Breaking Silence on Donald Trump
Since the election of Donald Trump, I’ve had nothing to
say in this space. What can I add to the noise that isn’t an echo?
Now, though, it seems that even an echo is of some value,
because as a country, as a democratic system however flawed, we’ve crossed a
line, and more people have to say it. Not that “getting back” is an option. You
can never go back, any more than you can stop going forward. But you can try to see where we are and where we might be going from there.
And some things become less opaque when you shut up,
keep your eyes open, and listen.
Having done so for the past four months and counting, I
see hysteria on all sides. Exaggeration draws conclusions that wheel out of
control, emotions flare which exaggerate the exaggerations, and very soon
alternative realities begin to clash in public spaces, eventually inviting an
excuse for riot police and perhaps martial law.
So I want to calm down from all that.
We know that America is divided—about 50-50 between conservative and
liberal, right and left. In our politics that settles in as Republican and
Democrat, red and blue. But to leave it at that doesn’t get to the essence of
the “great schism” in America, as trend-tracker Stephen Schwartz names the
split. Our political parties only reflect the divide imperfectly. They don’t
necessarily define it.
The real divide is between mercy and severity, qualities
of consciousness. Excessive mercy enables liberality and moral decay, which
triggers severity—a crack-down. Too much severity cries out for mercy—a
liberalization of the laws. These forces work like two poles of a constantly
But, speaking as an American, it’s a pendulum few
Americans understand is always operating beneath events. The die-hard
law-and-order types represent severity, a quality always with us, as are the
anarchists and libertines who thrive under the liberality of mercy. Getting the
balance right in a society and in a world of constant crisis—caused precisely
because we haven’t yet got the balance right—is the struggle I see in happening
in America, where the ideal of equality among citizens once
led the world but is now fallen like an eagle with a broken wing.
Basically, we Americans can’t agree about who to punish and
who to reward. But it seems many of us agree that the curse of poverty is the
fault of the poor, which of course implies its opposite, that the rich deserve
their bounty. This is old-time Puritan Calvinism. Did you think it went out
with the Salem witch trials?
Donald Trump is no angel. Morally, he’s black as coal, by
his own public admissions. But he’s rich. And if he’s rich he must be
successful. It seems the average American is easily seduced by people who
appear successful because they’re rich. Obviously a great many American voters
overlooked Trump’s outrageous lies and unbecoming behavior because he
represented something they admire more than squeaky clean. They admire ostentatious,
untraceable, bottomless wealth. If we had all the money in the world, wouldn’t
we be happy! That’s the shadow side of American free enterprise, which we’ve
now entered, like an eclipse of our dream, to be realized in full with the
election of the present government.
Having been seduced by the siren song of a proudly “successful
businessman” whose opulence we envy, Americans are now learning what it means
to change the concept of the U.S. chief executive from President—the one who
presides over the government—to CEO—corporate executive officer, the one who
runs the government.
As has been noted by others, a corporate executive is a
dictator. He may be merciful or he may be severe, but he’s the one who says
what’s what. That’s the structure of corporate life, which runs from the top
down. It’s at odds with the U.S. government structure, which is a (limited)
democracy. The balance of power crafted into our Constitution requires a
political process to enable a President. A President is not free to do as he
pleases, and legislators, unlike corporate minions, are not free to betray the
interests of their constituents. If they break the bargain, they lose their
jobs, in a perfect world.
But the new men in Washington, backed by enough voters to put them there, don’t
care about the old values of democracy. They are businessmen, corporate
creatures, and they are not going to save us, they are going to try to mold us
into corporate citizens who do what we’re told or we’re out in the cold.
A National Identity Crisis
This is a national identity crisis. What America really stands for is in the balance. Are we for
profit (severity) or non-profit (mercy)? Do we believe more in human rights
(mercy) or states’ rights (severity)? Do we offer the impoverished a hand up
(mercy) or a kick in the face (severity)? How you feel about distributing
wealth? Should we lead by example or by force? Where is the balance between
mercy and severity which will satisfy a voting majority of Americans in fair,
With Trump & Co., we’re at a point where Americans
will either capitulate to our new corporate state and the changes it will bring
to our national mission and way of life, or we will turn back the forces of
corporate rule by electing politicians with better ideas of social organization
than bottom-line, top-down despotism with the protection of wealth its highest
The outcome is truly unpredictable. It all depends on how
far we’ve gone down the road to oligarchy. In that dictatorial rule by a
coterie of the very rich who run society as a for-profit business, people can
be hired or fired at will with no recourse to a court of appeals to reverse the
executive decision. No unemployment benefits, either.
In the next year or two, I read in persuasive sources,
our CEO will likely be fired himself on a variety of charges, and then the real
corporate enablers, already in place, will take over. President Pence will be no
friend to democracy, but if we decide to go forward as a corporate state he’ll
be the perfect front man and do everything he’s told. He’s proven his
willingness to serve a boss without question, an uncanny ability to spin straw
into gold for the benefit of the privileged.
My hope, of course, is that a majority of Americans won’t
stand for it—stripping the poor of all assistance, letting corporations operate
practically tax-free, charging the elderly extra for healthcare while cutting their Social Security benefits, criss-crossing the country with leaking oil pipe lines and earth-quaking fracking. Are they going to cut aid to war widows and orphan, too? Just wait, Paul Ryan's got the plan.
A word about Ryan, a college sophomore mentality blinded
by his attachment to “conservative principles,” which seem to involve loyalty
above all to a balanced federal budget. I’m not one to argue about economics,
having dropped the course like a hot potato in college, but my understanding is
that the United States is still the richest country on Earth, and if “conservative
principles” were as important to Ryan as he says, there should be no problem with saving money with healthcare for all or demanding the Department of
Defense cut its enormous waste, as everyone knows exists in the military.
It seems it would also be cheaper to preserve our natural
resources rather than squander them on short-term, profit-generating projects
that create wealth for a few in the present and misery for the many in the long
run. I’m so tempted to scream into the wind, “What the fuck is wrong with us?”
But I will exercise Buddha-like restraint and only say, I’m
quite sure we’ll come together one day, when enough of us agree we’ve had
enough. I only hope I live to see that day.