Since June 16, 2015, the day that Donald Trump formally announced his run for President of the United States, a least a million words have been written about the man. The words he has spoken, written and twittered in support of his candidacy have been recorded and are a matter of public record. They may not be rational, they may be contradictory, they may be racist, they may be lies, they may be self-serving but they have been uttered are what they are.
The million words that have been written about him range from condemnation of his business ethics to paeans to his art of the deal. Once he became the Republican nominee and a threat to the establishment words have been written to assess his mental state. What makes him tick, what makes him what he is.
As for me, just one photograph, the one taken at his June 4, 1964 graduation from the New York Military Academy featuring his mother, his father and The Donald in full dress blues, tells it all, no additional words are needed.
In the photo on the left is Fred Trump – well to do, white, upper middle class prosperous. Yet even for 1964 his suit is dated, reminiscent of Dwight Eisenhower’s second term. This was the time that Mad Men reigned on New York’s Madison Avenue. Their sense of style and entitlement had not rubbed off on Fred, still just a guy from Woodhaven, Queens who had made it to Jamaica Estates but was afraid to cross the river to Manhattan, the Promised Land.
Remember that in 1950 something called the Fashion Foundation of America “named Fred Trump one of the country’s best-dressed men, joining General Dwight Eisenhower, Yankee shortstop Phil Rizzuto, and musician Guy Lombardo”. Seems that Fred stayed put and did not keep up with the times.
Fred is nonchalantly clutching a straw porkpie hat with a bold silk ribbon band – the symbol of 1950’s middle class propriety, a symbol The Donald would never, ever wear. Have you ever seen Donald Trump in a hat? Fred’s everyday uniform is in stark contrast to The Donald’s plumed, be-medaled and gilded costume. The Donald had already crossed over to a world of his own making where he was unique and extraordinary.
Trump Village, the seven-unit middle class apartment complex then being built by Fred in Brooklyn was not something that The Donald aspired to as his future. His future was in Manhattan’s Promised Land, a Trump Tower on Fifth, a Plaza on the Plaza and a Trump Palace on Third. It was also the stuff of dreams, the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City and the Estate Trump Winery and vineyard in Charlottesville, Virginia
His years at the New York Military Academy in alien Cornwall-on-Hudson led to a rejection of his father’s New York’s outer Boroughs world. He was not going to be satisfied with just building shelter for the white middle class – black and brown Americans not welcome. No, he was going to build opulent vulgar sterile boxes resplendent with onyx and marble that rivaled, in his mind, Kubla Khan’s “stately pleasure-domes” of Xanadu.
In the middle of the photo is his mother Mary. She could easily be Mamie Eisenhower’s younger sister complete with a fluffy pill box hat, a strand of pearls and white gloves. What make her stand out is a beige mink stole worn on a warm June summer’s day garnished by what appears to be an orchid corsage. Dowdy but respectable yet in stark contrast to the fashion icons – Audrey Hepburn and Jean Shrimpton – that graced the covers of the June, 1964 Vogue and Glamour issues.
Mary is not the girl that The Donald wanted. He did not want a girl “just like the girl that married good old Dad”, his middle class mom. He had been voted his class’ “Ladies Man” and wanted a faster flashier model to sport on his arm. Fashion model flash is what he wanted and they all were: first Ivana who modelled furs in Canada, then Marla who modelled No Excuses jeans and finally Melania who modelled nude. The last wife achieved what the other two failed to deliver – a titled heir, Barron.
Back to the photo, on the right is Donald, a make believe warrior in full parade uniform with braided gold aiguillettes signifying nothing in particular complete with a tall plumed shako emblazoned with a prominent gilded Great American Eagle attached to a non-functioning chin strap. The uniform is enhanced by a silver sword and medals attesting to The Donald’s valor – “The Neatness and Order Medals” for ’61 and ’62.
His exile to a military academy was involuntary. It was a matter of disciplinary necessity, we are told. The New York Military Academy was not a citadel of higher learning. In fact, it was a warehouse for troubled well to do juvenile delinquents waiting to be paroled back to the real world. The Academy was not even close to competing with the likes of Hotchkiss and Kent. So for the rest of his life Donald would wear as a chip epaulet on his shoulder.
As has been said, “A picture is worth a thousand words”. In this case the picture, the 1964 photograph weighs in at 891 words, the number of words in this article.
Deyan Ranko Brashich is a contributor writing from New York. He is the author of Letters from America, Contrary Views and Dispatches. His contact and blog “Contrary Views” is at www.deyanbrashich.com