The Art of Compassion: On Donald Trump’s Hats

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1. Make America Hats Again
It’s the type of hat old men wear while pruning or in the swimming pool after a melanoma diagnosis. High-crowned and of a dependable fabric. It is the hat of an Iowa corn farmer.

That is where he first sees them. In Marshalltown and Council Bluffs. Dubuque and Davenport. He doesn’t wear sunglasses, not ever, and he’s noticing — as his jet touches down and he walks out into sunlight reflecting off the gold of the crop surrounding municipal airports, these silly airports which are neither tremendous nor luxurious, I mean, look at ‘em, will ya?, crops on all sides, threatening to storm the concrete borders—these men on John Deere’s never having to squint.

“I need one of those,” he tells a staffer.

His enemies and rivals, of which there are scores, believe he is intractable, nasty to the core, self-involved, arrogant, unable to laugh — nobody has seen him laugh. They believe he cannot listen to others.

But it isn’t true. In fact the opposite is the case. Men like him listen. They recall every word uttered. It is nearly maddening, this inability to unhear or to forget. He doesn’t drink. He avoids pharmaceuticals as much as possible. To this end, he rarely sleeps, and as nights bleed into days he finds himself recalling what a journalist once said about his fingers, and he spends hours finding a photograph of his fingers — the right photograph, the one that also allows them to be seen in-scale — and, with a gold Sharpie, he writes SEE NOT SO SHORT!!

He never forgets. He has incredible recall for 70 years old.

He’s always learning and reconfiguring. And what he’s learned here in Iowa is that farmers wear a particular kind of hat.

His staffer does a quick search. They find Cali Headwear, a manufacturer of some of the most generic clothes conceivable. The Make/Model of the Iowa-farmer style hat is known as the 5-Panel Patriot — PAT15: Stayfront rope. High crown kept high by a strange mesh lip on the interior.

He’s in Laredo, Texas, when the hat arrives. Overjoyed by its simple design and by its height, which affords his wild hair a place to nest, he calls his daughter. His daughter. Young and smart, the princess of the family. She has ties to the fashion industry and he’s essentially placed her in charge of the whole enchilada, and yet when her teeth appear on FaceTime, he can’t contain the glee. “Look, honey, isn’t it tremendous?”

It isn’t tremendous. The daughter blocks the camera long enough to roll her eyes. Thirty-four and still embarrassed by Dad. But this is his time. Let the old man have this one. Sure, she tells him. It’s tremendous. It’s as tremendous as your vision for this world.

2. Hats Make America Again
He bought the plane, a Boeing 757, from a software-monger with I mean zero sense of luxuriousness, okay people? Now look at it. The seatbelts are plated in 24-karat gold, as are the bathroom fixtures, the sconces in the guest bedroom, even the silk on the master bedroom duvet. The engines are Rolls Royce, and it costs $10,800 for every hour it is in the air, and it is in the air a lot, like this evening, racing at 500 mph and tearing through the sky above the hinterlands.

It is here, alone in the dark and quiet, floating above the nation, where he does his best Tweeting. And because he does not drink or take pills, because he cannot sleep, he spends hours reading the responses. He reads every one of them — every piece of love or vitriol hurled his way.

@PedsforGuns has written:

Terrible! Only ‪@realDonaldTrump can stop this kind of barbarism.

The link is to a video of the Taliban destroying the Buddhas of Bamiyan. People, apparently, are still outraged or else they have confused the Taliban with ISIS. He watches the video over and over, trying to find within himself an inkling of ire or despair.

The captain comes on the PA and warns him of a storm building; they’re flying straight toward it. Perhaps it’d be best to redirect to Evansville and wait it out.

“On to Carolina,” he tells them.

When he purchased the Bonwit Teller building he promised some artsy bozos he wouldn’t destroy the Art Deco limestone reliefs. He’d donate them to the Met. He’d been told they were invaluable, and he’d stood outside on 5th Avenue and stared at them and wondered what this word, invaluable, meant. And when he was told by his super that to preserve the reliefs would delay building of his own Tower by 10 days, he had workers jackhammer them into shards.

And when the art bozos talked bad about him, he told New York that the Tower would be replete with gilded ornamentation — “real art, not like the junk I destroyed at Bonwit Teller.”

“Sir?” the captain says. “It’s getting real bad up here.”

He hasn’t noticed, but the plane is rocking. The turbulence is severe. He can see lightning in the clouds outside the window. “On to Carolina,” he tells them, and locks himself in the bathroom.

He is a man who forgets nothing.

“What do you think?” he asked a writer featuring him for Vanity Fair.  “Do you think blowing up the sculptures has hurt me?”

“Yes,” the writer had said.

“Who cares?” he said. “Let’s say that I had given that junk to the Met. They would have just put them in their basement. I’ll never have the goodwill of the Establishment, the tastemakers of New York. Do you think, if I failed, these guys in New York would be unhappy? They would be thrilled! Because they have never tried anything on the scale that I am trying things in this city. I don’t care about their goodwill.”

He watches the video of the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan. He listens, feels, the shaking of the Boeing — of the sky opening up and threatening to swallow him whole. It will not, of course, because even the heavens cannot stop him.

He stares at himself in the mirror and, with his bottom teeth exposed, he repeats: Total. Disaster. Total. Disaster. Total Disaster.

3. Make Hats American Again
By all accounts, the hat itself is apolitical. It has never declared a party affiliation. It has never pulled the curtain behind itself in a voting stall and de-chadded a ballot.

The hat was born in Carson, CA, a suburb of Los Angeles. The hat has 35 siblings, since Cali-Fame’s smallest possible bulk order, known as the “Quick Strike,” requires a 36-piece minimum order.

There is no known scientific term for 36-tuplets, though 36 is the ASCII code for the symbol ‘$.’

Gold on White. White on Blue. White on Red. Later, OSHA orange on Camouflage.

The hat doesn’t understand why, a day after Laredo, it makes news in both the mainstream and in fashion circles. Nor does its wearer understand; he only wants to keep the sun out of his eyes — in a tremendous way.

His daughter is horrified. She knows, as all of us do, that Jack Kennedy killed the hat. Kennedy never wore a fedora; he broke the tradition — from Lincoln’s top hat to Zachary Taylor’s straw brim. Kennedy went naked, and in response, there are rumors, true believers, that the John B. Stetson Company hired Lee Oswald for retribution.

The man’s daughter believes the hat could sink the campaign. She does not understand irony. And so she is shocked when hip kids one borough over begin requesting the hat.

Gold on White. White on Blue. White on Red.

In Carson, another Kennedy, Brian, born to the wrong clan, a family who could no longer endure the frigid New England winters and so went west, finds himself president of Cali-Fame.

“We’re not political,” Brian Kennedy tells his workforce, of whom 80 percent are Latino. “We’re here to work.”

And work they do, day and night, bringing in nearly $300,000 in one quarter. It’s enough money that Brian, at night, pours himself a stiff brandy and sits and wonders just what exactly is going on.

4. [Let’s] Make Hats Hats Again
It’s a stupid thing to say — that you’ve got the best words — but you’ve said it, and you never concede or apologize, and anyway, perhaps on some level, it’s true.

You’re in Hilton Head five days after Christmas, speaking to men and women in a strange mélange of bathing suits and sweaters, golf attire and scarves. It is sunny and fair, but so often the wind off the Atlantic whips through this resort, sending the elderly in search for mittens.

You’ve got the best words, you tell them, and they believe you.

Why not? You took Reagan’s slogan, “Let’s Make America Great Again” and dropped the ‘Let’s.’

Let’s, of course, means let us, which means to allow us, which is to ask for permission — to concede power. You do not concede power, which is why you don’t drink or laugh or smile or nod when somebody is speaking to you so as to give a nonverbal queue of agreement or understanding. To laugh is to acknowledge another’s ability to impact one’s self. No, thank you.

The Art of War. The Art of the Deal.

Make America Great Again is a command, not a request.

You’ve got to get back to Manhattan. Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. You’ve got a tremendous view of the party.

In the car, on the way to the airport, you place the hat back on your head, careful not to mess with your hair. Reagan dyed his. You do not. Don’t believe me? Touch it. Touch my hair. C’mon, I’m being serious. Touch my hair. Do it.

A wind picks up and blows an inflatable nativity scene off the lawn of the Anglican Church of the Redeemer and into the road. Traffic is stopped. The limo is stopped. You watch frantic citizens rush from their cars to tackle donkeys and sheep. A retiree subdues one of the Wise men by sitting on it until the figure deflates into a pool beneath him.

A staffer says, “It’s funny, don’t you think?”

Humor. This thing people are always going on about. You stare out the window at the chaos and try to understand.

Is it funny?

What is funny?

What is invaluable or art or compassion? What are all these words people are always going around spewing? You have so many questions. Is it possible to love a woman, a daughter for instance, without sexualizing her? What is with people’s feelings? Why can’t they get out of your way?

And with that, you try your hand at humor. You roll down the window and point to the retiree, the guy struggling with the wise man, and shout, “Hey, you! Get the fuck outta here, okay? Who cares! I’ll deflate ‘em for you!” and you tell the driver to drive, and he does, and you turn to your staffer and smile and laugh. But he’s not laughing at all.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.