Donald Trump: An Absurdist Play for the Ages

by John Ellis

In the years to come, several things will stand out in my mind about Donald Trump’s presidency. Two things, though, seem to encapsulate his absurdist, chaotic, and damaging four years in the White House. The first took place on the day of his inauguration. The second on the day the election was called for President-elect Joe Biden.

On January 20, 2017, my wife hosted her firm’s inauguration party in conjuction with the Republican Attorneys General Association. Held on the roof of her DC office building, the party had an unobstructed view of the National Mall and the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, where the swearing in ceremony took place. In fact, her building is the only building with a roof-top balcony overlooking the West Front. Many of the TV shots of inaugurations are compliments of camera crews stationed on that roof. So, it took my wife by surprise to hear the newly sworn in President brag about the size of the crowd watching the inauguration. “I was shocked by how empty the Mall was,” she said, showing me pictures on her phone. “He’s lying.”

And with that, the curtain was raised, the floodlights switched on, and the pre-show mime took his seat.

Over the years, I’ve related that information to Trump supporters who insist that attendance records were broken on Jan. 20, 2017. My wife has done the same. To people who are friends and family. Their response, as a general rule? There is no way that Trump could be mistaken, my wife must be the one mistaken or lying.

Sigh.

Nearly four years later, and the laughable yet predictable debacle that was the press conference held at the Four Seasons Total Landscaping in Philadelphia is a fitting curtain call for Trump’s administration.

I’ve heard two versions of what happened. In version one – version one because it was the first explanation I heard – President Trump wanted the press conference held at the Four Seasons hotel and tweeted it out before his aides were able to book it. After the hotel declined, and some eight minutes later, Trump deleted the original tweet and replaced it with the now infamous tweet confirming the press conference at the Four Seasons Total Landscaping. Plugging my own real time experience in, that tweet was my entrance into this great absurdist play. Upon reading it, my initial thought was that autocorrect had done something weird and added “total landscaping”. I mean, come on.

Of course, as we all know and have come to love, autocorrect failed to land a role in this tale of our modern-day Oedipus meets The Dumbwaiter meets Bozo the orange birthday clown. Four Seasons Total Landscaping was indeed the setting for possibly the best-written scene of the absurdist play titled Donald Trump.

In the second, and most likely version, it’s claimed that Trump’s team thought they were calling the esteemed Four Seasons Hotel in Philly but, instead, mistakenly placed a call to a stunned locally-owned landscaping store sitting between a crematorium and a porn shop. Instead of admitting their mistake, because, I mean, woe upon woe if Donald Trump and anyone or anything associated with him dare be accused of making a mistake, they doubled-down and Rudy G. gloriously found himself, arms and hands sawing in the sky, railing against the election gods while standing in front of a garage door papered over with the remaining remnants of Trump’s feeble grasping at power.

Regardless of which version is correct, and without researching it because absurdist plays are best enjoyed sans research, I believe the second to be the most likely explanation, the whole thing is par for the course for their incompetence and hubris that is the companion of extreme narcissism. Blinded by that hubris, Trump, his cronies, and the various sycophants that compromise his worshippers this land over are unable to see that doubling down instead of plainly admitting an honest mistakes reveals them for the ridiculous buffoons they are. And that brings me to the reason why I’m writing this. I have a thing or two I want to say as Donald Trump begins his exit off one stage and, undoubtedly, makes his entrance onto the next stage that he will have constructed out of paper towel tubes, the backs of cutup Captain Crunch boxes, and then gilded with tuna fish cans spray painted gold to continue to dazzle the I’m-a-gonna-hit-the-numbers-for-sure-this-week crowd.  

And, yes, I am gleeful.

I am gleeful that a man who is a liar, a serial adulterer, a narcissist, who claims that he hasn’t asked God forgiveness because he doesn’t have anything to be forgiven of, and a man who believes that he is owed power will no longer be the leader of the mightiest and, I’m told, greatest nation on this planet. A racist. A misogynist. A blasphemer. …. What’s funny, or rather, what’s not funny, the few Trump sycophants whose comments I will condemn and sentence to the spam comment prison, will snort and snuff that Trump is not a racist. Not a misogynist. He loves black people. He loves women (well, okay, maybe, see the serial adulterer from above, so I guess I give them that??). Evidence, video evidence, Trump’s own words and actions will not sway them because Q says otherwise. Or noted liar and demagogue in his own right Rush Limbaugh says otherwise. Or their cousin’s podiatrist who has a Secret Service agent as a client says otherwise. But. BUT. But, nary a word about the blasphemer charge, I’m willing to bet. Because, you see, in their minds Donald Trump is God, and how can God blaspheme himself? …. A man, as the saying goes, who lied and hundreds of thousands died. A man caught on tape admitting the seriousness of the pandemic but who was claiming to the American people, and most absurdly continues to do it and get away with it, that COVID-19 is nothing to worry about. We’ve rounded a corner, y’all. Ignore the overflowing emergency rooms, that’s simply part of the global conspiracy concocted by Bill Gates, extraterrestrial robots disguised as 5g towers, whichever vaccine scientist will be revealed to be the Antichrist, and the purple Teletubby. …. Did I get that right? It’s hard to keep up with the conspiracy theories, so I apologize if I left off an important participant.

In all seriousness, though, Donald Trump lied/lies and hundreds of thousands of Americans, and close to ten thousand more every week now, have died. Trump lies, people die. Trump lies, people die. Trump lies, people die.

But I’m not sufficiently pro-life enough because I do not want such a despicable man as President of the United States. Wait, though. Before you tune me out for using the descriptor “despicable”, check your own words from 2016. Like Lindsay Graham, Al Mohler, Nikki Haley, J-Mac, and many other notable and otherwise and once honorable conservatives, I daresay that there is a high likelihood that you employed similar descriptions when discussing Trump in 2016. I could list some names of people who have shared meals with me who have done an about face on Trump, but I won’t. Look, nothing has changed. Not me. Not Trump. Well, that’s not entirely true. Something has changed, rather some people have changed – possibly you.

Seriously, do it. I’m not just making a rhetorical point. Ask yourself, how did I view and describe Donald Trump in 2016? What changed? Has Trump changed? He’s still vile and self-serving. He still promotes conspiracy theories; except he now has the White House bully pulpit from which to do so. He continues to pile lies upon lies. According to The Washington Post, Trump is now “making more than 50 false or misleading claims a day. It’s only gotten worse – so much so that the Fact Checker team can’t keep up.” Face it, Donald Trump is the same man you swore you would never vote for nor support. But, yeah, get mad at me and David French.

I’m frequently scolded that I will one day regret the tone and words I often use when writing and talking about Trump. No, in fact, I won’t. You likely will, though. One day, you’re going to have to explain to your grandkids why you did a 180 and voted for the man their history books reveal to have been one of the worst presidents in history and who presided over one of the largest administration failures that led to the largest, non-war mass casualty event in the history of this country. Worse, one day you’re going to stand before the King of kings and have to explain how you could attach his name to a man like Donald Trump via your support and your voice. But I digress. Here is the real thing I want to say (one of them, at least): Two things can be true at once.

Over the last couple of days, I’ve noticed a trend. Trump supporters are castigating Christians, like me, who are rejoicing that Trump’s day in the Oval Office are dwindling. Their accusation states that we are happy that more babies are going to be aborted. Well, and realizing that I can only speak for myself, balderdash! A big fat bull balderdash!

Setting aside this (seriously, click on this and read it … please), I am not happy that Joe Biden is president-elect. I mourn that a pro-abortion president will be sworn in (one who admits to being pro-abortion, that is). But I am still rejoicing that Donald Trump lost the election. Two things can be true at once. I realize that’s a difficult concept for those steeped in pragmatic consumerism’s (false) binary to wrap their brain around, but tis true, nonetheless.

Related, the ethical and existential compromise that is the very fabric of white evangelicals’ support for Donald Trump is one of the reasons why abortion remains a scourge in this country. From what moral tableau can we trumpet pro-life now? Why should our neighbors, friends, family, and co-workers who believe that they are supporting women’s rights listen to any moralizing from those who have backed a man like the one currently occupying the White House? Like me, and like possibly you in 2016, they see Donald Trump for who he is. Pro-life arguments have become reduced to little more than the absurdist words taking up space around Pinter’s pause.[1]

So, yes, I’m gleeful. The crowds dancing in the streets around the globe after the election was called resonated with me. Unbridled joy. Ding-Dong! The witch is dead. That doesn’t mean I like the new witch, though.

But I’m also angry. There is a coda to all this, including my feelings, that, as of yet, I cannot see. Forgiveness. Repentance. Unity. Grace. Justice. Words without content, at this point. But words that demand content because they are among God’s Words for His people.

I’m also tired, as, no doubt, are you. Absurdist plays do that. They bring us to the ends of humanity rebelling against God, or, in a word, ourselves. Being confronted with contentlessness is exhausting, after all. That’s part of its power. Laying down and sleeping means death, though. Glumly accepting the poverty of our ethos is appealing; yet euthanasia is a sin. Finding the rich depths of God’s Words is the conclusion. Will be the conclusion. The question, for now, is, no matter the amount of the struggle or pain, will we – white evangelicals – continue to take the easy, attractive path of autonomous liberty, comfort, and power or will we pick up our cross and follow Jesus?

The answer to that, I don’t know. Absurdist plays don’t give answers; they just reveal the questions.

Soli Deo Gloria

Andendum: Like how the Moscow Art Theatre has preserved sets from some of Stanislavski’s productions, there is now a petition asking the Four Seasons Total Landscaping be added to the National Register of Historical Places.


[1] “To disclose to others the poverty within us is too fearsome a possibility.” Harold Pinter

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