is playing a character on TV.”

The more I observe and as Trump and Trumpism dominates not just our politics but our culture more broadly, the more I find myself disagreeing with my fellow Liberals who call Trump “un-American.” One might argue he is unpatriotic, hostile to the rule of law, and proudly ignorant of our history. But he is nothing if not American. Three years into his presidency I am beginning to grasp the devotion that about 35 to 40 percent of the country has to this man who I and many others find so repulsive. He personifies American excess.

Anyone who has spent time in a foreign country can tell you how easy it is to spot the American tourists; usually loud, crude, poorly dressed. To hell with the Europeans’ cultural sensibilities, dainty soccer players, and flaky pastries. We like Big Macs, football, and guns. Adorned in a black suit with a tacky red tie down the middle, Trump is unapologetic about his demand for money and power for their own sake–like a caricature of a Republican business executive.

Subtlety is not a word to associate with gold, capital letters “TRUMP.” Nor is there subtlety in 30-packs of light beer, Black Friday, or pick-up trucks that roar as dark smoke plumes out the exhaust pipes. Like the country he rules, Trump is about bigger, stronger, more, me.

For all his moral depravity and political shrewdness he embodies the two poles. He is rich, famous, and uses a gold toilet like every American deep down wishes they could. If he fails or is rejected, he comes back even harder the next time to conquer and pummel through brute force of personality like we all wish we could if only we had the bravado or shamelessness.

On the other hand is the cruelty, the mockery and contempt for anyone who might dare challenge our superiority, the lack of compassion for the less fortunate.

Over-indulgence gets the credit for making us the wealthiest, most productive, and powerful country in the world. Our ingenuity is due to our unlimited appetite. We work harder, strive longer, and dream bigger. While this spirit is the fuel to our success, there is a dark side.

We have such deep, uncritical love for our country we struggle to confront the harsher realities which Trump exploits. We have a grotesque history of racism. We eat too much. We spend too much. We work too much. We have so much pride in ourselves it turns to hostility toward the people who weren’t lucky enough to be born inside our borders.

But that is America. And I am realizing, Trump is America. All in, gold cuff-linked, supersized, reality TV marathon America.

Derek Smith is a Frewsburg native.

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