How I Stopped Hating Donald Trump
There are reasons enough to hate him; yet another recitation of his flaws, transgressions and inhumanity is pointless. Especially since every day reveals a fresh horror. But now, even as he reels from the body blow that is the coronavirus crisis, to those of us who think that will be his Waterloo, I say this: He’s at his best when his back’s against the wall.
This Politico article details how, time and again, he’s turned almost certain defeat into victory. The victories, of course were short lived; every one of his investors, partners and customers were left in the lurch, but by the time they’d realized, Donald himself was long gone. He’d already moved to the next scam.
There’s no doubt he will bankrupt America like he did every single one of his businesses, if not fiscally (though we’re close), then morally. He will forever be tagged as the ultimate cause behind thousands of American deaths from the virus. Who will end up holding the bag for the carnage? Republicans? The MAGA crowd? The rest of us? Who wouldn’t he throw under the bus? Will those invested in him, stick with him, as they did in the past even as he was taking them to the cleaners?
The clue to Donald lies in the only one of his ventures that made it: The Apprentice. Trump wasn’t running the business, but he was the show. The Apprentice taught him a lesson he never forgot: The show’s always the thing. It suited him. He was always a blustering, two-bit flimflammer. The Apprentice helped him morph into the greatest con man the world’s ever known. All demagogues are con men, I know, but he’s in a class by himself. As you watch him stumble through a prepared speech, with occasional ad libs, it’s obvious he’s semi-literate, not very bright, and shockingly ignorant. Who would’ve thought such clownish rambling would work so well as to cast a spell on half of America?
What, then, is Trump’s superpower? On the surface, it’s sheer effrontery, compounded by a breathtaking lack of shame and cruelty. But, underneath, buttressing it all, is a preternatural survival instinct like no one’s ever seen. It’s raised him out of obscurity in Queens to the White House — an arc that’s a living testament to the power of Chutzpah.
There’s an abnormal pathology at work here, of course. At times I think he’s a Zen master, for his ability to live in the moment. To truly live in the moment, is to shed the inhibitions imposed by the past and be indifferent to foreboding. A lie cannot be a lie if the past does not exist. And, if one fears no retribution to come, well, then anything goes — including shooting someone on Fifth Avenue. To live in the moment is a state that Zen masters and yogis aspire to. Their path is through practice; Trump’s is the malevolent gift of a neurological quirk. But it’s the key to his survival. Donald will say anything and do anything because only this moment matters. Survival, he knows, is a moment to moment thing.
At other times I think he’s a Zombie, as in the philosophical construct — a creature indistinguishable from a normal human being but lacking in conscious human experience. Such a creature poked with a sharp object would not inwardly feel any pain, yet outwardly it would behave exactly as if it did. Donald certainly reacts — and tweets — as if he feels the sting of criticism. But what do we really know? His reactions are almost too predictable and machine-like. Could a real human being maintain this level of combative frenzy? More importantly, could a real human being be this amoral?
If you stepped back, you’d think this was just a sick joke, that this couldn’t be happening. Don’t laugh at it; it isn’t a joke and it is happening. But, here’s the key: don’t fear it either, simply marvel at it. So step back and watch him as he plies his craft. He’s no Mensa candidate, but he’s a master of survival, in a most feral sort of way.
To watch him dispassionately, you have to change your perspective — you have to go inside of yourself. When you do, you change the way you look out at the world.
Hate, I now see from that perspective, is a combination of fear and powerlessness. But who wouldn’t feel fear seeing images of his followers, their faces contorted with rage, baying for blood? Wouldn’t you, if you were a darker-skinned immigrant, feel their fetid breath on your back? As for powerlessness? Powerlessness, you will notice, prevails when you’re outraged. When you’ve lost control of yourself. Turns out, you’re powerless only when you aren’t attentive to yourself.
In “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” dozens of mental health professionals argued that Trump’s mental state was affecting the mental state of Americans. I believe that The Trump Effect triggers the “sympathetic” response — the fight or flight syndrome — of the human nervous system. But if there’s nowhere to run to and if fighting has proved to be futile (he blew off impeachment without breaking a sweat, remember?) a feeling of powerlessness is inevitable.
Attention to the self is power; it evokes the calming parasympathetic response. Attention leads to realization. Realize, then, that he’s a reflection of America; America sees itself in Trump. This is where we are. “It’s what it is,” said the Joe Pesci character in the movie, The Irishman.
Hating him will not defeat him. It will only defeat us. An ancient aphorism says that when two sides are evenly matched, the one that is sorrow stricken wins. Feel sorry for him then; feel sorry for America who fell for him; You’ve already won if you’ve seen through him.
So, don’t fritter away your power. Don’t jump in willy-nilly. Be still and wait for the moment to reveal itself.