It’s no wonder Trump ignores history. It gets in the way of his hubris. A recent example shows him grudgingly retreat from threatening Iran‘s cultural sites, its art, and architecture. When told he’d be violating international law, Hypoallergic quoted him telling reporters: “They kill our people, they blow up our people, and then we have to be very gentle with their cultural institutions.”
Reining in a reign of terror
Despite rescinding his threats, they abide in the ether, beyond the clouds. You can’t simply cancel a demolition like a lunch appointment.
Trump’s disdain for heritage comes through even as he obeyed regulations. Hyperallergic quotes him telling Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at a White House meeting: “According to various laws, we’re supposed to be very careful with their cultural heritage.” In other words, if there were no decree against bombing monuments, he would have bombed away.
Trump and the Taliban and razing monuments
So, when the Huffington Post used the word “reluctantly” to describe the president’s about-face, It wasn’t punditry, it was precise.
Trump seems unaware that if he had his way, the U.S. would be no better than the Taliban leveling Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Buddhas – the monumental statues carved into a cliff thousands of years ago.
Art and architecture don’t have expiration dates
This takes me to the point of this commentary. When centuries pass, everything passes – people, politics – everything except the monuments of the world, even those dating back to prehistory.
Art and architecture are the only parts of the world that transcend time – clearly something that has escaped Trump‘s short attention span.
Monuments outlive those who commission them
The Shah Ismael of Persia knew in 1514 that art would survive him when the Turks invaded his country. Art critic Charlotte Willard told his story in her 1964 book, “What is a Masterpiece?” She noted that before going to battle with the invaders, the Shah secreted away his favorite painter Bihzad.
He hid him in a cave to keep him safe. He did this because he knew that painters were prizes of war valued above jewels.
The moral of the Medici legacy
The popes of Rome competed with the kings of Europe for the service of painters and sculptors and architects artists. Both princes and the papacy knew that if their own deeds didn’t earn eternal fame, they would live on with their support of those who made art.
Follow your passions.
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This accounts for why the Medici name is as celebrated as Michelangelo’s. Even the Nazis knew this when they stole from the countries they conquered, following the same path taken by conquerors from the Romans to Napoleon.
Educate the uneducable is an exercise in futility
Those from long ago like the Shah knew what Trump doesn’t: that art and architecture can speak to people separated not only by continents but also by centuries.
Trump doesn’t know this history. He acts as if the world began with him.
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