The letter above was mailed to members of the Summer’s Best Two Weeks 2003 kitchen crew shortly after it was written on January 14, 2004. Why we sent eighteen teenagers a letter with a giant picture of Donald Trump on it probably needs some explanation in light of recent events.
We’ve told the story before of how we met. (Part One here; Part Four, the first time Donald Trump appeared on this blog, and an explanation of how Ben and a crew of teenage boys parlayed Trump money into winning the affections of Erin and high school girls, here. ) Donald Trump played some small part in that story. It all began when Ben’s grandmother, for unfathomable reasons, gave him Trump: The Game as a Christmas present. It is a terrible game. Poorly designed. Visually unappealing. Worse than a poor man’s Monopoly, because a poor man’s Monopoly would at least have some semblance of gameplay, purpose and enjoyment. It was, like many (if not all) things Trump, a vanity project.
Because Ben brought that board game with him to summer camp in July 2003 (he was moving out of his apartment and it ended up in the trunk), Trump: The Game informed the milieu of the Summer’s Best kitchen in unexpected ways. Trump Money became the currency of lovelines (notes passed between the sexes, scrawled on the back of the paper thin play money). Trump: The Game’s slogan — “It’s not whether you win or lose, but whether you win!” — infiltrated our language and evolved into amusing inside jokes (“It’s not whether you clean the dishes or not, but whether Tim does them instead,” etc.) Trump’s hair provided fodder for both jokes and deep philosophical ponderings.
It’s hard, now, not to revise that collective memory in light of Trump’s presidential run. When we found the letter pictured above (Trump looking slightly less orange), we had to laugh. (Trump marrying us?) But that laughter was also tinged with unease. How did a reality TV star full of braggadocio — one so comical and buffoonish as to amuse two lovestruck twentysomethings and countless teenagers thirteen summers ago — become the presumptive nominee of one of our two major political parties? When Trump disparages a man born in Indiana for his Mexican heritage and implies that his ethnicity disqualifies him from ruling fairly on the Trump University trial (Speaker Paul Ryan called the remarks a “textbook definition of a racist comment,” though he still supports him), or when his first response to the worst mass shooting in American history is to tweet “appreciate the congrats on being right about radical Islamic terrorism,” as though he is and must always be the warped prism through which all national or geopolitical events are refracted, who is the joke on? (Can we even call it a joke?)
In short, we prefer The Donald of 2003 over The Donald of 2016. He will remain, in our hearts, the man who played a bit role in our courtship; the man whose bluster and imperiousness supplied endless material for ironic teenage banter; the man, in short, who was a footnote worthy of laughter, and nothing more.
Rest in peace, The Donald of 2003.