“What a sweep of vanity comes this way.”—Shakespeare

Cover of Deconstructing Trump: The Trump Phenomenon Through the Lens of Quotation History by Dr. Mardy Grothe

Dr. Mardy Grothe has compiled an anthology of quotations in his new book Deconstructing Trump that will astound, entertain, and educate you as he puts our disturbing current era into historical perspective.

In his preface, Grothe writes that he has given us “one-thousand quotes from the past—most from the very distant past—that speak to the unconventional, controversial, and even clownish political novice, Donald J. Trump.” These quotations are stirring and give us a vantage point to understand better the recklessness of the man and his administration.

As a psychologist, Grothe tells us how many people fell into what his profession calls reactive depression after Trump was elected. He found himself in shock after Trump’s victory and had trouble coping with the new reality. He had difficulty concentrating, smiled and laughed less, drank a bit more than he should, and slept fitfully. He soon realized he was so negatively affected by Trump that he came up with the label Trump Adjustment Disorder. Thus, he found a way out of his depression through bibliotherapy, a form of supportive psychotherapy in which carefully selected reading materials are used to assist a subject in solving personal problems.

When you open this book, you immediately sense that you are on the threshold of a great journey of illumination. Throughout, Grothe’s selection of quotations is straightforward, universally true, and speak for themselves without ever mentioning Trump by name. When asked, even Republicans told Grothe that the quotations fit Trump like the proverbial glove. In this collection, he has made perfume out of the tobacco juice that is the Trump presidency, to paraphrase the American essayist Elizabeth Hardwick.

A variety of examples create a brilliant billboard illuminating Trump’s vanity, boastfulness, extreme narcissism, deliberate distortions, downright lies, curdling malice, underhandedness, and outrageously crude language. Ranging in time from antiquity to the end of the twentieth century before he became president, they play the role of some goddess of retribution who holds the hammer of historical condemnation.

The book alphabetically spans the words of Abigail Adams to Émile Zola, with a considerable number of influential writers throughout history in-between. The reader is in the midst of a breathlessly exciting game. The quotations always find some way of taking hold, of confining, defining, and even possibly understanding the incoherence and fantasy of this administration. Here are a few examples:

“How is it possible that the love of gain and the lust of domination should render the human mind so callous to every principle of honor, generosity, and benevolence?”—Abigail Adams

“If you shut up truth and bury it under the ground, it will but grow, and gather to itself such explosive power that the day it bursts through it will blow up everything in its way.”— Émile Zola.

One of my favorites about half way through is from Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov,

A man who lies to himself is often the first to take offense. It sometimes feels very good to take offense, doesn’t it? And surely he knows no one has offended him, and that he himself has invented the offense and told lies just for the beauty of it, that he has exaggerated for the sake of effect, that he has picked on a word and made a mountain out of a pea—he knows all that, and still he is the first to take offense, he likes feeling offended, it gives him great pleasure, and thus he reaches the point of real hostility.”

An apt passage from Moliere’s Tartuffe (1664) sums up how the likes of Trump and many before him have masqueraded through history as so-called leaders hoodwinking too many naive people. And in verse, to boot:

“Those who have greatest cause for guilt and shame
Are quickest to besmirch a neighbor’s name.
When there’s a chance for libel, they never miss it;
When something can be made to seen illicit
They’re off at once to spread the joyous news,
Adding to fact what fantasies they choose.
By talking up their neighbor’s indiscretions
They seek to camouflage their own transgressions,
Hoping that others’ innocent affairs
Will lend a hue of innocence to theirs,
Or that their own black gold will come to seem
Part of a general shady color-scheme.”

Go out and buy your copy and several more for your friends and political opponents. These are the times that definitely try our souls.


David Evans

I'm retired from another life and live in the mountains of eastern West Virginia with my muse Jody along with one remaining dog.  We've decided no more dogs and cats.  Losing them is just too painful. Being independent and no longer in the reins of someone else's driver, I now have the chance to revisit the many people and places that have enriched my life. The good folks at Wesleyan College in central West Virginia guided me to a graduate degree in fine arts in early 2018.  My plan is to use some of the skills I learned from two years in this creative writing program to tell my story.