2016 is rapidly coming to a close. Sadly, the tail end of this year has included a variety of calamitous events to an already tragedy laden year. Most notably, the election of Donald Trump, a hateful buffoon now taking office as President of the United States. This year also seems to have been filled with the deaths of many notable people. In the world of the arts, we have seen the loss of a number of icons, many of whom have died tragically much earlier than we could have expected. David Bowie, Prince, George Michael. It was the death of Carrie Fisher, forever Princess Leia, that finally gave me pause. I have longed since reconciled that loss continually occurs all around us, but I have now reached an age where I am experiencing the deaths of the heroes of my childhood and teen years. Each and every one of them, including Donald Trump, was someone I idolized for one reason or another.
In my senior year high school yearbook, I listed as my ambition “To have even more money than Donald Trump”. I now cringe that I could ever have aspired to be in any way similar to the filterless, spray-tanned egomaniac I see before me today. But I entirely understand why I admired him so much at the time. Donald Trump is a teenage boy’s image of a rich man. A man who lives in a skyscraper filled with marble and gold. A man with a beautiful wife (his first of three at the time) who is as much of an ornament as the skyscrapers, golf courses and casinos that bear his name. His swagger, braggadocio, flashiness and camera readiness appeal so much to the teenage boy’s mindset, fueled endlessly by testosterone and fantasy. Only slightly less cartoonish a figure than Jabba the Hutt, with Princess Leia chained to his side. I graduated high school in 1989, the very last year of a decade where money and the individuals who possessed it were as highly exalted in the media as any rock star or actor. Nobody embodied that type of individual more so than Trump. So looking back, I am not at all surprised that this was a man I wanted to emulate. What surprises me now, nearly 30 years later, is that his image as President of the United States appealed to far more than simply teenage boys.
I am wise enough to know that mud slinging and dirty dealings are what political campaigns routinely run on. But never have I witnessed one so blatantly and viciously using misogyny and xenophobia. Banish all the Muslims, send the Mexicans back across the border where they came from, start building a wall! These were the constant sound bites playing out daily as Trump inched far closer to the White House than I and any of the pundits seemed to think possible. And yet here we are, at the end of another year and the dawn of a new era. Or, at the very least, what will be four years of an era. No matter how much we want to cling to the images of our childhood heroes, riding in a little red corvette, gallantly fighting Storm Troopers with a light saber or riding high in the sky on a private jet, time brings them all closer to reality. The cracks in their armor finally showing them for the flawed figures they really are and exposing the weaknesses in our own.