A week or so ago, I saw this clip of Donald Trump being interviewed by filmmaker Errol Morris about his favorite movie. Trump chose Citizen Kane, because he seemed to think this would be a selection that would make him appear smart.
According to Trump, Citizen Kane is a film about acquisition. Which I think is an apt and penetrating analysis, save one aspect: Mr. Trump – you have taken away the exact opposite of its meaning. You have managed to watch the rise and fall of Charles Foster Kane and have made an assessment of his story that is DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSED TO EVERY ASPECT OF WHAT IS TRANSPARENTLY AND SELF-EVIDENTLY THE POINT THAT ORSON WELLES SEEKS TO MAKE.
Honest to God, man – whatever its many narrative and cinematic virtues might be, AN ELUSIVE MORAL AMBIGUITY IS NOT AMONG THEM. There is literally not a single frame of that fucking movie that could lead you to reasonably conclude that it is ABOUT acquisition. It INVOLVES acquisition, certainly – it DEPICTS the main character having amassed a huge trove of artifacts to stuff his palace, but that is by no means the same as it being ABOUT acquisition. It CONCERNS acquisition, in that it portrays to devastating effect the HUMAN COST of a life squandered in acquisition.
To watch that fucking movie, and come away from it having concluded that it is the story of a successful man who buys a mess of stuff is only possible if you are the most literal-minded, Cliff Notes motherfucker that ever walked the earth. Because it takes a seriously remedial mind to watch that movie and MANAGE SOMEHOW TO ESCAPE ITS INESCAPABLE CONCLUSION.
Look – I don’t mean to harp on this one miniscule Trump failing. Especially since it’s nested inside a giant bulb of other Trump failings, tightly wound like a cabbage – leaf after leaf or bitter-tasting failing, clinging for dear life to the globe of bitter-tasting failure inside it.
I fucking realize that his job is not to be Film Critic In Chief. But it just seems like SUCH a perfect encapsulation of how this strutting, emptyheaded capon can look at the SINGLE MOST FAMOUS AND CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED MOVIE IN AMERICAN HISTORY and fail entirely to see the same sonofabitching movie that you or I do.
But of COURSE he takes it to be about acquisition – because he himself is about acquisition.
Because if you extrapolate from this one Errol Morris clip – and there is a distressingly vast body of evidence, now, to support this – our President – and he IS our goddamn President, in the sense that we are fucking stuck with him along with all the Oxy-popping hillbillies who put him in the Oval fucking Office – retains a fixed and impregnable capacity to look upon the world and to see what he wishes to see.
Which, to varying degrees, we all do, obviously. We’re all prey to our own wishful thinking and blind spots and habits of mind. But – BUT – I would hope that we at least endeavor to adjust our beliefs and discard our bad ideas BECAUSE WE HAVE REMAINED FUCKING CURIOUS AND LEARNED NEW THINGS AND, WHERE NEEDED, WE HAVE ALTERED OR AMENDED OUR CONCEPTION OF THE TRUTH.
If you have devoted your life to acquisition, you must therefore conceive of acquisition as a virtue; if you encounter people who have failed to – or worse, even – have CONSCIOUSLY AND WILLFULLY REJECTED the Cult of Acquisition, then, as a means of psychological self-preservation, you MUST vilify and marginalize and denigrate such people. Because where acquisition constitutes success, the believer MUST believe that any deviation from such a conception of success is aberrant, and presents a threat not merely to your own success, but to the philosophical bedrock that underlies your success. Hence the name-calling and pettiness and constant monitoring of what others are saying about you.
When the architecture of belief is so shoddily constructed, of course it requires constant upkeep.
But here’s what I know:
He is wrong. About everything.
He is wrong about Citizen Kane, obviously, but it is because he is wrong about so many other, much bigger and more enduring things, that he is wrong about Citizen Kane in the particular way that he is.
Because he is wrong about what is important in this life. Because he was raised by wrongheaded people who pushed him into his lifelong embrace of wrongness.
His ideas are wrong.
And he is wrong in his rhetoric.
And he is wrong in his conclusions about things.
And he is wrong in the answers he arrives at.
And he is wrong in the way that he frames problems.
And he is wrong in his analysis.
And he is wrong in the solutions he seeks.
And he is wrong in his humanity. Yes. He is that wrong. His wrongness runs that deep. He is wrong all the way to the base of himself.
He is a clown and a brute, to be sure. He is a huckster and a bully and a fraud.
But the reason he is dangerous, and the reason is he is now powerful, is that he is
To have summoned his own shallow, shitty wrongness and to have heaved it toward enough of the fearful and the credulous, the damaged and the dumb that they have cast their fortunes in with his shallow, shitty wrongness, and have pushed us now to the precipice.
But this I know, and this I promise – to my children, and to my neighbors, and to you my fellow citizens, and to myself above all:
Whatever the perversions and subjugations and diminishments that lay ahead of us, whatever indignities and cruelties and violations are in store, I will know he is wrong.
However badly the sands of reality are made to shift underfoot, however degraded and downtrodden the factual is made to become, I will know he is wrong.
However stridently his supporters defend him, however clamorous becomes their chorus, I will know he is wrong. No matter how many breads, no matter how many circuses, I will know he is wrong.
Whatever the shape and breadth of the vast and fizzing clusterfuck that awaits, I will know he is wrong.
I believe he was born wrong. I believe he has rushed headlong into deeper wrongness all his life long. I believe that the more wrong he grows, the more convinced he becomes of his rightness. I believe his wrongness is of that calamitous variety that impels him to drag us all down into the slurping pit of his wrongness.
And it may seem small, now. But I believe that a solid little patch of knowledge – knowledge that he is fully and perilously wrong – will come one day soon to mean a great deal, maybe everything, even.
So I resolve to defend this solid little patch of knowledge against every incursion, against all the forces of erosion, against even my own sloth and despair. And however long he maintains his illegitimate grip on his current position, and however surrounded on all sides by his false majority I might become, I resolve to stand fast on this solid little patch of knowledge, saying over and over, even if only to myself:
He is wrong.