"When we are without art, we are a diminished people — myopic, unlearned and cruel."
So ends Dave Eggers' essay, "A Cultural Vacuum in Trump’s White House." Unlike previous chief executives of the modern era, this president, notes Eggers, has refashioned the White House into a culturally barren hovel. "In the 17 months that Donald Trump has been in office, he has hosted only a few artists of any kind," recalls the novelist. "One was the gun fetishist Ted Nugent. Another was Kid Rock. They went together (and with Sarah Palin). Neither performed."
And yet, like Martin Luther (forgive me), there Trump stands, he can do no other. For he and his presidency are immutably myopic, unlearned and cruel, which likewise diminish us as a people. The free expression of the creative imagination in all its resplendent forms is the very antithesis of Trumpism, which seeks the basest denominator of the nation's most boorish communities.
Even a glance at Trump's residential interiors — made up as gaudily as a New Orleans whorehouse — offers insight into the man's dullness of taste and deficit of cultivation.
His unaesthetic awfulness goes much deeper than that, of course. Trump almost jauntily concedes that he rarely reads, thus he has squandered not merely the transcendent joys of a Halberstam, Whitman or Roth, but the cerebral treasures of a Halberstam, Whitman or Roth.
I once heard the literary critic Harold Bloom say that he reads voraciously because he wishes to learn the vast reflections of the human condition (all of which can be found in Shakespeare alone, if you wish). Trump, on the other hand, has spent most of his adult life pursuing nothing but lifeless mammon. It shows. He knows the cheap banter of a huckster and the argot of a vulturous swindler, but superficiality is as deep as his uncurious brain can go.
Why does Trump disdain those whom he calls the "elite"? Because he's jealous as hell.
America's authentic elite are aristocrats not of material wealth (commonly inherited) but of merit, innate talent and refined achievement — all the qualities that Trump lacks in toto. Society's elitism can be found in your autodidactic postman as well as our famous painters or renowned musicians; persons of true accomplishment, not carnival barkers who so callously screw subcontractors. Trump's singular merit, I gather, is that he knows just how unaccomplished he is — for which he compensates by bullying, bravado and bullshit.
That, and $10,000 portraits (which he probably considers "real" art) surrounded by framed, fake Time magazine covers. Incurable self-aggrandizement is the surest sign of a crude, insecure man. And they don't come any cruder than Donald J. Trump — a swaggering mass of myopia, ignorance and cruelty.
All of it white-housed in a cultural vacuum. Perfectly said, Mr. Eggers.