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Trump & Arendt Debate The Wall: Fictive Questions, Real Answers
Rayyan Dabbous pieces together a fictional debate using real quotes from Donald Trump, POTUS, and Hannah Arendt, political philosopher.
Host: What a pleasure to have both of you with us tonight, Dr Arendt, Mr Trump! We’re discussing your controversial wall tonight, Mr President, and our producer has paired you with the philosopher Hannah Arendt, who is herself an immigrant, and yet has risen to become one of this country’s most influential thinkers. Dr Arendt, why do you think Mr Trump here is so insistent about this wall deal?
Trump and Arendt
HA: Refugees and the stateless have attached themselves like a curse to all states on earth.1
Host: Is that right, Mr President? Do you deem anyone coming from the Mexican borders as a curse to our nation?
DT: The worst elements in Mexico are being pushed into the United States by the Mexican government. The Border Patrol knows this. Tremendous infectious disease is pouring across the border.2
Host: Do you share the President’s panic?
HA: Politically speaking, tribal nationalism always insists that its own people is surrounded by a world of enemies, one against all ; that a fundamental difference exists between this people and all others.3
DT: There is no global anthem, no global currency, no certificate of global citizenship. We pledge allegiance to one flag, and that flag is the American flag. This country…4
HA (interrupting): …is united neither by a heritage, nor by a memory, nor by a soil, nor by a language, nor by a common origin.5
DT: We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny. Making America great again.6
HA (Eyes rolling): There is hardly a better way to avoid discussion than by releasing an argument from the control of the present and by saying that only the future will reveal its merits.7
DT: You know what? You can take it any way you want.8
Host: Not quite, Mr President! We are on a debate platform, after all. Let’s find a common ground here. Dr Arendt, you’re an immigrant yourself and you must possess experiences that surely the President would benefit from hearing. Was it hard assimilating as a Jew, when you first came here?
HA (Irritated): Would you kindly tell me just among what the Jews should assimilate here? Among the Irish? Among the English? Among the French? The Germans?… Whoever came here…?9
Host: Your answer actually got the President to smile. Do you agree with Dr Arendt, Mr Trump?
DT: Assimilation has been very hard. It’s almost, I won’t say nonexistent… but it gets to be very close.10
Host: Dr Arendt, you’re shaking your head?
HA: There is no assimilation in a culture. The US is not a nation-state. There are no authentic natives here, except for the Indians. All the rest are citizens and they are united by one thing, that is a great one; one becomes a citizen by simple consent to the constitution. The constitution, that is, a simple scrap of paper. One can modify it, according to the French and German points of view.11
DT: Europe? Look what’s happening all over Europe… Europe is being absolutely swamped and destroyed.12
Host: Do you suggest Europe gets a wall too, Mr Trump? Is taking in a flock of Syrian refugees the same as taking in a caravan of South American migrants?
DT: [You mean] taking in tens of thousands of Syrian refugees who probably, in many cases… not probably… who are definitely, in many cases, ISIS-aligned.13
Host: So the wall is a matter of security, too?
DT: National security.14
Host: Dr Arendt, any thoughts on that?
HA: National security is a new word in the American vocabulary. National security now covers everything, all kinds of offenses.15
Host: What kind of offenses, Hannah?
HA (After a long pause): For example, the President has all rights. He is above the law. He can do no wrong. He is like a monarch in the republic, and whatever he does he does for the security of the nation.16
Host: Now I get the pause. You must have thought Mr Trump would take your comment personally. Given, you know, a few allegations that –
DT (Interrupting): Nobody takes things more personally than me.17 [But I agree, Hannah.] I have the absolute right to pardon myself.18
HA (Eyes rolling again): The chief qualification of a mass leader: he can never admit an error.19
Host: Tell us, Mr President, does anyone ever correct you at home? Melania, Ivanka? Who do you speak with most about conflicting ideas?
DT: I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things… My primary consultant is myself.20
Host: Huh… Isn’t that a bit arrogant? What do you think, Dr Arendt?
HA: I don’t know if it’s arrogance simply. It is really the will to dominate, for heaven’s sake! Until now, it has not yet dominated, just because we can sit here and still discuss this freely!21
DT (Looking annoyed): [Speaking of sitting] do you mind if I sit back a little? Because your breath is very bad.22
Host: Someone’s offended. That’s it? Nothing else to talk about?
DT: I would like to talk but it seems to be very biased.23
Host: What’s biased?
DT: Ridiculous liberal bias.24
HA: I hope that I don’t shock you when I say that I’m not at all sure that I am a liberal. Not at all. I do not profess a political philosophy that I would be able to sum up with a term as an ‘ism’.25
Host: So Dr Arendt here wouldn’t readily buy any of the fake news you’re complaining about, Mr President! What’s this problem with media authenticity, Dr Arendt? You’re well-versed in propaganda.
HA: The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction and the distinction between true and false no longer exist.26
Host: So are our journalists doing a bad job in making that distinction clear?
DT (Raising a finger): Sometimes journalist attacks have little to do with the pursuit of truth. They are personal vendettas disguised as objective reporting.27
HA: No, no. It rests only on the conviction that each human being, as a thinking being, can form on his own judgments if he wants. What I don’t know is how to give rise to this desire in him.28
DT: Agreed. This very expensive global warming bullshit has got to stop! Our planet is freezing, record low temperatures, and our GW scientists are stuck in ice.29
Host: I don’t believe Hannah here shares your opinion on climate change… What do you think about this – don’t mind the pun – heated topic?
HA: This may be irrelevant for the future of the world… it is not irrelevant for the future of man.30
Host: What about the future of man? Aren’t we responsible?
HA: You are young, [we are] old, but we are here together to leave them something…31
DT: Old? I am fortunate to have been blessed with great genes – both of my parents had very long and productive lives.32
Host: And on that note, we close the show. It isn’t that hard, talking with the other side, eh, Mr President?
DT: We got along very well, good chemistry. We’re hugging. Everybody is happy.33
© Rayyan Dabbous 2019
Rayyan Dabbous is a Lebanese author, playwright and director. Check out his documentary about Hannah Arendt’s work, In Search of the Last Agora, and his political satire, Syrians for Sale, Lebanese Style.
1. Arendt, H. The Origins of Totalitarianism. Meridian Books. (1958).
2. Chambers, F. ‘Trump says comments on Mexican immigrants.’ Daily Mail. July 07, 2015.
3. Arendt, H. The Origins of Totalitarianism. Meridian Books. (1958).
4. Hains, Tim. ‘Trump: There Is No Global Flag, No Global Currency, No Global Citizenship. We Will Be United As Americans.’ Real Clear Politics. December 1, 2016.
5. Hannah Arendt Interview. ‘Un Certain Regard’. Broadcast July 6, 1974.
6. Roy, Avik. Donald Trump Inaugural Speech: Full Transcript. Jan 20, 2017.
7. Arendt, H. The Origins of Totalitarianism. Meridian Books. (1958).
8. Cillizza, Chris. ‘The 49 wildest quotes from Donald Trump’s bananas interview with Fox News.’ CNN. June 15, 2018.
9. Hannah Arendt Interview. ‘Un Certain Regard’. Broadcast July 6, 1974.
10. Lind, Dara. ‘How Donald Trump is making it harder for immigrants to integrate into America.’ VOX. June 22, 2016.
11. Hannah Arendt Interview. ‘Un Certain Regard’. Broadcast July 6, 1974.
12. Hughes, Laura. ‘Donald Trump branded a ‘buffoon, demagogue and wazzock’ by MPs – but Republican ignores UK ban debate.’ Telegraph. Jan 18, 2016.
13. Blake, Aaron. ‘The final Trump-Clinton debate transcript, annotated.’ Washington Post. Oct 19, 2016.
15. Hannah Arendt Interview. ‘Un Certain Regard’. Broadcast July 6, 1974.
17. Cillizza, Chris. ‘The 49 wildest quotes from Donald Trump’s bananas interview with Fox News.’ CNN. June 15, 2018.
18. Breuninger, Kevin. ‘Trump: “I have the absolute right to PARDON myself”.’ CNBC. June 4, 2018.
19. Arendt, H. The Origins of Totalitarianism. Meridian Books. (1958).
20. Shukla, Vikas. ‘Top 25 Silliest Donald Trump Quotes: Check Them Out.’ Value Walk. November 27, 2018.
21. Hannah Arendt Interview. ‘Un Certain Regard’. Broadcast July 6, 1974.
22. Konnikova, Maria. ‘Less Than Artful Choices: Narcissistic Personality Disorder According to Donald Trump.’ Big Think. May 03, 2011.
23. Cillizza, Chris. ‘The 49 wildest quotes from Donald Trump’s bananas interview with Fox News.’ CNN. June 15, 2018.
24. Trump, D. Crippled America. Simon & Schuster. (2015).
25. Hannah Arendt Interview. ‘Un Certain Regard’. Broadcast July 6, 1974.
26. Arendt, H. The Origins of Totalitarianism. Meridian Books. (1958).
27. Shukla, Vikas. ‘Top 25 Silliest Donald Trump Quotes: Check Them Out.’ Value Walk. November 27, 2018.
28. Hannah Arendt Interview. ‘Un Certain Regard’. Broadcast July 6, 1974.
29. Matthews, Dylan. ‘Donald Trump has tweeted climate change skepticism 115 times. Here’s all of it.’ VOX. Jun 1, 2017.
30. Arendt, H. The Human Condition. (1958).
31. Hannah Arendt Interview. ‘ Un Certain Regard’. Broadcast July 6, 1974.
32. Sabur, Rozina. ‘Donald Trump dictated letter describing his health as ‘astonishingly excellent’, claims President’s former doctor.’ Telegraph. May 2, 2018.
33. Cillizza, Chris. ‘The 49 wildest quotes from Donald Trump’s bananas interview with Fox News.’ CNN. June 15, 2018.