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Saturday, December 24, 2022

Faux Truth And The American Dream–What Donald Trump Taught Us About Fooling Most Of The People Most Of The Time

Betty Murphy was a proud woman, anxious like many first generation Americans, to set straight the record of her European past.  Her relatives, she insisted, came to this country long before the potato famine, were quickly assimilated into the mainstream of American life, and as thankful, enterprising immigrants contributed more than most to the economy.  

Yes, her father had been a bartender in South Boston, and The Blarney Stone had indeed been a place of drunken brawls and immoderate behavior; but that did not tarnish the image of a man of principle and hard work who provided for his family and then some.

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Betty had gone to Catholic schools, made her First Communion in a dress of white organza sewn by her mother, carried a bouquet of lilies, and wore a special tiara and veil fashioned by her aunt Tilly, confined to a wheelchair but deft as ever with a needle and thread and well-known for her proper but yet fanciful and imaginative accessories.  

Betty was a pious little girl, obedient, and demure.  She lifted her eyes up to the cross of Jesus with love and admiration, kissed the ring of the archbishop when he had visited South Boston, made the stations of the cross every Christmas and Easter season, and was the favorite of the Sisters of Charity who in the basement of St. Aloysius taught her the catechism and good Catholic manners.

226 Irish Catholic priest | A Catholic priest attending St. … | Flickr

She was only a modest student, deflected from serious study, her mother thought, because of her unusual piety; but then again, displacement by Our Lord was certainly a blessing.  Betty was moderately attractive, never a standout among the girls in her class, stunning Irish blue-eyed, dark-haired beauties, but as she  grew older, her inner beauty attracted equally pious and serious boys, one of whom, Billy McGonigal, married her at eighteen.  

College was never in the offing for her because of indifference to her studies, her religious avocation, and meagre family finances. The young couple lived at first with her parents then rented the top floor of a three-story building nearby.  The apartment was, like everything else in Betty’s life, modest but acceptable.  The front windows gave onto Fletcher Street, the greengrocer’s stand, the firehouse, and the Irish American Patriotic Club.

As she grew older, Betty became more aware of the confines of her neighborhood, her marriage, and her opportunities.  She was destined to be a pretty little Irish housewife in an Irish neighborhood, in an Irish city.  She longed for Times Square, the Capitol, and the palm trees of Collins Avenue.  It seemed like a fanciful, impossible dream until the War.  

Her husband who had distinguished himself in France and came home with a silver star was offered a job as an aide to an important colonel in the Pentagon.  He and a very happy Betty moved to Washington, installed their three children in Catholic schools, and began their lives anew.

Betty, who had never really gotten over her Irish heritage, the bar, the grocery stands, and the corned beef and cabbage dinners of her youth, took to her new respectability with energy and enthusiasm.  Finally she was a real American married to a war hero, mother to three model children, and a woman of standing in her new suburban community.  

She read Emily Post and the style sections of the daily newspaper, but anxious to keep up with the more educated women of her acquaintance began to read the front page, then finally editorial opinions.  At first she was hesitant to offer comments on what she had read, but soon gained confidence.  Her comments were a blend of fact and association.  She couldn’t make heads nor tails of the arguments about Soviet expansionism, interest rates, or social malaise, so she embellished her remarks with intuition – the way things must be or must have been. 

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At first the women at her weekly tea groups and charity bazaars were impressed with her knowledge of American politics and economic affairs, then realized that much of what she said was just quacking and fabrication.  “No”, Betty would reply when questioned, “I read it in the Post” and go on to add bits and pieces of random information that had come her way.  Whatever the reporter had written was soon lost in a miasma of South Boston recollections, hearsay, and snippets from popular midday newscasters.  Yet she sounded authoritative, for she had inherited the gift of gab from her father.

At about this time, Donald Trump had risen to power and was in his halcyon days of lovely deception.  Trump was a master of theatrics, rabbit-in-a-hat magic, and magnificent Las Vegas glitz, rhinestone, and pasties.  He had become president not because of his policies or his geopolitical savvy but because of his vaudevillian genius.  No one was better than he in the art of masterful deception, the God-given talent for sounding good with a sturm und drang braggadocio, a verbal gladiator that had supporters at his feet and opponents apoplectic.

Donald Trump Plans to Celebrate His 76th Birthday at Bedminster

He set a new standard for American politics, the final accounting for faux truth.  He was Betty Murphy’s idol because he made things up, embellished, embroidered, and treated the truth as a cheap commodity to be traded in, sold, or buried.  

The truth, as Kurosawa, Browning, and Durrell knew, is a very subjective insubstantial affair which means different things to different people and thus without meaning or value.  It was only the story, the narrative which had any point, the origins of which held no interest wither to Donald Trump or Betty Murphy.  The two were prestidigitators, masters in the art of confabulation which was not meant to trick or deceive, but to reset the truth gauge.

Betty’s tea ladies finally had had it with her stories which became more and more impossible.  She used her ignorance of history to create her own versions of wars and palaces.  They sounded better to her than the real thing, whatever that was.  “It was Disney”, she said, “who created the Grinch Who Stole Christmas”, seeing in her mind’s eye Walt’s marvelous fantasies of Snow White and Cinderella.  He had to have created the Grinch as he had designed every other fantastical, endearing character.  She had no interest in giving credit to Dr. Seuss or Maurice Sendak, or any other illustrator of child fantasy.

Whereas Trump was a master of timing, Betty could not stop herself from pronouncing faux truths.  Every conversation was stopped dead by her non sequiturs, clotured by her impossible interpretations, shut down by her illogical conclusions.  Yet she hammered on, more and more convinced of the rightness of her vision.  She quoted source after source, inventing editorial content, conflating years and figures, each of which strayed farther and farther from the truth.

Meanwhile as Betty became an oddity, an oddball, and finally a clownish, twitchy, woman, Donald Trump prospered.  His admirers who cared little for the ‘truth’, preferred imaginative twists and turns just like in Hollywood, couldn’t get enough.  Thousands thronged his whistle stops, watched him on television, devoured his words in print and on social media.  He knew that the truth was overrated, and each time a critic tried to pin him down to specific dates, times, and events, he answered with not one but a series of non sequiturs, befuddling the questioner and delighting audiences.

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Betty Murphy was the local master at the art of the non sequitur.  She, however, never knew that she was drifting off message, her grasp of current and historical events was so slight.  By this time no one cared, some polite smiles and thank you’s and the afternoon, the tea parties, and Betty Murphy were over and done with,.

Donald Trump was not done with by any means, kept up the greatest show on earth since the last time Barnum & Bailey came to town, was elected president, lost, never lost traction, continued to nettle, annoy, and rile his enemies; and despite attempts to erase him, he came back with a vengeance, was re-elected and continued his three ring circus for another four years.

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