By Peter Horn
The quest to unearth the American Nightmare leads you through the nation’s slippery underbelly, past seedy corners framed by slumping silhouettes, through graveyards of shattered dreams and long-forgotten prayers, up a winding trail of revolting excess until your path comes to a dead end, the letters towering over you like a threat: TRUMP.
The irony of your search for the American Nightmare ending in a presidential campaign will not be lost on you, as Uncle Sam’s printed face bulges and swirls into the grotesque, his signature tophat riding a wave of wispy, Clorox-blond hair plugs, his swollen pointer-finger suddenly menacing as his star-spangled overcoat takes on a department store fire-sale cheapness. But the irony will take a backseat to the obviousness of it all, how for years Trump has waved the American flag like a matador at the dull-eyed masses to distract from his utter bastardization of the American Dream.
Trump is the embodiment of our nation’s basest impulses, the modern-day Ugly American with contradiction and hypocrisy sewed throughout every fiber of his corpulent being. The son of an immigrant with a hotel and golf course empire dependent on immigrant labor, who grossly generalizes Mexican immigrants as “rapists and murderers.” The heir to his father’s real estate fortune who advocates an uncompromising brand of bootstrapped free-market capitalism in which programs meant to level the opportunity playing field are socialist and wasteful. The beneficiary of multiple draft deferments with the gall to marginalize the POW experience of one of our nation’s true war heroes.
His dangerous comments on immigration and his tired Obama-birther crusade promotes a xenophobia that is, at its very core, un-American. His America is one where nobility is transferred generationally, a wealth-driven society in which the middle class should be seen and not heard, a melting pot stripped ingredient by ingredient until all that remains is a homogenous broth not unlike the plutocratic social structure our founding forefathers so proudly fled.
It’s greed and the inevitability of entitlement that keeps the pedal pressed to the floor as he rounds hairpin turns at impossible speeds, racing towards the cliff of the next economic cycle in a one-seatbelt convertible with the myopia and selective memory of an addict, the sound of the crash followed closely by the revving of the engine. If the definition of insanity is repeating an action expecting a different result, then there’s a French Cuffed straightjacket waiting for him at the end of this campaign.
Trump crudely equates his personal value to his net worth, which, like his ego, has proven to be inflated. And herein lies the distillation of Trump’s septic American dream: taking all that makes this country unique and (at times) exceptional—freedom, liberty and the opportunity for upward economic and social mobility—and pushing them behind a flashing neon red, white and blue dollar sign.
There are lessons to be learned, even from nightmares. In many ways, Trump is the Presidential candidate we all deserve for allowing the scales of power to be tipped so far in favor of big money and special interests. He is a spray-tanned, vitriol-spewing verdict on the state of our modern political and social strata, and his candidacy should serve as a cautionary tale.
For once we mute the bluster and peel away the layers of hair plugs and veneers, we can see Trump for what he truly is. He’s a vacant McMansion on an unfinished block, a suburban promise never meant to be kept who’s forced to draw attention to the glittery surface for fear one peers beneath. He’s the American flag paper plates crammed into the clearance rack on July 5th. He’s a bloated wolf in red, white and blue-stained sheep’s clothing. He is the American Nightmare.