The Basket is Uncomfortable

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. | Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo
Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

How is it possible that someone so completely lacking in the ability (or desire) to care about anyone other than himself continues to have the support of, well, anyone at all?  What does it say about the core values of everyone who still supports Trump and his minions, as we watch him further incite his base with his racist rhetoric? 

Hillary wasn’t wrong when she referred to most of the Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables”, although I’m sad for what it says about the state of the country.  I’m sure that many of them would insist that they “don’t have a racist bone in their body”, reminding everyone about that black guy from work they have lunch with sometimes or the African American couple they see at church every week.  I would have insisted the same about myself, even though inside I knew it wasn’t really true.  I just hoped I was able to offset the racism I was indoctrinated into – via the environments at home, school, play, and especially, I believe, on television – and treat everyone as an individual.

Any president would have been overwhelmed by so many crisis at once, but no other previous occupant of The White House has worked so hard to eliminate the many experts throughout the entire federal government as Trump has over just 3 ½ years.  Add to this Trump’s unique and utter lack of relevant qualifications for any of the tasks a modern president of the United States is expected to be able to perform convincingly and without hesitation and here we are – with the president making every one of the current crisis we are living through worse with every Tweet and asinine pronouncement. 

It is Trump’s utter lack of empathy that undergirds every awful decision, statement and executive order throughout this Orwellian presidency.  I’ve read the DSM-5 Criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder, and I am NOT a psychiatrist or medical doctor, nor have I personally examined or interviewed Trump, but I am confident simply by observing Trump unscripted on hours of interviews that we are looking at the ‘real’ Donald Trump.  There can be little doubt that Trump has something very wrong inside his brain, not the least of which is an obvious personality disorder. 

And he now appears to believe that he his king of America.

In order to give himself a ‘photo-op’, Trump had the federal police attack peaceful protestors with flash-bang shells, tear gas and rubber bullets.  This unprovoked assault could be heard live while Trump was addressing the nation from the Rose Garden and lying about being “an ally of all peaceful protestors”.   After the peaceful protestors were forced away by these attacks, Trump stomped up to the front of St. John’s Episcopal Church (where he has darkened the door exactly one time) and held up an inverted bible (because he’s oblivious, not as a ‘sign’), because he’s only ever concerned for how his base of evangelical Christians see him.  As an atheist, I find his use of a bible as a prop ironic; he has no clue what is inside (remember “Two Corinthians”?) but still the religious right condone his performance in the presidency as doing ‘god’s work”?

Trump actually used military force against peaceful protestors in order to appease his own ego?  How can this be acceptable to anyone?  Why aren’t Republicans stepping up and doing something to stop Trump before he goes totally authoritarian?  Trump doesn’t care what Democrats say about his behavior, although there have still been many who have publicly rebuked Trump’s behavior and his inability to do what an actual president would do at a time like this.

Trump, who has never publicly admitted to any mistake because of his erroneous assumption that such an admission makes him look ‘weak’, is incapable of acknowledging his own inherent and learned racism.  He wants us to believe that he has never been racist and therefore of course nothing he’s said or done has ever negatively affected those of color more than white folks, no matter the evidence we’ve seen and heard with our own eyes and ears (“What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening”).  Trump’s inability to recognize his own faults make him incapable of correcting those behaviors going forward; when he acts surprised after his most recent racist statement provokes outrage, I think at some level he’s sincerely confused by his total lack of insight.

Trump’s racism is so much a part of who he is that he is incapable of even contemplating anything that could result a change in his current outlook on everything and everyone outside of himself.  He seems to lack anything that resembles depth inside him or outside, in the relationships he has with those to whom he is either related, married, or holds sway over.  Most of those in the latter category have a very transactional relationship with him – Republicans keep supporting him because of “judges, tax cuts and regulations”, while others do so out of greed or fear.  All have one thing in common, though – they do so in order to benefit themselves first and foremost. 

All those whose support has allowed Trump to remain in power do so in order to maintain their own positions – in and out of government, the entertainment industry (largely responsible for Trump’s fraudulent image of success), mainstream and right-wing media, evangelical leaders and leaders of countries not considered our allies.  All must be, to the extent possible, removed from those positions and forced out of the limelight forever.  No more should they be allowed to have their prior behavior whitewashed or be given positions on CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post, New York Times, etc., from which they can pretend their history never happened.  There can be no chance to absolve themselves of their responsibility for the rise of Trump to happen. 

The country is now at a moral tipping point, and it looks very much like those of us on the side of what is right are stronger, louder and more engaged in the fight.  Those who say that Biden is too old to change are wrong.  We in the boomer generation (by chance of birth, not by choice) are not universally incapable of looking back on what was and, with fresh eyes and an open mind, acknowledging the truth – without our consent or awareness, we were convinced to believe that dark-skinned men in particular were an inherent threat to our well-being.  This racist lie has been used to manipulate us all for generations in an us-versus-them mentality that even now is an open secret in many parts of the country.

I am sorry for being oblivious and accepting things as they were.  It was hard for me to admit that I have always benefited from white privilege, and it’s even more difficult to be honest and admit that I can’t be sure whether or not I was at least somewhat aware of it back in the 1970’s.  I can admit that I did things that I knew were against the law (like smoking weed) but yet never once did I consider being less bold about when or where I did so.  I’ve always had a lead foot, and am almost always driving at least 5 miles over the posted speed limit, but somehow that hasn’t caused me to be worried about being pulled over and ticketed.

I can remember being in the car with my Mom while she waited to make a left turn.  After she was waved ahead by a driver on the other side of the road, she remarked to me something about black drivers being so much more courteous.  “Black drivers almost always let you go,” she told me, without ever offering any explanation of why she had come to that conclusion.  It’s only in my more recent past that I’ve put two and two together – of course, black drivers are extremely courteous behind the wheel – they don’t want to do anything that might attract the attention of the police because of their fear of a fatal encounter!  I have no idea if my Mom knew back in the 60’s why she was always yielded to on the road, and lost my chance to ask when she died in 2006. 

The Republicans have calculated their most likely path to remaining in power, and that path has intentionally played white grievance as its trump card (no pun intended).  The party was given the choice to go down a different path after the election of Barack Obama in 2008, but chose instead to double down on their platform of white-supremacy.  The party’s claim that racism was no longer a thing stood in stark contrast to the open and obvious racism Trump has made such a part of his political brand.

Trump’s twisted view of ‘strength’ involves ordering others with weapons to fight on his behalf.  Trump’s emotional vacuity is so complete he is psychologically incapable of even the slightest whiff of understanding, sympathy, empathy, compassion, or any other feeling that involves caring about someone else.  He is uniquely and completely unqualified for the role he has been called on to play, and the Republicans complete refusal to acknowledge and address this clear and present danger to our democracy is unforgivable. 

They will not change, because they refuse to put country over party.  Jim Mattis’ rebuke of Trump’s stunt in Lafayette Square is welcome, but why did he remain silent now?  His statement makes clear that he has always known who and what Trump is, yet he justified his continued silence for 3 ½ years.  Thanks, Jim – better late than never, I supposed.

Their lack of character allows them to continue to put party over country, particularly all those who continue to maintain their silence despite knowing personally how dangerous Trump is in the office of the presidency. All who continue to support the Republican Party must be made to admit that they know what that support means.

Vote them out.  Anything else is complicity.