In Joseph Conrad’s remarkable novel Victory he depicts a man by the name of Schomberg who owns a hotel on an island in the China Sea. He is a truly obnoxious man, large, heavily bearded, sweaty, and overbearing who lords it over his poor wife and anyone he takes offense to. He has become infatuated with a pretty girl who has come with Zangiacomo’s Ladies Orchestra to stay at his hotel and perform for the patrons. Schomberg’s wife is almost as repulsive as he is and he pines after the pretty girl whom the fates have brought to him; in Schomberg’s mind she is responding to his advances; he is winning the poor girl’s heart. He has visions of ridding himself of his wife, selling the hotel and running off with the pretty young girl who will love him all the more for taking her away from the tortuous life of a roaming violin player in an all-girl band. In fact, the young girl finds his advances positively nauseating. Please understand that Schomberg’s fantasies are all of his own making: he is repulsive to the girl who avoids him at every turn. When the girl runs off with a Swede whom Schomberg has already grown to hate, his imaginings take a turn toward total delusion with just a touch of paranoia. He is convinced the Swede tricked the girl somehow and stole her away just as Schomberg was about to triumph. His hatred grows beyond reckoning.
Schomberg is delusional. We can see that now because we see on every side around us a growing number of delusional people who have turned Donald Trump into their political savior, just as Schomberg turned the pretty girl into his personal savior.
In a delightful comic performance on HBO by John Oliver making the rounds on Facebook recently we were treated to the total unmasking of the Trumpet and his followers. A number of Trump’s followers were asked what they saw in the man and why they thought he would make a good president. They noted that he “tells it like it is,” that he is a “successful business person,” he is “tough,” and has “acute business sense.” To each of these claims, the comic destroys the fiction with the bare facts. A number of his “success” stories are outright failures — such as his ventures into travel, magazines, vodka, steaks [!], and home mortgages at a time when banks were going belly-up due to housing failures. The man is not a successful businessman. In fact he has been bankrupt several times. He is convinced that the Trump label guarantees success, whereas in fact many of his ventures have been miserable failures — which, in every case, he blames on someone else. Fact Check notes that three-fourths of what he says is simply false. But Trump dismisses Fact Check as a “liberal” creation out to destroy him. He tells lies and creates fictions that he passes off as Truth From On High. Finally, he is not tough. He has remarkably thin skin, threatening those who oppose him with grievous bodily harm, law suits, or both. His reaction to criticism borders on paranoia.
The parallel is remarkable. Schomberg’s delusions are mirrored in the minds and hearts of growing numbers of people in this country who flock to buy the snake oil Donald Trump peddles. They blindly accept his promises that the snake oil will cure all their ills while in fact it is vile smelling and will almost certainly make them sick. The truth is hard to swallow at times. But it is better to hold our nose and swallow it than to swallow the putrid liquid this politician is passing off as a panacea that will cure us all. It will not. It will only make us worse. Much worse.