Publisher's Note — August 11, 2017, 5:34 pm

Le Chagrin

“Could I not avoid Trump and his bullshit, not even by crossing the Atlantic Ocean?”

A version of this column originally ran in Le Devoir on August 7, 2017. Translated from the French by John Cullen.

On the eve of Bastille Day, July 14, I found myself near the Eiffel Tower, facing barricades, soldiers, and police—all placed there in preparation for Donald Trump’s visit. My presence in Paris on the same day as the U.S. president’s was purely coincidental, but I still felt as though I was being pursued by this raving lunatic, who dominates the attention of the media and a significant portion of the global public. Could I not avoid Trump and his bullshit, not even by crossing the Atlantic Ocean? Thoroughly annoyed, I began to wonder about the character of the new French president, Emmanuel Macron. Why had he invited this lout in head-of-state’s clothing to traumatize the precise Paris neighborhood where my mother’s side of the family had lived for so many years? What was his purpose? What had gotten into him?           

As a French-American with dual citizenship, I was suffering a dual humiliation. To begin with, the idea of Trump at a restaurant table not far from my family home, scarfing down Alain Ducasse’s haute cuisine (or rather sitting at a trough filled with overcooked steaks, which is how I imagined him), repulsed me, even though the meal occurred in a diplomatic context well outside my milieu. And while the Jules Verne restaurant atop the Eiffel Tower isn’t what you’d call my corner bistro, I could sense the man’s corruption even from a great distance.

Worse, however, were the preposterous statements made by Macron—ostensibly the symbol of a France engaged in a period of full renewal—to justify the American president’s visit. I confess that I’m no admirer of my American president, but in critical times I count on a French head of state, theoretically aided by the counsel of an excellent diplomatic corps, to take a stand in the name of civilization. That’s part of my French pride.

And so I read newspapers and watched television to get better informed about this manifestation of contemporary realpolitik. Starting with Le Figaro and Le Monde, I learned from the headlines that “Macron wants to take Trump out of his isolation” (Le Figaro), and indeed that “the French president wants to take his guest out of his international isolation” (Le Monde). Now, there’s some material for serious concern. Would we really want Trump to “come out of his isolation”? Isolation seems to me exactly the measure that needs to be taken in regard to Trump. In the scariest case, he’s a dangerous sociopath (though extraordinarily talented at exciting crowds) who ought to be locked up, a little like the Marquis de Sade. Psychologists may disagree about the proper treatment for Trump, but in my opinion the best course would be to respond to his ludicrous behavior either forcefully or indifferently. Sometimes a difficult teenager needs bawling out: “Clean up your room before you come to the table!” And other times it’s more effective to say calmly, “Stay in your room. You’re too rude to eat with adults.”

Throughout his life, Trump has had an unhealthy need to be noticed, to be the star of the show. Despite the insults he hurls at The New York Times and CNN, he couldn’t do without them. If the media and the political class would ignore this disagreeable man, he’d turn into a big kid, more docile, more manageable, and enormously eager to please important people. Macron chose to do exactly the opposite, a decision bound to embolden Trump in his nastiness.

Macron, it seems, is weak not only in elementary psychology but also in his country’s history. “Our two nations have always been allies,” he declared at the joint press conference. Come again? Macron is young, but all the same he should remember the rupture between Paris and Washington in 2003, when the American invasion of Iraq was imminent. Furthermore, Brigitte Macron, whom Trump praised for being “in such good physical shape,” is old enough to remind her husband about President Charles de Gaulle’s famous speech in Phnom Penh in 1966, when he denounced American intervention in Indochina, as well as his decision, the same year, to withdraw France from NATO’s integrated military structure.

Nevertheless, as Macron confided to the Journal du Dimanche, the couples’ dinner in a fine restaurant overlooking Paris was arranged “to present an open and attractive image of Paris, of our country, and of our economy.” I’m certain that the view was very edifying for a man as ignorant of the world as Trump. Maybe not so edifying for Macron, finding himself as he did in a large restaurant devoid of people except for the two presidential couples and the waitstaff, and sitting across from a creep who had made vulgar remarks to his wife. Actually, the most horrible possibility to contemplate would be that Macron, when he announced that the event was a “dinner among friends,” was speaking the truth!

Share
Single Page

More from John R. MacArthur:

Publisher's Note February 13, 2018, 6:44 pm

The Sleep of Men

“Why not mount a direct attack on economic discrimination and revive the campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment?”

From the January 2018 issue

The Human Factor

How I learned the real meaning of dissent

Publisher's Note December 13, 2017, 7:25 pm

McCain’s War

“Although McCain participated in a morally unpardonable war in which the United Sates killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people, one can’t help sympathizing with him in his reduced state.”

Get access to 167 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

March 2018

The Great Divide

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Nobody Knows

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Other Whisper Network

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Infinity of the Small

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Empty Suits

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Other Whisper Network·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

No one would talk to me for this piece. Or rather, more than twenty women talked to me, sometimes for hours at a time, but only after I promised to leave out their names, and give them what I began to call deep anonymity. This was strange, because what they were saying did not always seem that extreme. Yet here in my living room, at coffee shops, in my inbox and on my voicemail, were otherwise outspoken female novelists, editors, writers, real estate agents, professors, and journalists of various ages so afraid of appearing politically insensitive that they wouldn’t put their names to their thoughts, and I couldn’t blame them. 

Of course, the prepublication frenzy of Twitter fantasy and fury about this essay, which exploded in early January, is Exhibit A for why nobody wants to speak openly. Before the piece was even finished, let alone published, people were calling me “pro-rape,” “human scum,” a “harridan,” a “monster out of Stephen King’s ‘IT,’?” a “ghoul,” a “bitch,” and a “garbage person”—all because of a rumor that I was planning to name the creator of the so-called Shitty Media Men list. The Twitter feminist Jessica Valenti called this prospect “profoundly shitty” and “incredibly dangerous” without having read a single word of my piece. Other tweets were more direct: “man if katie roiphe actually publishes that article she can consider her career over.” “Katie Roiphe can suck my dick.” With this level of thought policing, who in their right mind would try to say anything even mildly provocative or original? 

Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Article
Pushing the Limit·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In the early Eighties, Andy King, the coach of the Seawolves, a swim club in Danville, California, instructed Debra Denithorne, aged twelve, to do doubles — to practice in the morning and the afternoon. King told Denithorne’s parents that he saw in her the potential to receive a college scholarship, and even to compete in the Olympics. Tall swimmers have an advantage in the water, and by the time Denithorne turned thirteen, she was five foot eight. She dropped soccer and a religious group to spend more time at the pool.

Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Post
CamperForce·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

After losing their savings in the stock market crash of 2008, seniors Barb and Chuck find seasonal employment at Amazon fulfillment centers.

Days after the Columbine shootings in 1999 that Eric Holder called for “regulations in how people interact on the Internet‚”:

5

The 63 percent drop in Brazil’s birth rate between 1960 and 2000 was due in part to soap operas.

US president Donald Trump, who once said it “doesn’t matter” what journalists write about him if he has a “piece of ass” that is “young,” blamed the press coverage of the abuse allegations on the White House communications director, whom Trump has reportedly called a “piece of tail” and asked to steam a pair of pants he was wearing.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Report — From the June 2013 issue

How to Make Your Own AR-15

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

"Gun owners have long been the hypochondriacs of American politics. Over the past twenty years, the gun-rights movement has won just about every battle it has fought; states have passed at least a hundred laws loosening gun restrictions since President Obama took office. Yet the National Rifle Association has continued to insist that government confiscation of privately owned firearms is nigh. The NRA’s alarmism helped maintain an active membership, but the strategy was risky: sooner or later, gun guys might have realized that they’d been had. Then came the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, followed swiftly by the nightmare the NRA had been promising for decades: a dedicated push at every level of government for new gun laws. The gun-rights movement was now that most insufferable of species: a hypochondriac taken suddenly, seriously ill."

Subscribe Today