Rex Mottram is a character created by Evelyn Waugh, and he comes to life in Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited. On the surface, Mottram is clever and successful. He has a certain flair and swagger. Scratch the surface however, as Julia Flyte did by marrying him, and you find that the surface is all there is. As Julia recounts
He simply wasn’t all there. He wasn’t a complete human being at all. He was a tiny bit of one, unnaturally developed: something in a bottle, an organ kept alive in a laboratory. I thought he was a sort of primitive savage, but he was something absolutely modern and up-to-date that only this ghastly age could produce. A tiny bit of a man pretending he was whole.
Here is good old Rex, portrayed brilliantly by the actor Charles Keating in the movie adaptation
BTW, Keating was a well respected Shakespearean actor … and a bit tempermental
Keating admitted that he sometimes had problems maintaining the invisible wall that divides actor and audience. During one performance of the Scottish Play (Macbeth) he became so distracted by a woman in the front row, noisily leafing through her programme, that he walked off the stage, still spouting his lines, and tore the offending document from her hands.
On another occasion, as Mark Antony, he was just about to launch into “Friends, Romans, countrymen’’ when he noticed a man in the front row following the play in a book. Furious that the man was not watching the action on stage, he again began to descend from the stage to tear the book out of his hands, only to realise, just in time, that the book was in Braille.
Errr . but back to our story. Waugh was obsessed about what he saw as the emptiness of modern society. Its lack of a moral compass. And Mottram brings out the odd split between the outwardly normal and inwardly vacuous.
As George Weigel pointed out months ago in an article for the National Review, so too does Donald Trump. He is Mottram incarnate. Most recently we see a Mottram like inner vacuity in Trump’s executive order pertaining to immigration. It shows an astounding lack of compassion for people who are guilty of the horrendous crime of coming and going from the United States. And what is wrong with those people? Nominally it is their countries of origin. But, let’s call a spade a spade, it is their religion.
Most likely it did not matter to Trump when he signed the order that his ban on immigration from all people from seven countries is a gross violation of the US constitution. He probably does not care that a federal judge immediately stayed his executive order. He will just move on, blissfully indifferent to the effects of what he does.
Sadly, Trump exists in real life, not a novel. Equally sad is the fact that real people are facilitating his ongoing outrages. Ms Conway, for example, says that we should just get used to them. Really? Would she say the same if she were the target of Trump’s spastic behavior? Meanwhile, the republicans in Congress shrug their shoulders, wondering if Trump’s behavior will affect their chances of repealing Obamacare, and thus depriving large numbers of people from receiving health care. Ah, something to look forward to!
Sorry, but I must re-state the obvious. There is something very wrong here, and we all are paying the price for it. I regret to add that the bill apparently will grow larger, the longer we remain stuck in this phase of the melodrama. At the end of Brideshead Revisited, the price is resignation in the face of demolished illusions. Relief, even in the face of war, that the blinding spell had been lifted. That the passions that had seemed so consequential were revealed as nothing more than infantile excess. Of course, Shakespeare offers a far more devastating ending scenario in Hamlet.
FOLLOW UP – BTW, there is an even worse potential explanation for Mr. Trump’s behavior The negative effects of what he is doing may be intentional. The argument — and it is just an argument — runs this way. Trump may be many things, but he is not stupid. If he is not stupid. he knows that his “policy” ideas will do nothing to solve problems but will damage US political institutions and world wide credibility. Does he know this? Does he intend this? Your guess is as good as mine at this stage.