The Anti-Trump Cometh

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by Timothy Egan

One man hasn’t watched television in 25 years, gets around in a Ford Focus, and is named for a nature-loving pauper who didn’t believe in owning money, property or shoes. He is considered infallible, but often doubts his daily utterances.

The other man spent 14 years in the mirrored embrace of a television show about him, is transported by a fleet with his name on the side, and looks down on anyone who hasn’t amassed a mountain of property. He thinkshe’s infallible.

In a few weeks, Pope Francis will visit our fair land, a fitting pivot from the Summer of Trump, closing out a gluttonous episode of narcissism, rudeness, frivolity and xenophobia. For all that the orangutan-haired vulgarian has done to elevate the worst human traits a public figure can have, Francis is the anti-Trump. He has more power, media magnetism and authenticity in his lone functioning lung than Donald Trump has in his entire empire of ego.

Trump may dismiss the 78-year-old leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics. Yeah, so he’s got his little 109-acre Vatican City, with those silly Swiss Guards. It’s the smallest country in the world — one-eighth the size of Central Park! As Joseph Stalin asked: How many divisions does the pope have? And this guy from Argentina with the goofy grin — no golf courses, resorts or even women who, sadly, are no longer a 10. He’s celibate!

Francis is the son of immigrants, invites the poor into his home, and washes the feet of the sick and marginalized. Trump wants to round up and deport immigrants, considers the poor to be losers, and is afraid of touching people.

Francis lives in a two-bedroom guesthouse, and says the measure of a person’s value has nothing to do with financial net worth. “When money becomes an idol, it controls man’s choices,” he said. “It makes him a slave.”

Trump sleeps in monogrammed satin, and divides his time among a string of mansions, towers and estates, all crusted in gold. He exults in materialistic excess with an empty sack of a soul. “Part of the beauty of me is that I am very rich,” he said.

Francis preaches forgiveness. “Never, never let the sun go down without making peace,” he said. “Never, never, never!” Trump loves nothing more than stoking feuds and hurling insults, and will not apologize. His enemy list spans three time zones.

Francis preaches urgent care of an overheated planet. Trump says climate change is a fabrication. “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make the United States’ manufacturers noncompetitive,” he said.

Francis wants to build bridges. He’s reached out to Muslims, Jews and atheists. Trump vows to erect a 2,000-mile wall. “Nobody builds better walls than me, believe me.”

Francis has never been on the Internet, and doesn’t own a cellphone. Trump is sustained by nonstop social media, which he feeds with constant idiocies. “I have so many websites,” he said. “I have them all over the place.”

When the pope arrives on Sept. 22, he will draw the kind of press coverage that will make Trump sputter with envy. Trump likes to make fun of the teensy, weensy crowds that the other candidates draw. He’s about to go teensy, weensy by comparison.

Francis plans a White House visit, an outdoor mass in Washington, a speech before Congress. He is likely to join a rally on the National Mall, highlighting his stance on protecting the planet, that may draw upward of a quarter-million people.

He will visit a prison in Philadelphia, a church in East Harlem, say Mass at Madison Square Garden, address the United Nations. In a six-day visit, the pope will bring substance and self-deprecation — an appeal to our better angels. It may be just enough to wash away the grime of Trump’s ego effluence.

Trump is the demagogue we can’t stop watching, the freak show that cable television can’t stop promoting. His core message is spectacle. It’s crazy to take any of his “policy” assertions seriously, because he himself does not.

But for saying things that the darker elements of the Republican Party believe, but rarely voice, Trump is their clear front-runner — a dangerous moment for a troubled party. He’s drawn praise from ex-Klansmen like David Duke. The Daily Storm, a neo-Nazi website, urged its followers “to vote for the first time in our lives for the one man who actually represents us.”

But let’s put the papal visit in the only terms that matter to Trump — ratings. Trump has a favorable rating of about 37 percent nationwide; with Latinos it’s 14 percent. A Pew survey staked the pope’s favorability number at 90 percent earlier this year. A later poll had less support; still, numbers that any politician would kill for.

You will never hear that from the pope, a man trying to live by the humbling aphorisms of his namesake, Francis of Assisi. “Show me someone without an ego,” says Trump, “and I’ll show you a loser.” At least we know how he’ll address him.

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