“To June 16!” the sharp dressed man on the Riverwalk said. He gazed triumphantly and raised a glass to the aft end of the Battleship NC. I had crossed from Battleship Park to lollygag along the river the evening Dr. Kyle Horton opened her run for the 7th Congressional seat. Across the river, the NC GOP convention opened.
“A yuuge day, am I right? Right around the corner. Yuuge day in history!” my new friend said.
“History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake,” I sighed.
The pressed shirt, high and tight haircut, tilted his glass again. Successful. Literate. Perhaps even well-read; though, his articulation was suspect and eloquence sorely lacking. My new friend insisted. He, the professor. I, the recalcitrant student under quiz.
“What is June 16?”
“A sacred anniversary. Holy Day of Obligation. For Irish, lovers and poets. A triple redundancy, if you ask me.”
My friend pouted the impatience of a middle schooler with an “I know something you don’t know” look on his face.
“Bloomsday!” I exclaimed. “The day it all happened! ‘Ulysses’ was set on June 16, 1904, in Dublin. Oh, to close my eyes and see! For the love of Joyce’s Molly Bloom!”
“Joyce? Molly? Are they, like, 10s or, like, fatties. Like Rosie O’Donnell.”
I suspected my sharp-looking friend had not been at Battleship Park to hear Dr. Horton speak with compassion about growing our economy from bottom up and middle out, caring for our veterans and all our sick, educating our children, and stewarding our natural resources.
“Our fine Congressman Rouzer opened the GOP convention by reminding us all that God put Trump in the White House and that it’s our job—the GOP, that is—to save America.”
“June 16 is the anniversary of the day Mr. Trump announced his candidacy for POTUS, and sacrificed his private life and fortune for all of us.”
“Kind of like Jesus himself,” I murmured, with a hint of faux wonder and awe. “We are truly blessed. There’s no video of Jesus rolling the stone away, or L. Ron Hubbard going clear, or the Angel Moroni visiting Joe Smith, but we can download that announcement speech anytime. They’ll be studying his speech at Trump University for decades.”
“Indeed! Forget Shakespeare! Abandon Dante! Dismiss Joyce! A doctoral program in Trumpology!” he said sternly.
America has voluntarily enrolled in—or been dragged into, kicking and screaming—a program in Trumpology since June 16, 2015. Nearly every day since, Americans have been distracted from formerly worthwhile occupations from doctors, or dumptruck drivers and studied the question, “What does he mean by that?” It must be profound. More difficult to appreciate than James Joyce. I inhaled deeply and recited a few hallowed lines of his announcement speech:
“Now, our country needs—our country needs a truly great leader. We need a leader that wrote ‘The Art of the Deal’—the newest testament, to be placed after Revelations in ‘The New American Bible.’
“So—because we got to make the country rich. It sounds crass. Somebody said, ‘Oh, that’s crass.’ It’s not crass. I’m proud of my net worth. I’ve done an amazing job.”
The Vaseline camel glides through the needle’s eye.
“The sublime humility of it all!” My professorial friend nodded approvingly and raised his glass.
“May the Covfefe be with you,” I said and prepared for departure.
“And with your spirit!” he said, swaying with gusto.
Sadly, the mocker is never taken seriously when he is most serious. I left my drunken friend and strolled along the banks of our ever-changing river pondering the exquisite irony. James Joyce’s experiment with stream-of-consciousness literary style yielded 265,000 words of some of the most brilliantly crafted prose ever written. Our White House salesman’s experiment with stream-of-consciousness presidency has produced some of the most deplorable 140-character statements in the history of the Union.
Trumpology is not really about studying the dangerous narcissism or sublime humility of Donald J. Trump. It’s an opportunity to study ourselves, to examine our American soul. I hope what James Joyce wrote about the singular may apply equally to the plural, “A man (Nation) of genius makes no mistakes. His (Our) errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.”
What will we learn about ourselves as we all pass through this?