North Carolina author Mardy Grothe is known for his books of quotes — words and phrases from history that offer new perspectives on approaching the intricacies of life.
His newest quote collection is geared toward critics of President Donald Trump, those who might object to Trump’s skewing of facts and constant Twitter attacks. “Deconstructing Trump: The Trump Phenomenon Through the Lens of Quotation History” was released Sept. 23 by Quoterie Press.
Grothe, a retired psychologist, collected a thousand “points-of-light” as a self-help project because he said he had trouble adjusting to the Trump presidency.
“If it will help others see Trump more clearly, I will be pleased,” he says.
While none of these quotes are directed toward Trump, they are witty sayings by world leaders, authors and philosophers that offer thoughtful reflection on Trump, Grothe said.
He is the author of eight books, including “Never Let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You: Chiasmus and a World of Quotations That Mean What They Say and Say What They Mean” and “Viva la Repartee: Clever Comebacks & Witty Retorts From History’s Great Wits & Wordsmiths.”
In a combination of telephone interviews from his Southern Pines home and email exchanges, Grothe answers some of our questions about his new book.
Q: What was your first thought after you realized Trump was our new president?
A: After an initial reaction of stunned disbelief, my first thought was that the country I love was soon to be led by a vain, superficial and self-absorbed blowhard. The very next day, still in a state of shock, I got a much-needed dose of darkly comic relief when a friend sent me a 1920 observation from H. L. Mencken: “On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
Q: What’s the most outrageous thing Trump has done in your opinion?
A: Donald Trump’s outrageous behavior has demeaned and debased the presidency in countless ways, but the most troubling is captured in Franklin Roosevelt’s observation that the U.S. presidency “is pre-eminently a place of moral leadership.”
Q: What do you think Trump supporters tell themselves about his behavior?
A: Each of his core constituencies tells themselves different things, but all of their answers involve a psychological mechanism called rationalization.… It occurs when people concoct an acceptable rationale for something that they know, deep down, is unacceptable. At its essence, rationalization is replacing what is real and what is true with what people would prefer to believe.
Q: There seems to be no middle ground with Trump. How can one man provoke such polar opposite viewpoints?
A: Divisive and demagogic leaders are considered polarizing because they divide the world into opposing camps, and then pit one group against the other. In an us-versus-them world, the “Us” people feel protected by their champion and often develop a fervent, fanatical and even blind loyalty. The “Thems,” who are blamed, demonized, vilified and “othered” by the leader, quite naturally develop an equally intense hatred.
Q: Why are some people so fatigued by Trump?
A: Donald Trump is fatiguing because of the type of person he is (and, to be clear, similar types exist in every family, neighborhood and organization). They are self-absorbed people who, almost desperately, need to be the center of attention. They love to talk about themselves, and rarely listen or show signs of genuine interest in others.
They overcompensate for their own personal insecurities by puffing themselves up while putting others down. They also tend to be highly opinionated, often pontificating about matters they know little about… it is almost always a fatiguing experience for everyone else, and there is often a palpable feeling of relief when those who’ve been hogging the spotlight finally depart.
People like this remind me of Shakespeare’s line that some people “Are often welcomest when they are gone.”
Mardy Grothe will discuss “Deconstructing Trump: The Trump Phenomenon Through the Lens of Quotation History,” at 7 p.m. Sept. 30, at Quail Ridge Books & Music, 4209-100 Lassiter Mill Road, located in North Hills Shopping Center in Raleigh and at 2 p.m. Oct. 12, at McIntyre’s Books, 220 Market St., in Fearrington Village in Pittsboro.