(photo by David Pultz)
About a month ago I sat down to write about Donald Trump. But where to begin?
He's been on and off in the background since I moved to New York. I don't remember if the first time I noticed him in the mainstream press was because he and his then wife, Ivana, bought Mar-a-Lago and gold-plated everything in it. He built Trump Tower midtown and that, too, shimmered with the look of gold. The joke was he didn't: he started an airline, then it failed. He went bankrupt then went bankrupt again. Ivana was out and Marla Maples was in. I don't begrudge a person a failed relationship, yet I remember Page Six had a raucous time with him.
The thing is, nobody took him seriously. He was all bluster and balls, but when you wiped his ego away there was no there there. If he popped up in the press it was entertainment, nothing more.
My perception of him began to change when construction began on Trump Soho, a condo-hotel highrise on Spring Street near my house. (Supposedly, Trump sold his name to the developers and manages Trump Soho versus owns it.) The neighborhood protested, to no effect. Excavation at the site began and soon after workers hit human remains. They discovered 190 bodies were buried in the lot, in vaults, multiracial members of a church from the 1800's (see photo above). The NYT described the find as, "It is not just that a great window has opened on 19th-century urban life (one-third of the remains were those of children, and half of them suffered from rickets). A link has been forged to New Yorkers who were in the forefront of early battles against slavery."
Archaeologists were called and after that the story gets gray. Out my window construction barely stopped. Some articles say that the bodies were quickly moved to study them out of the public eye, "to respect the privacy of deceased individuals." What happened next depends on what article you read, since many have opposing facts. It does seem that Trump was supposed to bury the remains elsewhere and instead the remains disappeared. As did the story.
The ghosts must not have been happy. A worker fell off the roof and died. Pre-sales for the condos were reported to be brisk, but this was a lie. Lawsuits followed and Trump Soho went into foreclosure.
Soon after, a documentary, YOU'VE BEEN TRUMPED, played the festival circuit. It documented Donald Trump's attempts to build a golf course on an environmentally sensitive stretch of coastline in Scotland and how the locals tried to prevent it. It got built with the promise that it would generate 6,000 jobs, but ultimately added only 200. It was reported that Trump was bullying locals to get their land, leaving them without electricity or water. When a wind farm was proposed within eyesight of the golf course Trump opposed it. Another legal battle followed. He lost (so far), but by this point Trump was moving more and more into the public view. It meant his responses to those opposing him were, too. You're a loser, you're a fool, you're totally irrevelant, you're stupid. For the very first time I got see that Trump was a bully.
I grew up with a bully. My sister wasn't savvy like Trump nor as personable, but like him she had absolute belief in the truth of her convictions, no matter how completely lacking in truth they might be. The fury in her behavior caused real fear in others - you could call it terror - and I saw that most people gave her what she wanted to avoid being humiliated by her wrath.
The way I dealt with her changed over the years. When I was little I'd run when she lifted her fists. In my teens I avoided her as much as I could. If we were home alone I went out or pulled all-nighters with friends, whatever it took to not see her. My face would burn at the insults she'd levee and I'd panic at her threats. As I got older I'd go silent to show my opposition, or crack a joke to crack the tension, or keep my visits brief. Deep down I soothed my hurt by feeling smarter than she was, more sophisticated, more independent. It wasn't until my thirties that I realized how afraid of her I was. I still remained inert around her, diffusing, diffusing, diffusing.
And then one day I didn't. I was in Massachusetts to take my mother to chemo and an argument over her care escalated. My sister threatened to "kick my fucking ass and smash my fucking face in." My heart pounded and I could feel myself start to slide into ignore it, what a fucking asshole, be cool, and something in me stopped that slide. I looked at my sister and for the very first time saw an equal, not someone better or worse than me. From nowhere I told her I loved her, and that I always wanted her to love me, and I was sad that we never felt like sisters. I was matter of fact, calm. And then I told her I wasn't afraid of her anymore. At this she raised her fists like she always did. For the first time ever, I clenched my own. She must have seen something in my face because she suddenly screamed and ran out the front door. I watched her run in circles on the front yard, screaming in frustration. I looked at my mother, who shrugged like she always did, and in that moment I told my mother I loved her. She patted my hand and said that was nice. "Now you tell me," I said. Neither of us had ever said those words to each other and she dodged - that's nice dear - and ducked - okay dear - then after a couple of more pokes finally she told me.
My sister came back in the house, silent, and for the first time ever I saw hate in her eyes. I grinned and boasted, "Mom just told me she loved me." I put my arm around my mother and possessively patted her shoulder. "I love you both," my mother said. My sister's face hardened more. I didn't care.
Two friends of mine know Donald Trump. "It's all a front," they say. "He's not like that. He's doing this for show." They quickly add, "He'll never win." In this world we're living in, do all bullies lose?