The trouble with Donald Trump is I’m obsessed with him
Michael Harding: he will make America new again in his own brash style of naked greed
Donald Trump: “I wait for the next president of the United States to blow his trumpets with sound and fury. It’s like waiting for an attack of bile.” Photograph: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images
I’m afraid of Donald Trump. He creates disturbance in my guts, like a churning of warm, angry juices. It’s like what I used to feel when I was a child in the schoolyard. And the trouble is that I’m obsessed with him, just like I was with bullies long ago. I can’t resist listening to him. Turning on CNN. Googling newspaper websites for breaking news. And when I wake at night I take my phone from the shelf to see if he has been tweeting. Which is why I’m so exhausted in the daylight.
I was packing decorations back into boxes and wobbling up a ladder to the attic when the General arrived.
He said, “You look tired. You must have had a hectic Christmas.”
Almost instantly he was at the fire with the dregs of a gin bottle.
“You’re getting too old for ladders,” he said.
“And you shouldn’t be drinking if you’re driving,” I replied.
“I’m not driving,” he said. “I can stay for the night.” And he stretched his legs on my sofa and turned on my television.
“How do I get CNN on this?” he wondered. “I want to see Trump. He makes me so happy.”
“I’m surprised you’re not flying over for the inauguration,” I said.
“I wasn’t invited,” he replied. “Although I did meet him once. I was playing golf in Florida and we bumped into each other. I recognised the orange hair immediately and, knowing that he enjoys a laugh, I said, ‘Sir, that perm on your head bears a striking resemblance to a duck’s beak.’
“And he thought that was funny because he stared at me intensely and I sensed he was about to laugh his head off. We would have got on like a house on fire were it not for two security guards who made an issue of the fact that I had strayed unintentionally into the private members’ bar. So I missed a golden opportunity.”
I suppose people will miss the White House. It was a symbol of permanence. And like popes waving from the same window of the Vatican for centuries, or Queen Elizabeth on her balcony since the 1950s, the president of the United States standing on the steps of the White House was an image of security in the face of all the crises and catastrophes that history presents. The trappings of that presidential office consoled a lot of people that the world would never crumble because the office of president was there forever.
And people will also miss Air Force One. It was like a flying White House; an ark in which the holy anointed one flew through the air. The president of the United States in the clouds was a sign of hope for a wounded world. Even if Donald Duck got the job, the trappings of the institution would envelop him in dignity and wisdom. Or so people hoped.
I loved Cohen’s darkness
The office of president, with all the trappings, transformed an individual into a divine emperor, flying through the air faster than a pope, and living in a palace where his perfect wife, the first among women, dressed the tables with silverware and smoothed the beds with fine sheets that any queen would have been jealous of. When the bulletproof limousine floated through town people knew that behind the dark glass windows there would always be a truly supreme commander.
But all that is gone now. Trump will sweep away the manners and mannerisms of previous presidents. He will make America new again in his own brash style of naked greed and personal wealth. He will set the world on fire, as they say in Hollywood.
I suppose it’s ironic how Leonard Cohen died on the same week as Trump was elected. And when Cohen’s fire went out, he left a final collection of songs with an ominous title, You Want it Darker.
I loved Cohen’s darkness. And the way he touched the objects of his love with exquisite melancholy. Naming them in their impermanence. He conjured up serenity in the silence between each note. That’s a serenity I now need, in the winter of 2017, as I wait for the next president of the United States to blow his trumpets with sound and fury. It’s like waiting for an attack of bile. The churning of warm, angry juices begins to disturb my guts in the middle of the night, until Cohen’s lyrics sink beneath my emotions like a Rennie tablet, urging me to accept the impermanence of emperors. To accept the silence before the fire, and the silence that will remain when the fire has gone out.