Paul Theroux (Malawi) On Donald Trump


Why is Donald Trump popular? Travelling around America’s south for his most recent book Deep South, the writer Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963-65) got some ideas. “It’s the gun show guys,” he says, sitting in his Hawaii home. “Virtually everything Donald Trump says, you can find on a gun show bumper sticker. Anti-Obama stuff, anti-Muslim stuff, anti-Mexican stuff, anti-immigrant stuff.”

The 74-year-old warms to his theme. “Gun shows are about hating and distrusting the government … people who have been oppressed by a bad economy, by outsourcing. They have a lot of legitimate grievances and a lot of imagined grievances. There is this paranoid notion that Washington is trying to take their guns away, take their manhood away, take this symbol of independence away. They feel defeated. They hate the Republican party, too. They feel very isolated.”

Alexander Bisley writing in The Guardian interviewed Theroux about his new book.

Read the article at:


Theroux at home in Hawaii



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  • I do admire Mr. Theroux insights. But preaching to the choir doesn’t fundamentally change the choir members’ beliefs. It might make us more comfortable reading ideas that seem obvious to us might actually be reality and “Truth.”

    Today’s sophisticated digital communication media, social and otherwise, staggers history. And Trump understands the Media, if nothing else. And the Media informs and “educates” the populace. So the impressions, images, and media’s hunger for greenbacks is reality. So what determines Truth? Abstract philosophy, theoretical ideals, observable events, speculative thinking, or this daily dribble of polls that determine what the eyes see and ears hear? All of the above?

    I’m just asking Mr. Theroux how like-minded folks can get the “others” in society to pay attention and be open to changing an opinion or two. Or must we take on the characteristics of the opposition, dress up in our fiercest bully clothes, draw lines, and duel it out?

  • Tony,

    I read the article and Theroux does not offer any suggestions on how to change opinions. What I found fascinating is that he analyzes the South through his experiences traveling in the Third World. He holds those countries up as the filter in which to view the South. It is as if he is traveling in a foreign country and in this, I think he so resembles President Obama. What an unique way to demonstrate the Third Goal!

    Theroux does imagine a future in which the South will “rise again” economically as those countries who currently have taken the manufacturing jobs away from the South “implode” or “fail”. As a consequence, the South will be rebuilt.

    I blame the President and the Democratic Party for the rise of such fear and frustration, clothed in prejudice and anger. Obama is the President of the whole country and he has virtually ignored the South and has never, in my opinion, consistently addressed the whole country describing what he was doing and why. He has no “feedback mechanism”. He doesn’t appear to understand what the concerns of the whole population are, only those of the groups who supported him. I think the first example was the so-called “Beer summit” when the President attempted to intervene in a matter between the Police in Boston and Professor Gates, an African American Harvard faculty member. He evidently did not and does not know how that enraged the police community and was a factor in the lost of the Democratic Senate seat from Massachusetts and with it his veto-prove Senate. I believe the President is a brilliant man and his growing up in Indonesia and Hawaii did not prepare him for understanding the Southern or MidWestern culture or other subcultures in the United States. But, he did not attempt to learn.

    The Democratic Party was content to depend on consultants and statisticians for election strategies. The Party did not support the President by working in the states to keep the House of Representatives or the Senate. The Republicans from the very beginning had a strategy to destroy the Obama Presidency and the Democrats did not have one to combat this effort. The Republicans now control both the House and the Senate and 30 state legislatures. The Democrats, too, in my opinion, have no “feedback loop.” I think that Bernie Sanders is so successful precisely because he is totally independent of the Democratic Party structure and is free to listen to people, not consultants.

    To bring this back to the Peace Corps, or at least Peace Corps Washington. Peace Corps Washington also depends on data and consultants and tightly filters any information about Peace Corps activities. If there is a “feedback loop”, it is hidden from the public. And if the general public wanted to know what has the Peace Corps done through the 55 years, how would it know where to look? The average citizen would have to wait until maybe an RPCV would address their organization or their child attended one of the handful of schools in the World Wise program, or they stumbled on a book. Such programs and books are not publicized on the Peace Corps website. There is no list of Peace Corps books or RPCV appearances.
    It is as if Peace Corps were a secret society and you have to know someone or the secret password to really learn about it.

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