“Hair today and Gone tomorrow” or “The Last Trump”

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I’ve been watching Trump quite a lot recently. After all, I’m a Brit – and if he becomes President, the chances of Europe turning into a nuclear wasteland will edge up quite a few points. So I have a vested interest here. I don’t know anything about his policies (mind you, I suspect he doesn’t either.) I’m interested in the superficial stuff- the way he talks, his gestures…his hair.

It’s silly hair…candyfloss hair…a wispy concoction held together by StrongFast hairspray. Nobody believes it. It’s a joke, and everyone knows it…including, I think, him. His hair is like a red flag to a bull. “ Go on ! says his hair, “ I’m silly hair ! OK ? You wanna make something of it pal ?” His hair is in your face, in a manner of speaking.

His walk. The other candidates walk badly, all of them. They shuffle onto the stage, trying not to trip over their own toes, and scurry to the safety of their lecterns. But Trump walks in slowly, deliberately, head up, checking out the crowd. A gladiator stalking into the arena, a professional wrestler pacing round the ring, seeking whom he might devour. The more I think of it, the more I realise that’s it ! Unable to present himself as he really is, he borrows massively from the theatrics of the ring. His opponents are entirely unimportant – he plays to the crowd, telling them what they want to hear, shocking them with profanity ( Ooo !Doris ! Isn’t it lovely to be shocked by profanity !) He feels their unarticulated pain.

Bawling, wheedling, cajoling, he persuades them to follow their hearts and check their brains in at the door. Vocally he’s good, very good – he runs from full-on tortured bull to creepy uncle – and he uses his hands – stabbing out a finger, lips belled out like a trumpet, then making a funny, odd little gesture, circling his thumb and forefinger- it’s almost feminine.

 

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No-one could deny he’s a brilliant entertainer.

But has he got the chops for The Real Job ?

It’s 4am. A red phone in the White House Situation Room starts ringing. The Duty Security Officer picks it up. One of the Northern radar stations has picked up what looks like a multiple missile strike from over the Pole. On the other hand, it could be a flock of geese, or the Moon- it’s happened before. The Duty Officer dashes up stairs to the Presidential bedroom and bangs on the door.
“ Mr President ! Mr President !”
A grunt which sounds like “ What the f..”
The man goes inside, tells his story to the humped form in the bed.
“ What are we going to do, Mr President ? What are we going to do ?
The President reaches out an arm to switch on the light. His pink jowls are shadowed with stubble, stringy yellow hair hangs round his face. He looks bewildered.
“ What are we going to do ?”

 

What’s in a name ?

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Inhabiting the words

From ClipboardDid you see Obama’s inauguration speech ? What did you think ?

At first sight it was  tall man in a winter coat, reading to quarter of a million people from a teleprompt. But it was a lot more than that.

Think of the challenge. How do you connect to a huge crowd- with a nation behind them, watching on tv ? He did it in a number of ways. First the speech itself.

It was pared down, precise without being simplistic. He used “we” a lot. This meant every American alive now, every one who lived in the past and will live in the future. He was setting out the context.

He put forward a programme that no-one in their right mind could argue with-equality of gender and sexual preference, environmental awareness, health care , talking to your enemies before you start bombing them- all presented in a concise, unambiguous way. And he asked for support from the whole country; he was tapping into the essential compassion and common sense which is still  part of American society.

He was  realistic. This won’t happen today. Some of it won’t happen at all. But we have to try. Small victories are still victories, and we must be grateful for them.

Then came the steady drumbeat of “ We, the people”- he meant the American nation now- the huge and disparate community which has such power in the world- but he was also reaching back to the American Constitution and that blaze of hope and optimism that flared up at the end of the eighteenth century.

It was a beautifully written speech- I’m sure he didn’t write it- but I’m also sure that he had a  big  hand in its creation.

The end was about oaths we take. Promises we make to each other.A  huge nation bound together by promises……

You could say “Sure- sounded great- so it should. He must have rehearsed it dozens of times” And I’m sure that’s true- but that didn’t make it any less sincere. He inhabited every sentence, every phrase.

The voice helped him- strong, calm- controlled. You always have the feeling that he’s holding something back.It’s taking an effort- but he’s not going to bleed all over the carpet. I like this because it’s a very British thing. Obama is master of the American Stiff Upper Lip.

And the silences. To start with, it’s a matter of politeness. Once you’ve hit a key line, then stop, and let the audience take it in. And that’s what he did. After each repetition of “We, the people” the silence got longer ,and longer. You could see the message soaking in.Us. We. The people…..

I’m a Brit, and it made me weep. It touched me in the same way that Shakespeare’s “band of brothers” speech in “Henry V.”

It was real. It was human.

It was poetry.