• Daniel Ethan Finneran

Trudeau and Tartuffe

September 2019

Without exception, every enlightened man—especially one in whose veins French blood flows (always dark, as it is, as the grape of the Bordeaux vine from which he was plucked and, once squeezed and milked into its Bacchic bliss, equally as robust)—ought to be familiar with the story of Tartuffe. Definitely the greatest comedic and arguably the best theatrical figure ever to have been conceived, Tartuffe is, in a word, a hypocrite. Indeed, he’s an arrant one at that! Little else in the way of a description would be needed to sum him up if only that word were to be used.

Tartuffe is, however, a hypocrite of a very peculiar kind—thus the continued devotion of our attention on him three hundred years after his initial entrée into the air of France. Humanity, we humbly concede, has experienced many hypocrites, of whom most have escaped history’s grasp.

Yet Tartuffe evades us not. He’s the captive of history and the unwitting enjoyment of our dramatic soul. He’s too large to be lost, too despicable not to be loved. He is, as the luminous stage of Louis XIV and the author’s subtlety reveal, a hypocrite to whom we can ascribe timeless proportions and reflections of our own life. We all have a bit of the hypocrite in us, but he has something else. He’s a hypocrite of great hilarity, of this we’re sure, but he’s also a priest of specious religiosity, a man of bursting promiscuity, a model citizen of grave immodesty, but always a hypocrite before all else. Indeed, the play to which Tartuffe lends his now wholesome, now tarnished name, has a secondary and even a tertiary title, of which the former might be guessed. Aside from Tartuffe, the play brandishes as its names The Hypocrite and The Impostor. Each as deserved as the last, Tartuffe was every single one.

The story, written by the Jupiter of the French neo-classical theater, Moliere—a mononymous man, like so many of his other brilliant countrymen, of whom we take notice with the utterance of but a single improvised Gallic word—tells of a priest for whom the vow of chastity was just a bit too far out of reach. Continence, even for an ardent and learned cleric such as he, proved an intolerable demand for a soul wrapped in flesh and bone. Certainly, it was one inconsistent with his own personal creed, much more so with his all-too-human needs. Not to use that capricious generative organ with which the Creator had endowed him, so Moliere’s Tartuffe thought, seemed an affront to the intentions of God.

What, he asked in a moment of sexual repression and philosophic pique, was to be the upshot of all this? Was his virility—now so irrepressibly on his mind—to be considered a mere superfluity, an accidental endowment by a judicious, wise, and careful God? Should not have God withheld from him—an anointed vessel through whom His Greatness might communicate—these indecorous desires?

Tartuffe found himself trapped within a sanctimonious box from which he feverishly sought an escape. It was, for this, our tumescent Tartuffe, a man upon whom the yoke of faith weighed with especial mass, an entanglement too constrictive for his bursting loins.

Preferring to be not the driver of his life, but the passenger to his prurience (which held, so far as he was concerned, the wheel and the keys in hand), he let his passions direct the course. No longer the virtuous captain of his own ship—as publicly he was celebrated to be—Tartuffe cut loose the iron anchor and the stifling scruples that for so long had halted his amorous pursuits. Unmoored and uncaring, he hastened onward toward the precipice of his desire. There was no brake by which the profligate father might now be slowed. As such, he sought to indulge every diabolical carnal wish along the way.

One mustn’t forget, especially as our sympathies begin their slow and uncomfortable alignment with this charlatan by whom we can’t help but be entranced, that Tartuffe was a priest. He was a man of the cloth of whom a certain deportment was expected. He was not only a man of God, but a man between God and that fellow creature in whose likeness he was made. That which he sought to do, those whom he wished to debauch, were unacceptable adventures and vulnerable recipients of what should’ve been a long since quieted lust. Out of one side of his mouth, he preached with practiced eloquence the solemnity of his religious decorum. Shepherd as he was, his flock should follow the unsullied nature of his example. From the other, he spewed with ribald vehemence the enticements of his libidinous id. He does so in confidence, or so he thinks, but the audience by whom he’s watched attends to him with an unerring ear. In so doing, it finds itself doubled over and laughing at the intersection of these two things: his duplicitous religiosity and his forgivably lascivious pursuits.

Yet always, we must remember, he’s a man. As such, his was a position, though perhaps not an occupation, with which I find myself sympathizing in every conceivable way. Man, so long as he is male, is naturally disadvantaged by his inescapable vice. That, of course, is the vice of virility, and in a chaste and decent society—such as is ours, such as was that of the luminous roi soliel King Louis XIV—it’s a vice with an ancient precedence and a biological root, but one without a current place. And so, he must, at the very least, make attempts to repress the urge for which his wanton sex is so notoriously and uncharitably known. In the best of circumstances, he might even sublimate this drive in which his libido was steeped in accordance with the still faintly audible exhortations of the good Dr. Freud. His id, as well as mine—indeed as well as that same pulse by which we’re all possessed if our chromosomes begin with X, consist of two letters, and end with Y—must be suppressed. If not, it might surpass him, and—by extension—all of us.

With a readjustment of my aim, I notice here that I’ve drifted just a bit too far afield. That is, I think, the Moliere effect; in the midst of all his raillery and ribaldry, somewhere between his euphony and his farce, one forgets the direction in which he was treading and the place from which he comes. One loses his footing on this path of perfect humor along which columns of classical shade form. At the risk of lapsing once again into the abyss of the panegyric (out of whose gaping mouth I’ve hardly climbed), I must divulge my true intent. I thought of Moliere’s most famous and well-loved play, Tartuffe not because of the artistic feelings it inspires in me, nor for the vivacity of its creative wit, but for its relevance to the grandest hypocrite of the week of whom we’ve all been made aware.

A man in whose veins a slightly diluted varietal of French blood flows, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is the Tartuffe of the week. Yet one can only hope that time will be so clement to this Canadian head of state; probably, Trudeau will find himself uncomfortably distinguished as the Tartuffe not of the week (for hypocrisy has become, sadly, a run-of-the-mill hebdomadal event in the life of every public man), but of the year. Of all the recent revelations of hypocrisy to which we, the viewing and paying audience, has been exposed, Trudeau’s must be designated the supreme. At the Athenian or Parisian festivals by whose judgments immortals were decreed, his hypocritical comedy would capture the first prize.

Never has the western world seen in a leader so staunch and inviolable a commitment to progressive ideals. Acutely racially sensitive and, much to the jubilation of the Left, intersectionally “woke”, Trudeau has been on the vanguard of squashing prejudices and changing minds. He’s championed himself as this generation’s politician par excellence, the pulchritudinous statesman of a new and fearless breed. Nominally, though quietly of aristocratic lineage (his father, Pierre, was also the Prime Minister of Canada), Trudeau has presented himself as the empathetic leader in whom all can confide. Inclusivity (not always of opinion, though certainly of color) and political correctness are the fundamental pillars upon which his success has been built. Contrast, if you will and as we must, the two attributes of “inclusive” and “politically correct” to the president of America by whom we’re daily frustrated and entertained. Of course, President Trump enjoys neither of the above epithets (indeed, he relishes their incongruity with his good name). Trudeau, on the other hand, has savored and likely benefited from the antithetical lens through which he’s contrasted with President Trump. The former is amiable, tele-visually charming, seemingly gallant, measured, confident, and young. The latter, on even his best of days, is irascible, cinematically explosive, unpredictable, combative—if only for being always assaulted—frustratingly indiscreet, and yes, though his mystical energy belies the advancement of his age, quite old. The first is a novice when it comes to the roils of controversy, while the second is its hardened habitué.

But the waters of controversy (or, better still, in the case of Trudeau the torrents of controversy) in which the aimless Prime Minister has baptized himself are of a diluvial type. Having been submerged beneath a wave of anger and uproar out of which he won’t likely swim, Trudeau (and any of the future political goals to which he might’ve aspired) appear lifeless, out of reach of political rescue, and surely at his tenure’s early expiry. On at least three occasions in his past, and perhaps, with equivocation, on many more, Trudeau dressed in black or brown face for the repayment of a laugh. He donned an “Arabian”-themed garb at a costume party and blackface for more than a few performances on stage. The proof, the images, and—at least in the one instance—the video of him having done so surfaced in recent weeks.

The fallout has been severe and, frankly, deservedly so. This paragon of progressivism, this defender of liberal culture, this promulgator of politically-correct orthodoxy—for whom, one might add, no micro-aggression has ever appeared too small—committed perhaps the largest and most offensive of faux pas. Save the dressing up of a man in a KKK hood and gown (as did, by all available forensic deduction, the governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam), there is no greater offense. He appropriated not only another’s culture and ancestral proclivities, but the artifice of other people’s races—a most ineffaceable sin. These are races, of course, to whom very little respect was historically given. More than disrespectful and ineffaceable, though, it’s hypocritical to the extreme. So hypocritical is it, in fact, that our very own Tartuffe would be made to blush. His own two cheeks, typically unacquainted with so intense a coloring of red, would be completely overwhelmed. Rubicundity being an unfamiliarity to him, he’d be made to retreat from atop the hierarchy of the hypocrites. In his place steps the darling of the Left and the affront to all decency, Justin Trudeau.

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