The Epic Donald

We voting Americans need to sort out our thinking and do so before next fall. I am so tired of hearing reasonable, intelligent people express anti-Trump attitudes based on truly flimsy grounds.  A relative said to me that she’d never vote for Trump because “he’s an a**hole.” I have had other people voice similar concerns in more genteel terms -– they don’t like his tweeting, his braggadocio, his unpredictability. Okay, okay. At first, I didn’t either.

Now, it’s true that Trump can be a jerk. But so was Julius Caesar. So was Winston Churchill. So was George Patton. For that matter, so was King David, who was appointed by God to be king of Israel, and who was that country’s best king despite his dalliance with Bathsheba and his setting up her husband for certain death on the battlefield. David’s multiple wives and their offspring caused much upheaval in the country, but David, whom history still regards as a great king, brought peace and prosperity to his country throughout most of his lengthy reign.

Perhaps it would clarify things if we were to define our terms and priorities. Is greatness usually measured by hairstyle? By smooth talk? By delicate sensibilities? What are the attributes of a truly great man? What does tradition tell us?

I’m an English teacher, so I think in literary terms. Let’s look to the “epic hero” to find a standard for the epitome of human greatness. It seems to me that a person who would willingly take on the leadership of the greatest, wealthiest nation on earth would qualify as either a madman or a hero. Agreed? Reach back to your college lit class –- what are the official attributes of an epic hero?

  1. An epic hero has to be involved in a battle of epic proportions and he has to be winning that battle. 
  2. An epic hero has to be strong physically and mentally.
  3. He has to be wise, fearless, and tenacious.
  4. He needs to be kind to women, children, and the poor.
  5. He has to be of the aristocracy –- the butler never rises to the rank of epic hero.
  6. He has to be selfless, risking his life for others.
  7. An epic hero is honest, saying directly what is on his mind.

Is that such a different list from what any country would want for a president?

Now, let’s hold the Donald up to that standard.

  • Is he fighting an epic battle? That’s pretty obvious. And he’s fighting it with little support. I think of Beowulf and that nasty fire dragon. Only our hero and his trusty sidekick Wiglaf fought the beast -– everyone else cowered back in the charred village. I think of Beowulf fighting Grendel barehanded, for no weapon could harm him. What about today? The entire western world depends on Trump being successful in cleaning out American government, in draining the fen of nicors. Definitely an epic battle.
  • Is he strong? Not in the bench-pressing-250 sense of the word. But this man works 20 hours a day, subsists on only a few hours of sleep a night, and always appears energetic and cheerful. He’s 73 years old –- about the same age as Beowulf was when he fought that fire dragon –- and while Trump’s not fighting with a sword and buckler, he’s fighting a whole swampful of monsters.
  • Is he strong mentally? This question is almost funny. That his detractors say he’s an intellectual slug while he appears to be effortlessly saving the nation -- economically, morally, and diplomatically -- makes it a hilarious allegation. Does he sound like he went to Harvard? No. Is he a member of Mensa? Don’t think so, but who cares? He’s running mental rings around his enemies and that’s what counts.
  • Wisdom? Not as the Old-Man-of-the-Mountain; he’s no one’s guru;  he doesn’t sit around with his forehead resting on his fist pondering the meaning of life -– he doesn’t hold still long enough. But he certainly understands people –- ordinary folk. He knows what makes people tick, even Chinese people, North Korean people, Iranian people, so his dealings with other world leaders have been hugely successful. He knows that people want to love their own country; that they’d rather work productively than be handed other people’s money. He knows that a strong relationship with God is what holds this country together. He knows that military readiness is essential and that borders must be maintained; that national sovereignty is important.
  • Is he fearless? Tenacious? He has to be given full marks on these. For over three years he’s been dueling with the left -- people who want to impeach him, imprison him, kill him -- all while running the country with breathtaking expertise and nonstop success. Some see his tweets as offensive and unnecessary, but I see them as his Excalibur, his sword. He just says what he needs to say and doesn’t fear the repercussions. When there is push back and horror at something he’s said, he just keeps on keeping on. We would expect that he’d be daunted by all the attacks and therefore be unable to function, to get anything done, but on he goes, checking off one accomplishment after another. Tenacious.
  • Kind to women, children, and the elderly? One can go back 20 years and fault him for once using the word “pu**y” and for his divorces. Yes. But right now? His lovely wife seems happy in his presence; he appears to be thrilled with her. His children are all productively helping him with his agenda. Now and then a story leaks out where he –- as a private individual –- provided housing or assistance for just regular folks who were in need –- Saeed Abedini comes to mind. Trump doesn’t treat underlings with disdain –- a pleasant change from our last president.
  • Is The Donald of the aristocracy? Yes and no. He’s fabulously wealthy -- though not as much so as he was before he became president. He has a gold-plated penthouse in Manhattan and a palatial estate in Florida. He’s tall and handsome; his wife is a fashion model who speaks five languages; his kids behave with great nobility. However, he didn’t go to Harvard; he wasn’t inducted into Skull and Bones; he actually worked and built things for a living, unlike the elite. For these faux pas, he cannot be forgiven.
  • Is he selfless? Yes. It’s true he’s enjoying the crowds’ adulation at his rallies. He loves, like the typical epic hero, to list his accomplishments; he can do an excellent “boast.” He likes winning. But note that, unlike others who go to Washington, he’s not making money either doing his job, or taking advantage of his position. He donates his salary every quarter, and so far the only people better off because of his presidency are the American people in general.

I know -- Trump is odd. I have no idea why his skin is that color. His Elvis hair is a total wonder, though I have to admit I’m growing fond of it. His speech cadences are noticeably non-Ivy-League. He repeats himself. He says, “I can tell you that much,” much too often. He tweets -- aggressively. But nowhere in literature is the hero expected to be cocktail-party sophisticated. Nowhere does it say he can’t be eccentric. After all, most truly great people are.

Deana Chadwell is an adjunct professor and department head at Pacific Bible College in southern Oregon.  She teaches writing and public speaking.

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