Kayle Kaupanger, Unsplash

Trump International Hotel And Tower Chicago. Chicago, United States.


From Kafka’s Castle to Trump’s Tower

by Carmen Firan

Every morning K waited to be called up into the Castle. A mysterious authority ruled over a world of fear and absurdity. I lived in that Kafkian world, in the duplicity, hypocrisy and imposture of a dictatorship in Eastern Europe, until its collapse in 1989.

Hard to believe we are now, in America, intimidated by the rise to power of one man, or, rather, his whole clan, trying to openly pervert the values of the free world and establish an autocracy.

Every morning we turn on the TV and fear what we are about to see. Who else was called into the Tower? What new turns are we to witness? Kafka’s Castle is being built brick by brick, on Fifth Avenue, while rational Americans are watch dumbfounded: we are drawn into the biggest farce of this century, helplessly seeing the world being turned upside-down.

The password for this Tower is: without precedent. Allies and rivals know it in the same way, fans and opponents, journalists and politicians: they all mouth the news each morning, either hoping to ascend to positions or horrified by what they imagine– without precedent. Without precedent – those words will shake the world. As a matter of fact, vice president Pence warned us, cynically: “After January 20, buckle up! We’ll be a lot of bumps!”

Day and night the Tower is guarded by armed police officers.  It is very expensive to protect Trump. For two floors’ rent in the Castle where his personal protection services live, the city pays Trump $40,000a month. The real estate mogul’s first pre-presidential deal. Moreover, Americans will pay about one-and-a-half million dollars per year in the future to protect him and his wife Melania, even though Melania is not planning to move into the White House. She is an independent woman, she says, but it’s probably because the WH is too small for her. Or she looks forward to getting away from the future President. The First Lady Suite will be occupied by the First Daughter, Ivanka, who’ll probably redecorate with her brand.

Trump’s children are ‘playing country’ and even ‘playing world’ in the Tower. They take part in meetings with state leaders, have an active role in the transition process, while all along continuing daddy’s business dealings. They are not shy about distributing perks to interested parties: it costs one million dollars to meet with Trump and participate in an exotic tiger hunt. In the Tower, there are the golden thrones, furs of animals killed in Africa by the Chosen’s sons. Even stuffed lions. The place is the epitome of kitsch, like the palace of a middle-eastern sheik or the mansion of a big-time pimp.

The hypocrisy of Trump’s campaign speeches is beyond reason. “The thief called to catch the thief.” Those who voted for him, sincerely hoping for more jobs and a better life, who believed his demagogical speeches telling them exactly what they wanted to hear, those will be the first ones disappointed by the grandeur and cynicism the Trump is displaying, while negotiating their future and the country’s alike.

The transition process was loudly broadcasted by all TV channels: we watched a reality show which took place in the Tower, on a background of marble, crystal and gilded furniture. At the beginning, the president-elect received his guests by making them stand in front of the massive wooden door to his chamber. His tie was flying in the wind, and so was his hair. As he received supplicants, Mitt Romney was called up only to be humiliated. Ex-supporters were chased out through the same great door. After a while, Trump stopped descending from the Tower altogether… A long line of supporters and ex-rivals, opportunists drawn by the smell of money or nostalgic ex-generals who miss gunpowder kept rolling in front of the cameras, coming and going. Finally, he chose a team without precedent. He nominated dissident generals, billionaires, presidents of multinational companies, and right-wing extremists. His criteria are cynical. His lackeys have to be rich, extremists and lacking experience.

The new administration announces alliances estranged from national interest and American values, threatens to revoke historical treaties, an experiment which, in today’s tense international environment, has the potential to upset the world order. According to Reuters, there are posters in Russia depicting large portraits of Trump and Putin smiling, with the caption “Let’s Make the World Great Again – TOGETHER”. The die is cast. Putin is a good chess player. Trump was a lucky roulette winner, bankrupted a few casinos and bluffed a few other times.

Every morning we turn on the TV to watch another episode of Bewitched. In my twenty years of America I have never seen anyone occupy more than 80% of all TV time. Since I lived in communist Romania I did witness tyranny occupy mass media. Trump is not holding any press conferences because he doesn’t feel like answering uncomfortable questions, because often enough he doesn’t know the answer. He just tweets until late at night, as if whistling in church. But that is exactly how tyrannies start out. Speeches in front of crowds electrified by empty promises and hate for opponents, crowds ready to accept well-packaged lies rather than a rational confrontation with daily realities. Tyrannies avoid transparency and the press, spread fake news and conspiracy theories.

But this is not enough. Trump doesn’t believe in America’s intelligence services, the best in the world. He doesn’t want to be informed or protected by them. He has his own protection, and personal intelligence service. Would that be from the Kremlin? Or Twitter? Irony falls on deaf years. Trump is not president of a Tower, but of the country. And the country is The United States of America! Finding itself in a situation without precedent, scared and lost.

The last novel written by Kafka is called America, America….and was left unfinished. The irony is that the ending comes only now. We are frightfully entering the Kafkian absurdity of Trump’s America.

Everyone loves me, says the narcissist, although he is to become the president with the smallest support in history, having lost the popular vote by about 3 million votes. The Trojan Horse in the middle of the Republican Party succeeded at something without precedent: the disparagement of his own party, of American institutions, information services, mass-media, democratic structures.

I don’t know how great America will be, but one thing is sure: it will be more vulnerable under a leader who can be blackmailed for mixing his personal interests with politics.

Even the most advanced, flourishing civilizations fall apart at some point. Sometimes lack of resources, like an extended draught, or barbaric attacks, or even natural disasters bring them down. It is also possible that an empire will implode, collapsing from within, undermined by its own leaders. We are heading toward another world reality, where capitalism, communism, monarchies or democracies will become words with meaning only in history books. There will be no ideologies or borders, only influential groups in a techno-feudal system: it is already shaping-up in the skies controlled by computer screens on top of the Tower.



About the author:

Carmen Firan, born in Romania, is a poet, a fiction and play writer, and a journalist. She has published more than 20 books of poetry, novels, essays, and short stories. Her recent books are Inferno (SD Press), Rock and Dew (Sheep Meadow Press), Interviews and Encounters (with Nina Cassian, Sheep Meadow Press ), Words and Flesh (Talisman Publishers), The Second Life (Columbia University Press). Her writings appear in translation in many literary magazines and in various anthologies in France, Israel, Sweden, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Canada, U K, and in the USA. She is a member of PEN American Center and the Poetry Society of America. She lives in New York City. www.carmenfiran.com

For other of Carmen’s work in Ragazine: https://www.ragazine.cc/2016/09/carmen-firancommentary/