26 June 2016

If the Shoe Fits: A True Story

Some time in the past, let's say about ten years ago, I paid a Shiva visit to a family from my synagogue.  They were modest people--humble, kind, and generous.  They sought in their lives not attention but goodness and adhesion to community.

They lived in Coney Island, in a housing project built by Donald Trump's father, Fred.

It was a warm summer evening and I had taken my bike, down through Prospect Park and along Ocean Parkway, the Olmsted and Vaux boulevard inspired by routes in Paris and Berlin.  While making small-talk with the family, I shared my interest in Brooklyn's history, its many-layered dynamic sense of time and narrative, and this is when someone in the family spoke up and said, "You know, Donald Trump's father built this housing project."

Trump Village.  Yes, of course.  This was one of his first major projects, built on the ruins of the Trump-sought dissolution of Coney Island's mythic amusement parks, and therefore known to students of urban planning as an object lesson in the inherent tensions of politics, business and community.

"Fred was a piece of work," said one family member.  "But he was nothing compared to his son."  There was considerable shaking of heads.  I should add a kind of knowing shaking of heads.  As in, you won't believe what you're about to hear.

"Fred's kid Donald was a rich boy but he used to come around and once he stole a bike," someone said.  "I remember the time that Fred pulled up with Donald in his car and made him return the bike. Can you imagine.  You could see the embarrassment, the shame."

There was laughter.  And the conversation moved on--since it was a Shiva call, it moved on to more serious, sublime matters.  Memory, kindness, decency.

I think about that story a lot these days, for all sorts of obvious reasons.

I don't know if it's true or apocryphal.  But I'll tell you what:  it certainly could be true, given the very nasty stuff that flows from the mouth of the presumptive GOP nominee for President of the United States.

Bankruptcies; fraudulent practices of Trump University; pseudo-declarations of faith before gullible Evangelicals; ingratiating words before the NRA; fear-mongering over Muslims, Mexicans, and other legal immigrants to and citizens of this great nation; and a blatant misogyny that makes my blood boil (being a father of daughters, especially.)

So, you know, maybe he did or maybe he didn't.

But if the shoe fits...