H.L. Mencken in 1920 predicted that a Donald Trump would come along, declaring, “As democracy is perfected, the office of the president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
I’m not going to focus blame on any particular segment of our population for this embarrassment that is before us and the world. As Mencken understood, our politicians represent our collective character and we need to find the courage in this tragic moment to pause, scratch our head, and ask, “Hell, how did this happen?” Simultaneously, a second question merits exploration, “Just how is this collective “embarrassment” reflective of me?”
As the Trumpian madness began to unfold, I recognized how his appeal was familiar to me as it resonated with some deep imprint in my heart. But, having stumbled upon “critical thinking” at some point in my escape from linear-thinking decades ago, I noted the troubling resonances in my heart but immediately saw them for what they were—the continued presence of an infantile need for power and certainty. Furthermore, I saw how this same infantile need was relevant to the support Trump gained from the evangelical Christians as I recalled how faith in my early youth, and into early middle age, was primarily about comfort, about propping up and reassuring myself that my view of the world was right. This too is an infantile need as in the early stages of ego-development, the ego is very fragile phenomenon, described by one point as a ”tender point from which life arose, a sweet force born of inner throes.” This tenuous ego needs to adopt the precursor of what will be a fictional world view in order to find its existential footing. Mother nature has wired us so that our precious little soul can find that safe haven at that vulnerable developmental moment so in a couple of years we can begin the work of taking on identity.
But as Carl Jung has taught us, most of us spend our life in the spiritual immaturity of that developmental stage and see life as a whole, and certainly politics and religion, as self-serving enterprise. Of course, this “ruse” is not allowed into the conscious mind but it so apparent to those looking on. For the ego-driven consciousness allows nothing in that does not fit with its grasp of who it takes itself to be. Anything threatening is merely dismissed as some variant of “fake news.” Donald Trump is a god-send though nothing like the evangelicals purported him to be. Trump is an opportunity for our country to take a baby-step toward maturity, to embrace a painful awareness of our hidden ugliness, and look at just how self-serving we have been.
A caveat though is necessary. This is not to say that my country is any more beastly than other tribes. All tribes function the same way but I hope my tribe finds the courage to take on this spiritual task of growing up and laying aside our infantile view of the world. The Apostle Paul offered relevant wisdom, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” Never have I seen any adult display childish behavior any more than Donald Trump and the Republican Party. And to those of us looking on from outside their infantile bubble, it is often comical were not the outcome likely to be so tragic.
The Mencken quote was taken from this book review in the Las Angeles Review of Books. It is a fascinating read about our current collective psychosis. (https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/american-psychosis-trumpism-and-the-nightmare-of-history/)
ADDENDUM—This is one of three blogs that I now have up and running. Please check the other two out sometime. The three are: