Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Trump and Style

There's a video turning up frequently in my Facebook feed of the president praising Frederick Douglass in terms of astonishing banality: "Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I noticed."

Okay, so he probably has no idea who Frederick Douglass was, or what he represents. He's been told this is a person who's important to some other people, and so the president is mechanically praising him, in the only vocabulary—impoverished, grade-school, business-oriented—he has at his command. And our response (rightly) is disbelief and ridicule.

We—writers, academics, intellectuals—are for better or worse appalled at Trump's style. We hate his hairdo, his suits, his general demeanor. We find his gold-plated apartment a kind of over-the-top parody of what a 7-year-old imagines it's like to be rich. Many of us prefer Bernie Sanders's style-less, rumpled "style." (A prime manifestation of Castiligone's sprezzatura, a style achieved precisely without any of the effort that usually goes into achieving a "look.")

There a kind of snobbishness here, as I'm nowhere near the first to point out. Whatever we don't have, we like to think we have style—if not sartorially (most poets and academics, myself included, are fashion disasters), then verbally. If we had the president's money, our apartments would be models of arts & crafts coziness, or coolly impressive midcentury modernist spaces. But barring wealth, we know language, and we bristle when we hear the repetitive, aggressive, and intellectually flattened bits of rhetoric that make up Trump's speech.

But in order to resist this new regime, we've got to do our best to ignore the stylistic flourishes of its figurehead. Every moment we spend decrying the new gold drapes in the Oval Office, the president's too-long necktie (held together with scotch tape), the Rube Goldberg haystack of his bouffant, the ghastly spectacle of his Manhattan apartment, or the rather remarkable shallowness of his vocabulary, is a moment in which our attention has lapsed from the plans, policies, and appointees that are issuing from the White House.

1 comment:

Ibu Karen said...
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