My dad arrived as an Italian immigrant in 1935, not a boom period for emigrants from Southern Italy. Jews too, famously got the door slammed by the USA during the Fascist sweep to power in the 1930s. As you might imagine, my dad had to pull a lot of strings and body parts to make his trip to the USA happen. He asked Mussolini’s government permission to come to the US. He asked nicely and he asked very generously. And he still had to do some other stuff.
He and Trump share certain traits of willfulness. Dad, too, was enormously charming and entertaining when he wanted. He could also be a first class prick, completely unafraid to be seen as and referred to as a tremendous asshole. These are enormously well rewarded talents in American business. Like Trump, my father was a gifted bullshit artist although not quite as crudely obvious as Donald. Dad was an indefatigable fight - picker, also a money-making skill in business. It made up for starting out a non-English-speaking alien who left school at ten. Dad had his own importing business and made a good living, all considered, nothing super fabulous, but His & Her Cadillacs, two homes. Did your rich relatives make money as self employed entrepreneurs? No bosses except him. He’s the boss.
Maybe this is just an East Coast ethnic food importer’s story, but I’m pretty sure there are legions of local regents like my dad, rulers of their self-created worlds, making really good money, spoiling their kids.
Dad came from downtown Naples Italy, which has a reputation for creativity in the field of persuasion. There is a technique of influence-application which is called, in the Neapolitan dialect cazz’infaccia.
Essentially cazz’infaccia describes the act of “sticking your prick in the face” of your rival. It is meant to be pictured in your mind. Another version proposes to stick a limp prick in the face of your opponent. It is intended to be the most extreme degradation possible.
This imaginative approach owes its origins from the 13th century Holy Roman Emperor (and King of Sicily) Frederick II Hohenstaufen. Once he was crowned, he rescinded all the land grants and duchies and fiefs, undid the entire feudal apparatus while summoning his subordinates to come re-negotiate their deals. The Emperor made “all things new again” just like Jesus, which is the exact way Frederick put it publicly. For this and other reasons Frederick pissed the Pope off and was excommunicated. Ultimately Frederick did commit his life to Jesus, somewhat belatedly, on his death bed.
Cazz’infaccia means you not only don’t mind insulting other people, you actively seek out opportunities to insult and dominate. Donald Trump has already irritated the Pope months ago. He insulted the wife of a Gold Star father. His recent dissing of Civil Rights Saint John Lewis is standard operating procedure, the more blasphemous the better.
To protest these insults, to offer up a “defense” of Lewis does some good in that it tells Lewis’ story to those who don’t know. But I wouldn’t necessarily roll out the heavy artillery when Trump shoots his mouth off. He’s going to do this all the time. Let him inflate his currency of invective until it’s diluted into meaninglessness.
It’s exasperating but Trump seemed to make some not-insane Cabinet picks, which was enough of a shock that it took some of the aside from the ultra right ideology. Plus, wouldn’t it be great if the government wasn’t such a breathtaking money waster so often. And the Presidency shouldn’t be exclusive to politicians only, why not a citizen President? Just as it was so important for many to elect a woman president for the first time, this is the first time for a (full time) business entrepreneur. Capitalism Man, in the flesh. Why not? Just - why him? Maybe we don’t see the “real” “truth,” that he’s gonna be really great for everybody. And - we won’t regret giving him an astronomical amount of credit and trust. Nah. He inspires so much trust. And - He’s not nuts. He wants you to think you’re going nuts for thinking he’s going nuts. It’s just a show-biz version of crypto fascist mind glue.
My mind often wanders to Marlon Brando in Missouri Breaks. Ranchers are sick of horse thieves, they bring in a super-duper killer gunslinger (Brando) who turns out to be an explosive nutcase: uncontrollable, mad violent and ultimately ruinous. They asked for it. Did we?