A Semantic Desublimation of Donald Trump’s Handshake

(To be read at full speed, with frequent sniffings and a thick Žižek accent).
There’s something quasi-paranoid about the fascination of contemporary commentators with Trump’s hands, handshakes, hand gestures, and so on. Donald-Trump-the-Candidate, comes supplemented with a label of “short-fingered vulgarian” and a complete set of jokes equating small hands and assumed sexual inadequacies. Thus media interpret every mannerism as a way to overcompensate this Lacanian “objet petit p”. For instance, Trump’s supposedly inextricable alpha-male-ish 19-second-long handshake, to which Japan’s Shinzo Abe succumbs, postulates the opposite of a “small object”:


Furthermore, the handshake is often tantamount to a feudal “immixtio manuum” as a sign of submission of the Other, like in the commendation ceremony of Supreme Court’s judge Neil Gorsuch:


But also, the hand can become a Deleuzian apparatus of capture, establishing a tie of protection and rent-seeking with a vassal state. This is what happened with the hand-holding routine performed with/upon UK’s Theresa May:


Media themselves build up the myth of Trump’s omnipotent handshake, because that allows for recurring “[random nation’s leader] is the only one who was able to beat Trump” news stories. Case in point: Canada’s Trudeau.


Despite the alleged uniqueness of the occurrence, this kind of news is the gift that keeps on giving. With infinite variations, like “[X won against Trump’s handshake] because bullying is no match for intelligence”, staging the comforting narrative of Reason triumphing over Brute Force–or rather the trite Nietzschean interplay of the Apollonian and Dionysian. France’s Macron is exemplary of this stance:


But, as we established, the story perpetuates itself, obsessively, repetitively, hauntingly. Another variation: “Who’s the biggest, baddest strongman? [X] is”. Ask Tajikistan’s president Emomalii Rahmon:


And, sometimes, this obsession can turn into desire—when the touch of the hand is actively requested, longed for and infinitely denied, like with Germany’s Merkel:


Or, like in a distorting mirror, desire can manifest itself as a thwarted compulsion, as a Sisyphean struggle that turns the handshake into a fetishistic quest for human and spiritual junction. Like Melania’s hand-swat…

..or like the spoof video of the Pope rebuffing Trump’s hand.


Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts repeat, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as family drama, the second time as sitcom.