Yesterday, the controversial Jerry Travone got retweeted by Donald Trump for his tweet of a color image of a smiling Trump eclipsing a black-and-white image of a contemplative Barack Obama. He called it: The Best Eclipse Ever. The fact Trump loved the tweet shows how his presidency is really about hating the first black president of the United States. But there is something else that many normal Americans may not appreciate. For Trump and his supporters, there wasn't a day during Obama's terms that his voice, his walk, his image wasn't on their minds.
Now, recall the wonderful short story "El Zahir" by the the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986). And recall how it's about a coin that, when seen, becomes fixed in your mind and begins to grow and grow until you see nothing else but that coin. Wikipedia describes the maddening coin perfectly: "the affected person perceives less and less of reality and more and more of the Zahir, at first only while asleep, then at all times." This was Obama for millions of white Americans, including the one who is currently in the White House.
But what Trump and his kind don't understand is that most white Americans did not experience the Obama years the way they did. Indeed, his greatness is found in the fact that he was often absent from the public's mind. You could go days without hearing or thinking about Obama, and instead think about other things. This is what a successful presidency is all about. This bad business of claiming your attention all of the time is nothing but a great bother for normal Americans. But Trump's presidency is about how he experienced Obama's presidency, about how it perpetually preoccupied and consumed his thoughts like a Zahir. And so we have a presidency that reflects Trump's madness and not the common form of a presidency, which combines periods of absence with those of presence.