On the other hand …


I don’t “Google.” Instead, I pick up a book from any of the many bookshelves in my various abodes.  There are even volumes at the dump I take home and treasure! 

In my boyhood, we had summer retreats that came with books, which I kept. I even found some in our current house in South County, which I may peruse.

There’s a Winston Dictionary, published in 1940, that I still use regularly, and a “What’s in a Name” paperback I refer to when I study someone’s family name and given name. This is a long introduction to my comments on the man in the sketch accompanying this column, which was drawn by Brendan Gallogly, an East Side neighbor and former classmate of my son. Gallogly’s paternal clan are loyal and enthusiastic Democrats, but my last-born doesn’t mind my perhaps perverse love of the spirit of contradiction … so here is my analysis of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

A “trump,” according to that dictionary I grew up with, means “an admirable fellow, a person always to be depended upon.” And “Donald,” in my first-name guide, means  “world mighty,” and “world ruler.” Loreina Rule, the editor of “What’s in a Name,” cites the reassuring father figure in the old MGM movies featuring contented clans: Donald Crisp (remember him?), the very model of the popular parental personality.

Now, from a Jewish viewpoint, your name, as longtime Temple Beth-El Rabbi William Braude used to say, contains meaning, destiny, symbolic value.  I know, I know, the press and the populace have decided otherwise about the character of the celebrity illustrated here.   

But I bring up the illustrious meaning of his names for two, or more, reasons. One is, his address to AIPAC, in which he forcefully defended the state of Israel and repudiated its, her, our, foes and threatening enemies. The other is, here in Rhode Island, which is so overwhelmingly on the other side of the choice between donkeys and elephants, I am daring to say something positive about her rival.

In 1948, I was in junior high school, and I wrote a column in the Bishop Bugle about Harry Truman. I had taken a trolley downtown to see this president.  It was the year of the rebirth of the state of Israel, and the Democratic president had received Chaim Weizmann in the Oval Office and signed and sealed U.S. support  for the Jewish nation.

“You were put into your mother’s womb for that autograph,” his guest told Truman. 

Like my peers and elders, I was therefore a loyal, liberal Democrat throughout my boyhood. The right wing had been isolationist, protective of bigots and racists. 

But politics, like personal evolution, has its twists and turns. Now, perhaps strangely, anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism come from the liberal left, while belief in the noble nature of Zion stems from the radical right! 

Of course, I have more than one issue upon which I will base my vote. The other would be my friends, the free and noble creatures of the wilderness. No, I’m not being facetious here. And, after all, it was a Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, who stressed the importance of the environment, the value of protected wilderness parks.

As an English teacher, I found the trite and clichéd rhetoric of both national conventions pretentious and platitudinous. At the very least, Donald Trump had a certain flair. His amiable association with Russia resembled, for me, FDR’s patience with Stalin!

My best professor at Yale was the scholar and poet Cleanth Brooks. He would analyze a difficult poem, in search of ironies, ambiguities, the virtues of verse. He would drawl in his Southern accent, “On the other hand …” and I would write that down and use it for my own purposes on my penny postcards to friends. I guess that’s the basic reason I am offering my take on the controversial figure named Donald Trump.

MIKE FINK (mfink33@aol.com) teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design.