Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Trump, Pride & Prejudice, & Lord of the Flies

Lady Catherine de Bourgh would be appalled. In the presidential campaign of 2016 all manner of decorum and social norms have been tossed aside by the boorish reality TV caricature Donald Trump. And in Jane Austen's seminal novel of Victorian manners, Lady Catherine - the protector of noblesse oblige and the ideals of respectable society - stands against the inappropriate behavior that threatens to destabilize society. Now, many readers of Pride and Prejudice will see Lady Catherine as the nemesis and foil to the heroic Elizabeth who challenges the norms of society and dares to love above her rank. Yet, Austen does not intend to portray Lady Catherine as a villian, even as she provides a necessary antagonist for the strong and independent Bennett daughter. While Austen is, in fact, criticizing her society and social norms, she is also upholding them as well. For, when the social norms of appropriate behavior are compromised, we are left with the crass and careless behavior of young Lydia and the rakish, mysoginistic actions of Wickham. One of the most important roles in Victorian society was the gentlemanly behavior of the landed gentry, and Donald Trump is anything but a gentleman. And that is what disturbs me the most.

In a recent tweet, I noted that if Donald Trump were to win the Presidency, I would not, as many have frivilously claimed, "leave the country," move to Canada or New Zealand, or renounce my citizenship. But if a crass, low-brow, white trash personality like Donald Trump were actual favored by enough Americans to attain the highest office in the land, I might just quit voting and casually retire from politics and news. An old friend and classmate criticized that comment and began to argue about "Killary" and social programs and debt. But my point wasn't about politics and policy - for I would happily support a John Kasich candidacy. I was reacting to Trump's absolutely uncouth, uncultured, unsophisticated, and inappropriate behavior. Regardless, of one's views about Hillary Clinton's politics, ego, and careless email issues, she and many other candidates understand and respect basic adult decency and mature social discourse.  Trump does not, and he does not care, and that should disqualify him for any public office in a civilized society. But, sadly many people have accepted rude, crass behavior as acceptable, and some will even go so far to claim the system needs such as shake-up. But this is not a classy heroine in a Jane Austen novel asserting her rights and belief that marriages should be about love. This is simply disgusting behavior by a man whose inherited wealth is his only asset.

Donald Trump's use of childish, school-yard insults like "Crooked Hillary" and "Lyin Ted Cruz" has no place in adult political discourse. And, that doesn't even come close to addressing the fact that Donald Trump is willingly and even proudly ignorant of the pertinent details of domestic and foreign policy. He is as aloof as the voters who support him. And that reminds me of another classic work, William Golding's Lord of the Flies, in which a group of "civilized" British schoolboys are left to fend for themselves on an island and ultimately decay into a state of anarchy and war. When asked about his choice of protagonists, Golding supposedly said, "When you get right down to it, the adolescent boy is the closest manifestation of pure evil you'll find anywhere on earth." That's a pretty fair assessment of the potential danger in a society that believes Trump is a leader.

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