Years ago when I was on a stage three times a week, I figured it was about time I learned something about public speaking. The speaking associations were helpful. Every one of the senior members had how-to-do-it tapes and videos they were eager to sell to the rest of us.

But one can learn only so much by working with audiences from the stage. And no matter how many times you watch a how-to-do-it tape, you can only go so far. I wanted to know how to keep audiences in the palm of my hand.

The acknowledged No. 1 speaker available on tape was a German dictator you’ve heard of who could bring an audience to tears or to their feet with just the sound of his voice. Knowing this, I read everything I could about him, hoping to pick up a few pointers.

As a result, I learned more about the man himself and fascism and the Nazi Party than I did about speaking. The whole business was an interesting study, and I marveled that by simply mastering the elementary psychology of crowd manipulation you could be the top man in a cult.

You have read that instead of swearing allegiance to their country, the indoctrinated Germans had to swear to be loyal to him.

In 2006 there came a day in my reading when I noticed that plank for plank, the political platform of Mussolini bore a striking resemblance to that of our very own Republican Party. Bad things happened to me when I was foolish enough to pass along this curious fact to a few close friends.

Now, less than 20 years later, no one seems to be alarmed, as it is accepted as a “so what?” fact.

Can you imagine what it must have been like to live in a land where, instead of swearing allegiance to their country, his closest advisers – and even every citizen on the street – had to swear to be loyal to their leader?

Which brings us fast forward to 2020, William Barr and the other obsequious members of the present administration.

History interests me more than science, math or novels about the best of times, the worst of times and people dropping dead in train stations from lack of love. I’m fascinated by the fact that ever since Mother Nature supplied us with the jawbone of an ass, a greed gene has motivated men to kill their neighbors and steal their sheep. I don’t know if there is a square inch of land anywhere in the inhabited world that isn’t soaked with blood from some long-forgotten battle. When you read history, you have to admit that greed is really what recorded history is all about.

Today, here and now, we have big-time history in the making right under our noses. Not a day passes but what the world is slathered with evidence of another of our president’s money-making machinations that would make Machiavelli lick his chops and smile.

As Vito Corleone said to the heads of the Five Families: “How did things ever get so far?”

Donald Trump first got me on the hook by being outrageous and unpredictable. When he became predictably outrageous, I found I couldn’t take my eyes off him. There is something captivating about watching a president of the United States on television, denying that he said something that you and the rest of the world heard him say on television the day before.

Can anyone help but wonder what the rest of this world thinks of you and me, not only for electing this man but also for continuing to support him?

Because of Donald Trump, for the past three years I haven’t been able to do much of anything but study this unfortunate man, born with a criminal mind and a slick tongue, who managed to do the unthinkable and con the American people into letting him become their economic and moral compass.

Think of all the productive things I could have been doing while I was reading book after book about Donald Trump and watching him insult people on television. Writing funny stories. Taking naps.

Like a partner in a failed marriage, I wonder if I’ve wasted too many years in a hopeless enterprise.

Or might I yet profit by my three years of assiduous study? Will there come a day when University of Southern Maine President Glenn Cummings will ask me to teach a course on “The Curious Life And Times of Donald Trump”?

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:

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