Thanks to Donald Trump, Sayed Kashua Now Understands the American Dream

Trump's candidacy has made him see you don't have to work hard to get ahead: You can just pull the wool over others' eyes.

Sayed Kashua
Sayed Kashua
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Illustration by Amos Biderman.Credit: Illustration
Sayed Kashua
Sayed Kashua

“Where you from?” the smiling driver asked me when I got on the minibus, to go from the airport to a car rental place.

“I have Israeli citizenship,” I replied cautiously, trying to avoid getting into a conversation with him.

“You’re an Israelite?!” he exclaimed, almost jumping out of his seat. “I love your people, I have an Israelite friend. God bless you all.”

Amused, I began to ponder the notion of “Israeli lite,” as opposed to “Israeli heavy.” Meanwhile, the driver was apologizing on behalf of the American people for President Obama’s attitude toward our prime minister and for the great danger posed by the Iranian nuclear project. He went on to heap praises on Netanyahu, and to suggest that we loan him to the United States for a few months to straighten things out there.

“I’d be happy to donate him to you,” I said, before getting off the minibus.

“Netanyahu would get very different treatment from Donald Trump,” the driver promised.

That was the first time it occurred to me that maybe it wasn’t just a joke or a shtick of some publicity-obsessed person – that Trump might seriously be a candidate for president of the United States. In any case, because of him, I’d started to take an interest in the American election campaign, and my interest soon became an obsession.

Trump is definitely the summer’s “official picker-upper,” as the saying goes. And the summer over here is too long. True, school starts again this week, but the vacation has dragged on since early June.

Anyway, he makes me laugh, this Trump fellow – to the point where I have found myself starting to understand the Americans who prefer him over the other potential Republican nominees. Sometimes the election seems to be merely another reality show for him. He’s the star on every television channel and in the other media outlets, too, and I try not to miss any of his appearances.

“Do you know what my No. 1 book is?” Trump asked, after telling one audience about his book, “The Art of the Deal,” which he described as the second-best book of all time, outdone by only one other. “The Bible,” Trump said, answering his own question. “There’s nothing like the Bible.”

Trump doesn’t say much. So far, I’ve managed to understand that he wants to make America great again – that’s his campaign slogan – to safeguard the border with Mexico and to create jobs. He doesn’t say how, what or when, because even if he were to do so, like the other candidates, no one would understand, and in any event no one would believe him.

The Trump show is just what America needed this summer: It’s the best entertainment in town, it doesn’t call for any deep thinking – just plunk yourself down in front of the TV with popcorn and beer, and watch the circus, at least until pro football begins to pick up speed and the kids go back to school.

Everyone enjoys Trump. His audiences applaud every bit of nonsense he utters. No one remembers anything from the TV debate last week between the Republican candidates, other than the battle that ensued between Trump and Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly, over his remarks about women. And that Kelly, God help us! I saw a few of her programs and started to think that maybe the media in Israel really are leftist. The Fox network’s ratings hit all-time highs in the wake of the altercation that erupted with her, so it’s not just the masses who are enjoying Trump.

Trump claims that he buys politicians, emphasizing that he makes no distinction between religion, race or gender when it comes to the person in the White House. “I’m a businessman,” he says. “I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them, and they are there for me.”

The influence of big capital on the administration’s decision makingis well known even to those who have absolutely no understanding of American politics, but it’s still funny, humiliating – and utterly ridiculous – when one hears about it from Donald Trump.

He insists that he’s not in need of donations from businessmen, as he has enough money of his own, and that no one can change his mind about making America great again, protecting the borders and creating jobs. It’s not exactly clear how much Trump is actually worth, but that hardly matters; what counts is the show, the presentation.

In his book, as I was told by a friend who read it, he describes how he made his fortune by staging a spectacle for bank executives, in which he brought high-school friends to an important meeting that was to determine his economic future, asking them to wear snazzy suits but to say nothing, while presenting them as a battery of lawyers, accountants and business experts. Impressed, the execs signed off on the deal that apparently made Trump a billionaire.

Trump represents the American dream more than any other candidate, even more than Cuban-born Senator Marco Rubio, whose eyes well up with tears whenever he talks about his family’s hard times and how, though he began life in poverty, he was able to get ahead, paying for his schooling with loans he had no idea how he would repay.

But Rubio’s story, about getting to the top by working hard, is apparently no longer a dream. The American dream, which is not necessarily related to Americans, is now not about working hard but about pulling the wool over others’ eyes, as exemplified by Trump. Not everyone can work hard: It’s a lot easier simply to cheat when necessary, just as the politicians do.

“I swear to you, Dad,” my daughter – who in the meantime has moved from vegetarianism to veganism – said as I listened to Trump on the radio, “If that idiot is elected president, we are leaving the United States.”

“That’s what people once said about Ariel Sharon,” I told her.


“Never mind,” I said as I dropped her off at the school marching band’s summer camp. “God bless America.”