Sunday, August 9, 2015

FORWARD, NOT BACK

Addition: January 2016:  Donald Trump recently said, if he shot someone in Times Square, his numbers would still go up. The implications: He believes he has total and ongoing immunity for his behavior/statements, and that most of his followers have the twisted mentality to sanction random murder to see him as president.  These are the makings of a dictator/tyrant:  ignoring such implications in blind devotion is prerequisite for tyrants to rise to and to stay in power.  Of course, it is uncertain whether he really would have such immunity and the current level of devotion in such a situation or that he would be a dictator.  He does, however, say whatever some people apparently  want to hear, which further confirms not only his arrogance to do or say whatever his ego blurts out without a thought to any consequences, but also exploitation of some of his followers worst tendencies. There is something amiss here with the will to be divisive and a refusal on the part of his supporters to see the danger of a Trump coming to power.  Some will say whatever he says is "just a joke," and not really a big deal. Maybe, but, at the very least, it says a great deal about his judgement--if anything more needed to be said!

Donald Trump, an arrogant, immature and egotistical celebrity, has been able to influence and attract many potential voters who must confuse bravado and the privilege of power and wealth with the capacities required for presidential leadership.  Pundits note that people like him for his honesty. They say he is “genuine," says what he means and means what he says. He doesn't care what anyone thinks, apparently another characteristic able to stir the masses. He is charismatic in an anti-hero kind of way, with an ability to articulate for his followers their deep-seated resentment toward the present administration and all others who are scapegoats for their discontent, which is all understandable, and maybe inevitable, for a certain American imagination--that of the attraction to the cult of personality.

And he has captured that imagination, at least at this early date, with his independence, self-reliance and the attainment of the American Dream, but not in the sense once described by Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose thoughtful definition of self-reliance had more to do with inner strength and character than appearance.  Appearance is what celebrity is all about. There are more than a few reasons to believe that a Trump presidency would perhaps be a point of no return for America. 

Currently there are many who believe his approach would be a successful one, (if they have thought that far ahead). Others question: Would he ever be willing or able to work with his own cabinet, let alone the Pentagon, congress, states and other nations with any amount of tact, diplomacy, effectiveness or respect over the long haul? The Donald (a moniker which may be an indication of...something!) doesn't come off as interested, or even able, to build consensus, cooperate or compromise (that being a liberal quality, or flaw, depending on what so-called "side of the isle" you sit on). It seems he'd rather build walls (and not just ones to keep immigrants out). So far, he has not significantly addressed specific issues, or laid out substantial, workable policies and strategies. Apparently, then, people are not enamored with, or seem to care about the content of his platform (if, in fact, he has one) and are more interested in his tweets defending himself at even the slightest criticism (thin-skinned is not a recommended trait for a president).

Donald has not only lowered the bar for national civility and decorum, he has done away with it altogether His "bluster-effect" and permanent facial expressions of disdain and anger have further revealed America's under-belly, with its juvenile, vindictive and snarky sarcasm--the norm on social media. He has insulted whole groups--Mexicans, as well as individuals--Senator McCain, Rosie O’Donnell, and, recently, Fox News's Megyn Kelly, with his off-the-wall, crude and vulgar remarks. Yet, his followers see him as eminently fit to represent America--to be our face to the world?  Are we to believe he is a “patriot,” (a neo-con catch word), and will be “phenomenal to women” (whatever that means), as he has recently proclaimed?  It seems there are those who stand in awe of his hutzpah, while others cringe at the hubris.


Observing the "bread and circus" of his candidacy calls to mind the aphorism: "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time," especially those who rely on critical thinking to make judgements. The opposite of critical thinking has raised Donald to popularity--emotionalism.  Logical fallacies abound in all political campaigns; in Trump's they reign supreme.   

His opinions may sound like facts. They may feel good to those who have the same ones in private, but have been discouraged from revealing them in public (because someone might call them on it, or be offended).  Now, however, offending people is entertainment, and serves as a cathartic for many.  Donald's delighted followers can say, along with Donald, “If you don't like it, too bad!" Demeaning and randomly diminishing anyone and everyone is what he does to the great approval of many.  

It has been said, and not only by conservatives, that political correctness is now taken to the extreme, as it seems to pander to "overly-sensitive" minorities, and prevents us from "telling it like it is," not to mention throwing a wet blanket on our sense of humor. The reason political correctness came about in first place was that “telling it like it is” (or like people think it is) is mostly rooted in stereotypical perceptions which do not take individuals' or group experience into consideration. Some people still think/believe that a particular group (religious, ethnic, racial, etc.) can be defined in a few words (good or bad). Is this another reason Donald has endeared himself to many? Keeping it simple, avoiding nuisances works better for the masses.  It seems so. The thing is, not only does he avoid political correctness, he blurts out whatever comes to mind at the moment about a person or a topic, which is not the same as "telling it like it is."  No, he describes the world according to Donald--but not the world most of us want to live in.   

We have heard his promise of "going back." I would like to suggest that we might at least want to go back to a time when a presidential candidate--say, Thomas Jefferson, would not have called Martha Washington (or any other person) a “fat pig,” or a president--say, Abraham Lincoln, would not have (for the fun of it) diminished the legacy of a captured Union or Confederate soldier. It's a given that there are many problems to be solved, issues to be worked on, legitimate challenges to the present administration's achievements and/or failures, and alternatives to be explored.  

Mostly what we've heard from Donald are shallow, adolescent  responses and off-handed remarks which play to his audience, like a side-show carnival act, portraying everything in the world as a "disaster, the he can fix single handedly.  We don't have to worry about the "details." He knows more than Isis, the generals, experienced civil servants, diplomats and certainly much more than you and I do. He will take care of everything--trust him! What other  president has ever done all that he has promised, even if he intended or tried to, but no other leader, except for tyrants have claimed to know everything and will take care of everything if we just trust them. Heads up, folks! 


Presidents do not have (should not have) the full power to do anything they wish, but can certainly change the conversation and direction of the dialogue nationally and internationally to our detriment.  In Trump's case, it seems to be going in the direction of an irreversible uncivil and dangerous divisiveness of the American people. Whereas someone like Bernie Sanders suggests unity of all Americans against the greatest threats to our democracy (which is alway fragile, despite what we think--read a little history). 


Some admire, cheer on and approve Donald’s lack of political correctness. They would like to "go back" to the days when everyone wasn't so "sensitive," a time when they could "call a spade a spade," which, by the way, was also a time when all manner of discrimination and racial, sexist and ethnic slurs were the norm which inevitably leads, on the part of some, to acts of violence. Certainly, those who abhor political correctness are not okay when lack of it targets them. With the tables turned, they are quick to protest that they were being "persecuted," (e.g. "angry, white males" or "evangelical bigots" and would attribute it to political motivation). 

At its core, political correctness is common sense and common decency, with emphasis on the "common" good. Although it has swung to the extreme in some cases, and deteriorated in some cases  to focus on "micro-agressions" (petty complaints). Essentially political correctness can be understood as consideration for others and respect for an individual's or group's situation and experience.  Isn't it also based on a certain decorum among civilized human beings, use of polite references, awareness and thoughtfulness of our words and deeds. These attributes are the tools for and the means to peaceful interactions across the board, the creation of good will, and can even reflect kindness and compassion, or in another catch word “values" (and even virtues). 


Donald’s tone, language, demeanor and intent can not be taken for other than mean-spiritedness by those who are his targets. His attacks are approved of and applauded by some who may see themselves as victims, some who undoubtedly get a great deal of their "news" from narrow main-stream media, (all other sources are seen as corrupt), ranting radio talk show hosts or publications whose vitriol creates divisiveness, resentment and conjures up conspiracies and takes extreme positions, ignoring facts in favor of fiction and false claims.  


 “Let's take our country back.”  Does that mean back to how wonderful it was when George W. Bush left office?  or back to the pre-civil rights era in the early 60’s, when the Confederate flag was first hung at the state house in North Carolina as a protest against those liberal, bleeding-heart “crazies” who dared to support the newly instated law of the land--civil and human rights. Yet their is the pretense that it stands for nobles oblige.  What "side" has ever lost a war gets to hang a their flag of protest (except in swastika graffiti)?


Some conservatives speak of a lack of values in America today (and it appears to be true if one takes media for reality), but is most often referenced in response to the granting of human/civil rights, as if only they understand and employ values rightly. Is respect, compassion and understanding among these values?  I don't see Donald's followers talking much about values. The truth is some individuals and factions (not limited to party or religious affiliations) are selective about values--about how they behave toward and speak about others not like themselves. Unfortunately, this behavior and language is also based on stereotyping, judgement and may include angry responses, unfair accusations, sarcasm, insults, threats and sometimes worse. These are apparently some of the "values" embraced by Donald Trump and his followers. 

If we could think of national/contexts as analogous to our smallest common contexts: that of our closest relationships and associations--people with whom we live and work--we might we get a different perspective. The approach that has been shown to be most effective and successful within these  contexts involves: 

  • acknowledgement and/or inclusion of all members
  • effective and civil communication
  • mutual respect and appreciation, as well as support and help

Isn't this the approach needed for getting along in everyday life with our spouses/children; in the workplace, in addressing any disagreement/conflict; for organizing events, and in many other situations?  

Getting along and surviving in our everyday relationships requires listening and compromising. One person imposing his or her will on all others, or blaming, shaming and name-calling does not work unless it is through power and control, and of fear of retribution. Getting things done requires an awareness of how our words, behavior and decisions may affect and the situation. A climate of mutual cooperation; concern and care for all members--kindness and generosity of spirit can go far. As members of a family (or any group association) we need recognition/acknowledgement of our abilities and contributions to support to strengthen whatever weakness exists and a plan to address difficulties that arise. We also need to look to ourselves when things are not working to see what part we play in the difficulty. 

Yes, this approach may be the ideal (not always the reality), but isn't that what we would want for ourselves, our children, families and friends? If we said to members of our family, bosses, civil and church leaders, as Republican leadership expressed first thing in Obama's administration:  that we will block and undermine at every turn their endeavors, will be uncompromising, will demonize (as in Trump's birther myth), and to bring under suspicion their every motive, thought, word, deed or action, then how would life be for us? 


Of course, there are instances when firm decisions and actions must be taken by a person in the group for the good of group, which may hurt, offend and/or cause resentment. However, these actions, hard choices and decisions have to be well thought out, dispassionate, for the right reasons, and certainly would not involve red-faced scowls, angry shouting, vulgarity, hurled insults, blame and defensiveness ala "The Donald." This approach results in more conflict, escalation and divisiveness--whether within a family, workplace or a nation. Critiques and complaints without suggestions for alternatives to problems are counter productive. If this approach does not work in our everyday lives and situations, how would it be effective in politics and global situations? 


While politics has always polarized people, used mud-slinging, rhetoric and negative strategies to win or win over, to divide and conquer, there is something a bit different in Trump's approach. There has, at least until recently, been a certain stature to the office of the presidency and a respect given to the process and to the ideal of democracy, despite party affiliation.  In a president, I had thought we have looked for a demeanor of thoughtfulness, not impulsivity; maturity, not adolescent whining and ranting; global awareness, not isolationism; cooperation and compromise, not unilateral actions; consideration of the many, rather than the few--or in his case, the one!  

Some think Donald will "take our country back." But what country are we taking back?  If we could go back to at least the civility toward and respect in public and private life; if we could go back to aspiring to behave, speak and carry ourselves in a more dignified manner; if we could go back to thinking of ourselves and our leaders as role models for the young. If we could go back to thoughtful debate and exchange of ideas and ideals. If we did not see people who don't agree with (or don't live as we do) as enemies and demons--treating others as we would want to be treated (Golden Rule and Biblical teaching) then, by all means, LET'S GO BACK! 
     
I would rather hear Donald, and every other presidential candidate say,  "Let’s take our country forward.” Let’s look to the future, not the past. Let's go forward with civility, aspiration, dignity, courage and a little touch of humility. Let’s go forward with those needed attributes we would ideally use within our own families, in our work places and in our places of worship. Let’s go forward toward realizing the potential envisioned by our founding fathers (and believe) that we are all created equal, with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

1 comment:

  1. Sandra
    I think that this would make a great op-ed piece for the Gloucester DT. It would probably have to be edited for length, but I think it would be smashing! Stacey

    ReplyDelete