Greek tragedy for morons

Illustration by Max Burbank


It’s about as close as he’ll every get to a Sunrise Service. At 5:35 a.m. on Sunday, August 5, our presumptive president took a moment from his 11-day summer golf vacation to tweet an admission that the statement he dictated for his namesake son, regarding the infamous Trump Tower meeting with a government-affiliated Russian lawyer, was a lie. For months, the transparently ridiculous White House line has been that the meeting was about the adoption of Russian children. Now, according to Trump’s tweet, “Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics — and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!” Italics added to indicate the point where, without the least bit of human shame or embarrassment, Trump officially reverses one of his longest-standing official lies.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who reads my column regularly: This was not what I originally intended to write about — but lucky me, it fits my theme perfectly. Here’s the seemingly unrelated question that kicked off the original train of thought: What do you think Rudy Giuliani’s shelf life is? How much longer can he go on before Trump claims to barely know him, and describes him as someone he briefly employed; a coffee boy, good for the occasional shoe shine? Rudy’s fall won’t be because he clumsily exposes Trump’s lies about pay-offs to porn stars and centerfolds, or that his client engages in obstruction of justice as often as he golfs. Trump is perfectly capable of doing that kind of damage himself, as Sunday’s tweet makes clear.

There’s only one truly mortal sin in Trumpsylvania: becoming the story. Giuliani is the latest in a parade of quivering slug-puppy sycophants, rolling on their backs, exposing their fuzzy little throats and tummies, mewling and wetting themselves for Trump’s affection and approval. Instead, like everyone who’s stolen a bit too much of Trump’s thunder — from the bloated, animated corpse of failed-Robert-Redford-clone-bobbing-in-a-jar-of-formaldehyde Steve Bannon to hang-dog consigliore/fixer and poor-man’s-Joe-Pesci-impersonator Michael Cohen — Giulianiis going to get a thorough public kicking before being stuffed into a space under a bus so crowded with castoffs, the wheels no longer touch the ground.

So Trump reenacts his desperate, loveless childhood, this time playing the role of his own father, Frederick Christ Trump, and no, I did not make up that middle name. It’s real. It’s a Greek Tragedy for Morons — and once you allow that this drama is being played out for the benefit of Trump’s true believer base, all the elements of Tragedy are in place. Trump is their Orange Agamemnon — not just the good and decent protagonist Tragedy requires, but the greatest, most bigly leader in the entire history of leadering!

You can’t have a Greek Tragedy without a chorus, so here comes QAnon  from the wings, following their white rabbit down its hole, out onto the stage, and into the limelight.

Illustration by Max Burbank

It’s hard to say just what QAnon believes, as each adherent ladles their own bowl from a vast trough of leftover conspiracy theory gumbo — but they come together around certain essentials. See, Q is this guy (Guys? Gals?) with a Q-level security clearance, which is equal to “top secret” in the Department of Energy. If Q isn’t actually a Russian government troll (spoiler alert, there’s like a 99.99999% chance he/she’s a Russian government troll), does that security clearance work anywhere but the DOE? Anyway, “Q” doles out “crumbs” for disciples, or “bakers,” on super-reliable websites like 4chan and 8chan, and presumably, ultra-secret, dark web 16chan, and they “bake” them into an understanding of “The Storm” — a reference to that time Trump scared the piss out of everybody by referring to a White House gathering of top military brass as “The calm before the storm.” So. The perfect Greek chorus for an audience of morons.

Trump’s tragic flaw is naturally the very best tragic flaw, the one with the highest ratings: hubris — and not just average, store-bought hubris, but a designer brand delivering a level of pride and arrogance on such a scale it offends the gods. He’s smarter than the generals; he consults himself on foreign policy because he has “a very good brain” and a “world-class memory.” But see, Achilles’ hubris was understandable. He was a nearly invincible gentleman who briefly forgot his unfortunate heel issues. That’s tragic! Trump believes he’s the smartest man on the planet when all signs to point to him being something of a dimwit. So Trump’s hubris is only tragic to morons, real Achilles heels being way more tragic than imaginary bone spurs!

And now we approach a dreadful climax he’s been practicing for since shortly after he won the Electoral College. After sacrificing a slew of child-like, desperate-to-please staff in unsuccessful attempts to derail the Fates in the Special Counsel’s Office, Trump’s ready to chuck an actual child of his own blood on the pyre; his namesake, no less!

I’m certain praise was a rare commodity in the Trump household, but is Jr.  emotionally starved enough to swoon over being called “wonderful son” and not comprehend the import of the rest of the tweet? Because it isn’t “totally legal” to “get information on an opponent” when that information is being provided by a HOSTILE FOREIGN NATION! It isn’t “done all the time in politics.” In fact, there seems to be no record of it ever having been done in the history of American presidential campaigns. The fact that it “went nowhere” doesn’t change anything! If attempting to commit a crime and failing isn’t illegal, why am I wearing this ankle bracelet, which chafes and absolutely ruins the otherwise pleasing look of my form-fitting slacks?

Look at the closing line: “I did not know about it!” might as well read, “You got the wrong Donald Trump! It was Junior!” He’s sacrificing his own son! And there’s no way it’s going to be enough! Tragedy!

Except a real Tragedy is supposed to provoke not just suffering, but insight, on the part of the protagonist. That’s how catharsis is achieved: the purification and purgation of emotions. And that’s never going to happen. Not for King Donald. Not for his country.

This has never been Tragedy with a capital “T.” Like everything about this presidency, it’s gold leaf over drywall, “America First” banners made in China. Sad, sure. But only a Tragedy if you’re a moron.

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