Don the Weatherman
One of my favorite movies is Groundhog Day. You know the story. Phil the Weatherman, played by Bill Murray, is trapped in the nightmare of waking up every day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to celebrate over and over the annual festival of the groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil.
Phil the Weatherman is an obnoxious, self-centered, arrogant narcissist who thinks only of himself and is oblivious to the concerns and needs of others. In the course of the film, he undergoes an amazing transformation. He demonstrates the ability to change, to learn, to empathize, and to grow. The Pulitzer-prize winning movie critic, Roger Ebert, added the film to his list of great movies for the "genius" way in which it effortlessly engages us in the funny, powerful and even spiritual way it documents Phil the Weatherman's journey from an uncaring buffoon to a thoughtful and better person.
I wonder what the outcome of the film would be if Donald Trump were the weatherman instead of Phil. After all, Don the Weatherman is trapped in the nightmare of waking up every day as president of the United States. Would he be able to make the same journey of hope and redemption?
The film would start the same for Don the Weatherman as it did for Phil the Weatherman. First, there would be anger and recrimination at being trapped in living the same day over and over. Then there would be the willingness to enjoy the fact that no restraints apply, that no rules matter and that no punishments exist for doing anything one wishes to do--however reckless, cruel, callous and mean that might be.
In one telling scene in the diner near the start, Phil the Weatherman admits to Rita, the woman whom he will eventually come to care deeply about, that he is "a god." In faux humility, he qualifies this by saying he is not, "THE God, but a god." He is above mere mortals, untouchable, unaccountable for any of his actions. Phil the Weatherman's arrogance and irresponsibility stuns Rita. She then provides an ominous warning to Phil by quoting to him Sir Walter Scott's famous poem, Breathes There the Man, that includes the following: "The wretch, concentrated all in self...shall go down...unwept, unhonored and unsung." Scott is saying that narcissists are among the worst of humankind and will be remembered as such.
Phil the Weatherman heeds the warning and begins his transformation. He brings donuts to his cameraman. He recites poetry to the folks at the festival about the luster of winter. He buys insurance from Ned after punching him out. He rushes to catch the boy falling from the tree. He repairs the tire of the elderly women. He helps the man choking on his dinner. He learns--to ice sculpt, to play the piano, to care about others. In the process of loving others, he becomes worthy of love himself.
Would Don the Weatherman heed the warning as well? Not so much.
Don the Weatherman would berate the cameraman, demean the folks at the festival, damn the winter, continue to punch Ned, let the boy fall, not get his hands dirty changing a tire, and ignore the man choking. He would learn nothing new. He would seek to accumulate more of what he already has and doesn't need. He would believe that he has no need to change. His conduct is what it is.
There will come a day--hopefully as a result of the election in November that day will be next January--when Don the Weatherman will no longer wake up in the White House, and he will be forced to leave the Oval Office, never to return. When that day occurs, no one will shed a tear for him; no honors will be bestowed; no one will sing his praises, because he will have demonstrated none.
Phil the Weatherman overcame the dire prediction that he would be "unwept, unhonored, and unsung." Don the Weatherman succumbed to it.
What a sad and unnecessary epitaph.