Tuesday, July 21, 2020 7:22 am
By Nehru Odeh
When Mary L. Trump was growing up in her billionaire grandfather’s, Fred Sr, house, she never knew she would write a book that would not only break publishing records but would be the talk of town. But she had a burning desire to write one, to pour out her heart about not only the trauma she had gone through and observed as a child but also about how her family created what she regards as the world’s most dangerous man. And of course she makes no bones saying that that dangerous man is her uncle, the American president, Donald Trump.
Welcome to Too Much and Not Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, the tell-it-all book written by Trump’s niece, Mary, and published on 14 July 2020 by Simon & Schuster to critical acclaim, but which Trump didn’t want published. Though the title of the book may sound provocative and in-your- face, it was written with a burning desire to pour one’s heart as a form of catharsis, to look the demons that haunt one in the face.
The book, written in the psychoanalytic biography mold that only few writers like Sigmund Freud have tried their hands on, is a bold attempt to picture in a cinematic mold the dark shadows that Donald’s father had cast over the Trump’s family.
Those dark shadows, she says in her book, which were disguised as obsessive love for power, bravado, macho and success helped not only to alienate her dad, Fred Jr, who happened to be Trump’s elder brother, but also created the “monster” that Trump turned out to be. Of course, there is a passage in the book where the author likens Trump to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein’s monster. As a growing child in her grandfather’s house, Mary watched with sheer consternation the horrors, the nightmares and the shocks that lorded over the Trump’s household in the name of success and correctness – whatever correctness meant.
According to the author, her grandfather’s obsessive love for power, dominance and success was the yardstick by which everybody was judged in the family. And it was for that reason that her dad, in order to break away from that bewildering reality became alienated, was addicted to alcohol, was neglected and died at 42 of a heart attack due to alcoholism, but which Trump imbibed, earned his confidence and became his favourite son.
Donald was seen as the quintessential Trump who would inherit their father’s business empire by whatever means. Of course, not only did Trump inherit the father’s business empire but he also inherited his vicious traits, such as obsessive love for power, mindlessness, propensity for neglect and cruelty. And that show in Trump’s inability to show emotions, weakness or kindness to others because he doesn’t want to be seen as weak.
The kind of bravery and courage that dot almost every sentence is very rare. For instance, a passage like this not only gives a clear picture of who Trump is but sums up what the book is about.
“As Donald grew up, he was forced to become his own cheerleader, first, because he needed his father to believe he was a better and more confident son than Freddy was; then because Fred required it of him; and finally because he began to believe his own hype, even as he paradoxically suspected on a very deep level that nobody else did. By the time of the election, Donald met any challenges to his sense of superiority with anger, his fear and vulnerabilities so effectively buried that he didn’t even have to acknowledge they existed. And he never would.”
One thing that makes the book remarkable is not just because it was written by an insider in Trump’s family but because it is a book that not only psychoanalyzes the American President and why he does the things he does, things that many Americans find bizarre and grotesque, but is coming out in the nick of time. What with the Presidential elections just around the corner, what with the mindlessness Trump displayed not just in the wake of the coronavirus virus that is ravaging the globe and which has led to the death of thousands of Americans but also when George Floyd was brutally murdered, what with Americans waiting for Trump to provide much-needed leadership as though waiting for Godot.
What Mary is saying in this cautionary tale that reminds one of Charles Dicken’s Bleak House is that Donald Trump is not one to be trusted with power, and that doing so is putting not just millions of American lives in danger but also the rest of the globe. She is also saying that Trump is not “a self-made man” as he claims.
The author backs up her claims with a firsthand account of what she experienced growing up as a child, experiences that were not just traumatic but also mind-boggling and little details such as how Trump paid a friend, named Joe Shapiro, to take the SAT for him, of how he lied, how he evaded tax and how he got involved in fraud.
Small wonder the book was the most anticipated in recent times. Small wonder Robert Trump, Donald’s brother tried to stop the publication in a court of law but failed. Small wonder it sold a staggering 950,000 copies by the end of its first day on sale.
Still, whatever hoopla the book has generated, whatever sum of money the publication has grossed, whatever issues it has raised, one thing we cannot take away from it is the author’s emotional truth, her attempt not just to heal herself but also to set the records straight, to write her pains, to make things right. And whether she succeeds or not depends on not how the book is perceived and received but on how she has succeed in speaking out her truth and, in that process, heal herself.
Still, another thing we can’t take way from Mary is that, with the publication of the book, she has succeeded in making a huge statement, a statement about how the past shapes the present. And the American President can only ignore that statement to his peril.
“Donald, following the lead of my grandfather and with the complicity, silence, and inaction of his siblings, destroyed my father. I can’t let him destroy my country,” she seems to be telling Americans in this compelling book.