In his statements, Donald Trump frequently speaks of “beautiful people” while standing in the midst of them. He likes to talk about the great buildings he’s constructed and unfailingly points to his financial successes. His announcement last summer declaring his candidacy took place in the Trump Tower lobby amidst beautiful people as did his last couple primary victory rallies.
Trump’s settings abound at all times with beautiful people, with the notable exception of Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who seems a fish out of water. The embarrassment emanating from both Trump and Christie is palpable. Trump really doesn’t want him there and it’s apparent Christie would much rather be yucking it up with his Jersey bros at some Italian bistro. In that regard, Christie is like the rest of us: one of the unbeautiful people.
Beginning with the pharaohs, super-powerful leaders have built monuments as statements to their accomplishments. The Roman emperors and the Mayan chieftains copied their example. It’s their way of immortalizing and deifying themselves.
Ostentatiousness is a fetish that surfaces within the insecure, underdeveloped ego. For those with that complex, self-centered braggadocio serves as intellectual depth and the notion of enough is as foreign to their comprehension as Klingon speech.
Recently PBS ran a Ken Burns documentary on our national parks, which he calls “America’s best idea.” In it, Burns explores the history and evolution of our national park system, beginning with Yellowstone, the world’s first.
In the film’s commentary, a consistent theme is expressed: the parks’ democratic nature. What is meant by that is unlike the exclusive, off-limits Trump Tower, everyone is welcomed and allowed in the parks to marvel at their beauty, power, and mystery.
Millions of years in their formations, the natural treasures are beyond the comprehension of so-called developers such as Trump whose limited intellect can only understand and appreciate steel, brick, and mortar all of which begin to degenerate from the moment of their production. That’s because they’re subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics that states that there is a natural tendency of any isolated system to degenerate into a more disordered state.
On the other hand, the parks don’t degenerate unless humans rape, pillage, and plunder them in order to build variations of Trump Tower. Left to themselves, the parks are in a constant state of evolution. There nothing stays the same because there is no same. You and I cannot see the Old Faithful Teddy Roosevelt saw, yet Old Faithful faithfully erupts on her appointed time now as then.
In his essays on nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson writes, “It is in the woods we return to reason and faith.” Being and living in nature is about participation in life. Materialists are unable to grasp that. Life in Trump’s world is about control, power, accumulation, and winning. It’s necessarily based on competition, consumption, and destruction. His universe is not divided between good and evil as we have understood them, but winners and losers. The greatest sin is losing.
In her tome Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand creates a society at war with itself. The haves v. the have nots; the producers v. the leeches; the winners v. the losers. It’s a sterile world of uber-wealth F. Scott Fitzgerald lays bare in The Great Gatsby. It’s a world in need of perpetual attention to exist. The Trump Wall, even if fantastically built, will need to be maintained…forever. Just like Trump Tower.
Unlike the city where people of power and wealth own the skyline, the landscape cannot be owned.
“There is a property in the horizon,” writes Emerson, “which no man has but he whose eye can integrate all the parts, the poet.”
In “America the Beautiful,” Katherine Lee Bates waxes poetically about the amber waves of grain, the fruited plains, and the mountains’ purple majesties. That vision of America contrasts with Trump’s Randian version: cold, hard steel ostentatiously towering above all as a statement of power. It is as profane as Yellowstone and Yosemite are sacred.
And that profanity has become the face of the once venerable Republican Party.