Interlude ת: Trump
Want to feel old? The span of time between Saddam Hussein’s death and now is longer than between now and when 1/3 of the sea becomes blood.
The 2016 Republican primaries went the way any nominative determinist would have predicted. The guy named Walker left early. The guy named Bush got mowed down. The guy named Rand ran as a libertarian. The guy named Cruz (Latin, meaning “cross”) ran on a platform of evangelical Christianity. The guy named Marco (Latin, meaning “warlike”), ran on a platform of neoconservative imperialism. The guy named Benjamin (Hebrew, meaning “son of my right hand”) ran on a platform laid out in his book Clever Hands.
And the guy named Trump beat all of them.
Things were hardly more subtle on the Democratic side. Bernie connected his first name with fire early on, eg “Feel The Bern”; his surname derives from Greek Alexander, “defender of man”. Put together, we get “defender of the fired man”, eg a supporter of the unemployed and underemployed. But Hillary Clinton, named for Sir Edmund Hillary (whose own name combines “hill” and “aerie”, two words for high places) quickly climbed to the top. She became the clear favorite after narrowly defeating Sanders in Iowa, a state granted disproportionate power in Presidential elections presumably because its name is the Tetragrammaton.
The general election followed a similar pattern. Seemingly unconcerned with Genesis 4:5, Clinton chose a man named Kaine as her vice-president; seemingly unconcerned with nominative determinism, she chose a man named Mook to run her campaign. Meanwhile, Trump relied increasingly on the public relations machine of the mainstream Republican Party and its leader Reince Priebus – whose name, if you remove the vowels after the Hebrew fashion, becomes “RNC PR BS”.
And so on October 15, a week after Trump was seen on video to brag about “grabbing women by the pussy”, the staff of the Stevensite Standard met at Ithaca for a very special election issue.
Erica was doing typesetting. Ana was working on a column about why a just God could possibly have allowed the 2016 election. I was taking a break from my work to explain to Ally that “P” and “F” were the same letter in Hebrew, so that Trump’s VP pick Pence corresponded to “fence” and so the general theme of wall-building. Bill Dodd cut me off.
“Look,” he said, “all this is stupid. You can draw as many connections as you like, but you’ve got the same problem as every other kabbalist. You can interpret the past, but you can’t predict the future.”
“Only God knows the future,” I said.
“Then what’s the point? In retrospect, you can say that Pence equals fence and so of course he would be associated with wall-building. But if it had been Jeb Bush who chose him, you’d connect it to the British word for penny, and say that the name represents his pro-business ideology. If Chris Christie had won, you’d connect it to Latin “pons”, meaning bridge, and from there to Bridgegate. If Ben Carson had won, you’d have gone with French “pensee”, meaning “thought”, and connected it to his quiet thoughtful nature and intelligence. And something like this has to be true. If it only made sense in light of Trump, you could use the asymmetry to conclude that only Trump could pick Mike Pence, and so predict the future.”
“Only God knows the future,” I repeated. “Sometimes God grants us tiny glimpses, through the kabbalah, but for humans to be able to grasp it clearly and consistently isn’t part of His plan.”
“Even a tiny glimpse should help you make millions on the betting markets, given enough time,” Bill protested. “But no kabbalists even try. Why not?”
“Okay,” I said. “Fine. I bet you right here, right now, that I can predict the outcome of this election, using the secret interconnectedness of the universe.”
“How much?” asked Bill.
“Does it matter? Twenty dollars.”
“Fine. Fifty dollars. What’s the election result, O Rabbi?”
“I don’t know,” I said.
“You don’t know?”
“I need to consult the universe.”
“And how, O Rebbe, are you going to do that?”
“Simple. I’ll close my eyes and pick a book off the bookshelf, then use it to deduce the election result.”
“You’re saying that God will guide you to a book that happens to predict the 2016 presidential election?”
“No, I’m saying all books predict the 2016 presidential election. There is only one structure in the universe, distort it however many times you may. Any story you like is the same story. The Bible. Huckleberry Finn. The 2016 Presidential election. They’re all the same.”
“Tell you what. Pick a book off the bookshelf, and if it’s about the fricking presidential election, I’ll give you $50 right now.”
I closed my eyes, approached one of Ithaca’s several shelves, picked the first book my hand fell on.
I was holding a copy of C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe.
“Trump,” I said.
“Trump’s going to win the election.”
“How do you know?” asked Erica.
“The lion represents Trump. He’s big and predatory and has a mane of golden hair. Heck, even the political cartoonists have got this one; they’ve been drawing the theme of the lion attacking the elephant all year. The witch represents Hillary. She’s a powerful but widely-disliked old woman.”
“…and so, since the lion defeats the witch in the end, Trump is going to win the election?” asked Eli Foss.
“At least let me finish my explanation! The wardrobe is the Presidency. Everything about the executive branch is wardrobe-themed. The Cabinet. The various Bureaus. So The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a book about Trump, Hillary, and the Presidency.”
“…and so Trump beats Hillary because Aslan…”
“Hold your horses! Narnia corresponds to America. We know this because a bunch of English people get in a big wooden container and end up in a freezing forested land far away that they know nothing about. That’s basically the story of how America was founded in the first place. The four children represent the four great English migrations to the New World – read Albion’s Seed.”
“Albion’s Seed,” interrupted Ana. “And in four parts. Wow. William Blake really was right about everything.”
“Anyway,” I continued, “We’ve got America, menaced by the White Witch – here meaning leftism in general and Hillary in particular. In Lewis’ legendarium, the White Witch has betrayed her people by using a magic spell called ‘the Deplorable Word’; Hillary betrays her people by using the word ‘deplorable’ to describe them. In Lewis’ time, the word ‘Turk’ was a metonymy for all Muslims, as it was almost two centuries earlier when Blake wrote about loving ‘Christian, Turk, and Jew’. So the White Witch luring Edmund by promising him of Turkish Delight corresponds to Hillary luring the American people by promising benefits from increased Muslim immigration. Enter Aslan. Trump is the only person who can stand up to Hillary and her liberal wizardry.”
“But Trump is hopeless,” objected Erica. “Even his own party have abandoned him. He’s behind by like ten percent in the polls.”
“Yes, in accordance with the prophecy. Remember, in the book, Aslan is tied to a stone table and killed. His supporters are left hopeless. The White Witch’s victory seems assured. What are polls but tables of numbers? Trump is being slaughtered in the polls, but he’s going to make an impossible comeback.”
“I thought Aslan being slaughtered on the Stone Table was supposed to be a metaphor for the death and resurrection of Christ,” said Zoe Farr.
“No, American Pie is a metaphor for the death and resurrection of Christ,” I corrected.
“I’ll explain later. The point is, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe tells the story of the confrontation between Trump and Clinton, how Clinton’s promises of a more diverse society are originally attractive, how Trump loses everything according to the polls, and how he makes an astonishing comeback at the end. Now give me my fifty bucks.”
“Trump hasn’t won yet,” Bill protested.
“That was your first bet,” I said. “Then you said you’d give me fifty dollars if the first book I took off the shelf was about the 2016 Presidential election. Which it was.”
“I already admitted you can spin anything to be about anything!”
“Vote,” I said.
“I say he deserves the fifty,” said Zoe Farr.
“Me too,” said Erica.
“Me three,” said Eli Foss.
“Me four,” said Ally Hu.
“And now it’s unanimous,” said Ana. “Pay up.”
“I don’t even have fifty dollars with me,” said Bill.
“You have loads of money,” interjected Ana. “We’ve seen your apartment!”
“I never carry bills with me. Remember? I’m a germaphobe. You have no idea what kind of stuff is on money. There was a study a few years ago that said the entire US money supply was laced with cocaine.”
“You’re making excuses,” said Erica.
“No, it’s true,” I said.
“You saw the study too?” said Bill, barely believing his luck.
“No, but it’s the first principle of kabbalah. There is crack in everything.”
Upon Obama’s election, I had commented that a Lovecraft poem beginning “And at the last, from Inner Egypt…” seemed to predict that he would be the final President. I was wrong. The prophecy was overruled by a higher authority, the Bible itself, which simply says (1 Corinthians 15:52) “At the last, Trump”.
The word King James’ scholars translated as “trump” is Greek salpinx / Hebrew shofar, which receives various other English translations in different verses. If we interpret it to mean Trump each time, we get all sorts of other interesting prophecies. For example, Isaiah 27:13 says that in the day of “a great Trump”, there “shall come those which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria”, which is a clearer description of Iraqi refugees trying to enter the country than you would have expected from someone living in 600 BC.
But really, you don’t need to bring out the big guns to figure this stuff out. Trump’s presidency went the way any nominative determinist would have predicted. The guy named Price vowed to make healthcare affordable. The guy named Sessions inspired endless congressional hearings. The guy named Spicer made press conferences a lot more interesting. And the guy named Bannon ordered a ban on people he didn’t like.
And in the end, the new administration managed to outperform everyone’s expectations: it lasted an entire four months before the apocalypse descended in fire and blood upon America and the world.
[There is a new author’s note up here]