Trump is increasingly beset by reports from within and without the White House thats he is mentally unstable. But, given my history in clinical practice, let me tell you how he is coping and that all of us cope in some fashion—simple denial. Trump has at his disposal to anything critical the instantaneous response, “Fake news” and it always prevents any internal collapse because it really believes this. Anything that he is exposed to that offends his self-perception he merely dismisses as being invalid and “fake news” is just his stock response. He could merely rely on, “Ain’t so,” or, “I’m not, but you are,” or, “The Lord gives me reassurance when my enemies buffet me.” It would be nice, and safer for the country, if he knew that he was lying but beneath the surface of his denial he has still another level of denial, that being also, “It’s not so!” And beneath that is still another layer in which it is, “Not so,” on and on, ad infinitum. Furthermore, he has encircled himself with minions who have been sucked into the black hole of his heart and they offer him reassurance daily and even help popularize the phrase, “Fake news.” Witness Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Trump’s problem is not some garden-variety neurosis with which we are all plagued. It stings us all when our self-percept is criticized but we respond with embarrassment, and sometime humiliation, and own up to our character flaw. But Trump cannot handle the sting of embarrassment and humiliation, which is why he so famously could not issue a perfunctory, “yes,” last fall when asked if he had ever asked God for forgiveness. Someone with that much repressed anguish and rage cannot offer even a bromide version of, “I’m simple sinner saved by the Grace of God.” And his minions offer us a generous sample of other “god-forsaken” souls who are in the same boat, some of them, “devout” Christians! The only way to deal with this abysmal internal ugliness is to lash out at others, even to the point…in this case…of fomenting a war.
So Trump and Bannon’s “lover’s quarrels” have finally reached critical mass and “melt-down” is on our table. I can’t help but think of all the cast-of-characters in this Trump Show would make a good reality show on TV. For example, Trump, Bannon, Scaramucci, Roy Moore, Michael Flynn, and Jarred Kushner…I’d like to lock’em in a room for a few weeks and afford them with all the comforts needed to live comfortably. I would have the TV camera running at all time and then just watch the melt-down begin, escalate, and then come to the point of violence. Oh the dialogue I can imagine taking place! I would wait until just before there was blood-shed, then I would lower a large screen into the room and suddenly an image of Barack Obama would be on display. Well, it would not take too many episodes before this motley crew were united in fury at this black man, having found an object for the self-loathing that has been driving them all. Makes me think of T. S. Eliot’s wisdom, “United by the strife which divided them.” The image of Obama would readily provide a focal point for this internal rage and peace would begin to filter into the room. Obama is just one suggestion for this role. There are so many would could fulfill the need for a “them” in this group dynamic. Anything is better than owning their own intensely denied subjective anguish.
Mike Huckabee, and his daughter Sarah Sanders, are doing their part in continuing to “wage the war on Christmas,” an ironic war that many Christians participate in throughout the year. This is because they fail to exercise the Shakespearean “pauser reason” and subject their passionately held convictions to any scrutiny. For example, just yesterday Huckabee, the former governor of my home state, Arkansas, compared Trump to Winston Churchill. The absurdity of this comparison is apparent to all, “all” referring to those who have not imbibed the Trumpian kool-aid.
There is no doubt that Huckabee and his daughter are sincere Christians and very good people. But they mistakenly think that the notion, “God is leading me,” is not subject to human error. They would never consider the wisdom of the bumper sticker, “Don’t believe everything you think,” because they are firmly ensconced in their thinking thus incapable of utilizing that Divine gift of the neo-cortex— critical thinking. Adam Gopnik notes in his recent book, “Angels and Ages: A Short Book about Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Life,” the importance of “the mental discipline of contradicting one’s own idea.” Having this ability to be self-critical, especially in the dangerous realm of spirituality and politics, brings that aforementioned “pauser reason” to the table, a gift which can’t be ours without the corresponding gift of being able to handle contradictory notions in our mind at one and the same time.
Christmas came a few days early for the Republican Party this week when they passed the tax bill, giving themselves something to crow about while the Democrats have something to whine about. And I think there is plenty to legitimately “whine about” with this legislation but I want to focus on a dimension of the issue that I don’t think is often recognized—I WANTED MY SIDE TO WIN!!! There was a sense in which this political issue was a simple pony race at the county fair and I wanted my pony to win and, suffering the ignominy of defeat, I’m disappointed and pissed! This seems very childish…because it is very childish and because I, like all of us, am very human. We can’t escape being human so we bring this “human-ness” to all matters even though we prefer to disregard childish immature motives like a simple desire to win.
However, I find nothing “wrong” with this human quality of mine. It is fun to win and not fun to lose. But, there are certainly other matters on the table in matters of this magnitude in which winning and losing are less important than what is in the best interest of the whole country. If I am not mature enough to have the honesty to recognize this childish need to win at all cost then I am apt to be driven to win at all costs, regardless of the consequences. Therefore, I am not of the, “I hope it fails” mind set which prevailed with many during the Obama administration. I am skeptical, but I hope it does succeed in creating jobs for the American people and strengthening the economy, though the economy appears to be doing quite well right now. I don’t like that the main impact of the bill appears to be the fattening of the purse of the wealthiest One Percent of our population but I’m not going to allow that egregious, shameless larceny to keep me from hoping there is good that comes from the legislation.
The main thing I am concerned with is the need of Congress to put on its “big boy/big girl pants” and stop focusing mainly on their side winning, on making decisions on the basis of assuring re-electibility, but on the basis of what is needed for the country. Merely having the winning pony at the county fair is so grade school.
Sarah Palin and Donald Trump have this in common—neither were qualified for the high office for which they were nominated and those who allowed it to happen put them in a spot where they could not help but humiliate themselves. Each of them are a reflection of the Republican soul and were put in a position in which they were…are…head over their heels.
But Palin is now in a tough spot. Her family is proving to be very “human” like is the case with most of us and, given her sanctimonious and judgmental stance in public life, she and her family is being ridiculed at a moment of immense pain. The Twitter and Facebook response to her son’s recent “problems” is brutal and, I myself have to
admit that my “tee-hee’ machinery kicked into gear for a moment.
Palin is just a “bloke” like the rest of us, even Trump, and Obama, and Putin and the whole lot of us. I hope the public will “simmer down” with their opprobrium and given the Palin clan a chance to deal with their “elephant in the closet,” whatever it might prove to be. All families are dysfunctional though many succeed in glossing over their ugliness with the shiny veneer of “respectability.” But, the Palin’s family, like many of ours has not been so fortunate and circumstances have again rubbed their nose in “it.” Wow, how mean can we be though! But as Shakespeare noted, “Give every man his just desert and who shall escape a whippin'”.
Power is intrinsic to our human-ness though it is so subtle that we often don’t see it. For example, a psychiatrist I once worked with in a hospital noted about one of his patients, “She is as much determined to be mentally ill as most of us are determined to be mentally healthy.” And in the political arena claiming to be “right” and the other side “wrong” is an exercise of power as Plato noted in The Republic, saying, “‘Just’” or ‘right’ means nothing but what is in the interest of the stronger party.” Power is inherent in our very “being” in the world; it is an “existential” quality and awareness of its presence in our perspective on our self and our world is an important step in emotional/spiritual maturity. A philosopher once noted, “We can’t have a perspective on our perspective without somehow escaping it,” and the “escape” is the beginning of meta-cognition. (I think this philosopher was Ricoeur)
Interpretation is a basic dimension of power and is not as passive as we assume it is. Biases, preconceptions, and premises are the bedrock of any interpretation we make and, nevertheless, do not lesson our ability or responsibility to exercise it and make judgments in the daily course of our life. But, as Nietzsche noted, “All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.” This observation is so very relevant to the socio-cultural turmoil in my country at present moment. It is intoxicating to know that one is right and tolerating the notion, “Well, maybe I’m not quite as right as I think” is troubling to the naïve and innocent soul.
Saturday Night Live again crossed a line for me last night, this time with the hapless Trump Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. There is so much she makes available for lampoon–her personality style and shameless lying to name but two. But they really need to lay off her personal appearance. They jabbed at the young Chelsea Clinton back in the early 90’s also…before she was as pretty as she is now…and I found that appalling.
Humor is so important and liberals have a monopoly with it so they should use it judiciously. S.N.L. and other comedians are blessed with negative capability and can readily zero in on people’s foibles, even their own, and thus ridicule mercilessly. And I admire them for their self-deprecating wit. But with Mike’s little girl, they need to back off. I’d be pissed too.
But I’m curious why she is still there. She is a devout Conservative, Baptisty Christian, the daughter of a Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee so the internal machinations she must go through to justify the gross dishonesty she participates in boggles the mind. And the sad part is, I’m sure, it is some version of, “Well, the Lord is leading” which is the “bad faith” mantra that led so many of her faith persuasion to drink the Trump kool-aid in the first place. I have no doubt she is a good person but oh my how our soul can be darkened when we come into the orbit of a ravenous black hole. And we’ve all been there more times than we would like to admit.