Donald Trump and Moral Cowardice

I was meeting with a group of men recently. We were talking about current events. Someone brought up Donald Trump.

The guys were revolted by Trump, almost to a man. They turned up their noses. How could anyone believe he could be a politician, let alone a leader? Total disdain.

I proposed a thought experiment. “Let’s say we’re on a spaceship,” I said. “On it are all of us, plus Trump and Hillary. Now, we have to pilot this spaceship to Jupiter. How do we do it?”

“Sit back and watch the fireworks,” said one guy.

“Let’s go hang out in the rec room and let them hash it out,” said another.

“Two many big egos for one spaceship,” said a third.

Then, someone said: “Let them fight it out and kill each other,”

Let them fight it out and kill each other.

How many times before has that exact phrase been uttered by men?

About the poor?

About the rich versus the poor?

About the Bloods and the Crips?

About blacks and the whites?

About the Hutu and the Tutsi?

…About men and women?

Let them fight it out and kill each other? 

Act as if the maxims of your action were to become a universal law of nature, said Kant. Is that the kind of world we want?

Donald Trump is a genius. I don’t mean he has a very high IQ. I mean in the original sense of the Greek word genius. As a genie, a daemon; a spirit from another world that haunts us and brings us gifts.

What gift? He’s a mirror held up to our faces. He’s reflecting back to America the seeds we’ve sown for the past 250 years. We confront an embodied seam of self-hatred that has been buried in the American psyche for generations.

Trump is a golem we created. We lift him up as scapegoat and savior; he is the Other we point to as the source of our problems, just as he points to those other Others as the source of our problems. And he says:

Build a wall. 

Deport them.

Let them fight it out and kill each other.

As long as we’re locating the problems outside of ourselves, we lose. That includes nominating Donald Trump as the source of our problems.

He’s not the source of our problems; he is part of the solution. Understanding where he came from and choosing how we respond, without rejection, loathing, anger, or hatred — that is our salvation as a society.

To decide that Trump is the kind of person we should “put on an island somewhere”, is to stand for exactly what he (purportedly) stands for. It’s an act of moral cowardice. We can choose to be morally courageous instead. We can choose to realize that there is no Other.

We need to come to terms with this golem we’ve created. We need to understand how and especially why we created him. Otherwise we are going to be haunted by him, in more extreme forms, again and again. There will be no end to Trumps until we learn what trumps him.

The answer to Trump is not more hate. The answer to Trump is love.

I can’t know myself unless I know Trump; therefore, I choose to see Trump as God’s son, and my brother.

Now what is the maxim of that action?

flourish4


Also published on Medium.

22 Comments Donald Trump and Moral Cowardice

  1. Ed

    But surely at this point in time, there is, demonstrably, an “other” party involved? There are people who stand against protectionism and blame, and there are people who stand in support of it.
    Yes, in the majority of cases, those people are acting out of an original hurt, which may be healed by compassion in the fullness of time, but what to do until then? What if it takes years, decades – what if people become so accustomed to anger that they prefer to hold on to it, simply because it is such a simple state to be in? Because it gives them an easy purpose?
    There are many examples of entrenched feelings like this already, and as we’ve already seen, they cause a great nuisance to everyone in the world, partisan or not. Is love and patience really the only way to mend this?

    Reply
    1. Drew

      This article was originally written prior to the election.

      As of February 4th, 2017, his actions since taking office January 20 have shown us what kind of person he truly is. We must take all legal action to stop the tyranny that this man has brought into office. He has reduced America’s stature abroad and made us less safe at home with his hurtful Muslim ban. He has thoughtlessly threatened allies and trading partners alike. He and his henchmen (Bannon et all) have made the world LESS safe for democracy, freedom, equality, and justice. We must march, demonstrate, #resist and take all necessary action to restore our democracy, our rule of law, and our moral standing in the world.

      Reply
      1. Scott

        Drew,
        I’m new here – but given the mission of the website, I feel like some of your comments deserve some scrutiny.

        (1) The “Muslim Ban” – There isn’t a “muslim ban”. I suggest you read carefully what the executive order says. Its a process to carefully vet people from 7 countries who want to enter the USA. What’s wrong with that? People from those countries have demonstrated a desire to create pain and suffering in out country. How is carefully vetting them before the come here a “ban”?

        (2) Please cite some specific acts of tyranny. Can you compare the acts you cite to executive actions taken by previous presidents (Obama or others)?

        (3) You state that America’s stature abroad has been weakened. I’d point you to Trump’s actions toward one of our strongest and longest standing allies – Israel, and ask you to explain how that relationship has been harmed? President Obama basically abandoned Israel, and legitimized Palestinian terrorists.

        These are not intended to be inflammatory questions. I obviously view these things differently than you, but would be interested in learning the real facts behind some of these beliefs.

        Admittedly, Trump is naive as a politician…but don’t you think we have had enough of career politicians who are so often morally corrupt?

        Reply
        1. Drew

          The guy himself literally called this a BAN. But OK, he’s senile and a habitual liar. Let’s read the text.

          :I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas).:

          That is not vetting. That is banning them — for the next three months and, depending on whether the government keeps their countries blacklisted, for longer than that. Courts struck this down as inappropriate and unconstitutional no matter what you call it. But the whole deal makes it easier for terrorists — the REAL bad guys — to recruit new suicide bombers. Bad. Dangerous.

          US Border patrol asks Muhammad Ali’s son if he was a Muslim when he tried to enter the U.S. recently. Also bad.

          Muslim ban is bad. If we’re going to fight Islamic terrorism, a retreat is not the right way to do it. At least W advanced. Sadly he was more of a man than tRump will ever be…. how can Republicans vote for such an effeminate and easily manipulable asshole?

          2) How about kicking legitimate press out of a press conference? How about calling for “military operation” that would cost half-a-billion dollars to kick 11 million people out of the country? If that’s not tyrannous enough for you, I’m sure there will something else coming up shortly that is even more inhumane and insidious. If you don’t defend against the tyranny when it’s pointed against people who don’t look like you, I can guarantee you there will be no one around to defend you when the tyranny is pointed at you.

          3) The guy has already nearly started a trade war with China. Foreigner leaders won’t take meetings with him. He administration can’t keep a straight story on Brexit / UK or NATO. Allies are restricting the amount of intelligence they share with us because this “naive” politician can’t keep his yap shut.

          I would be ok with a naive politician if he wasn’t also suffering from dementia. Would have voted in Mark Cuban in an instant. Now there’s a winner. This current guy is senile and demented and that makes him dangerous to everyone, you included.

          Oh, and there’s the Russia thing, too — he’s either a flat asset or a stooge and you want to support that? Where’s your Patriotism?

          Did you know that Bannon — who is the real power behind the presidency — is on record saying he wants to destroy the U.S. government from the inside? How can any patriotic American support that?

          Are you American?

          Reply
  2. Eric L

    Well put and a brave post considering how polarizing politics can be. A guy like Trump can definitely test your faith in your connection to humankind. Trying to separate his personality from the person is a challenge for me. Intellectually I want to put him on an island and let him use his “best brain” to see if he can get off but I know or believe anyway that at the most basic level we are all cut from the same cloth and share the same life force. You can love the human being for his true nature and firmly disagree with and try to thwart his actions. I understand this but I don’t believe I am far enough along the path to get it just yet…

    “If every 8 year old is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world in one generation”. – Dalai Lama

    Reply
  3. James

    It’s very simple for me. No other candidate on the 2016 ballot speaks honestly about the problems within Islam. Trump’s comments lack nuance (I suggest reading up on the work done by the brilliant Maajid Nawaaz to fully understand the issue) but he comes the closest.

    Furthermore, America is a sovereign nation and must have the right to control who can and can’t enter their borders. This is something understood by nearly every single country in the world (try telling India, Israel, China, or Canada that they should allow unlimited amounts of unskilled aliens in and you will be laughed at) but in American it’s considered “racist”. A wall wouldn’t be perfect, but would be the start of regaining that control.

    As for Trump himself, consider this – every negative thing you have read about him comes from institutions that are bought and paid for by the Democrats. Yes, he does say some stupid things. Yes, he does have issues. But he is the best in a very poor field, and his willingness to destroy the PC culture we live in is the exact reason why I will be voting for him.

    Look at how his kids have turned out to be very well adjusted, despite growing up in a family with money (usually causes problems) + divorced parents (usually causes problems). I don’t need anyone to agree with me, I’m just here to offer my perspective.

    It doesn’t matter to me if Hillary wins or if it is in fact Trump as I will adjust and work hard regardless. But I know my decision – TRUMP 2016 TRUMP 2020

    Reply
    1. Drew

      Okay, I disagree with you. But that doesn’t mean you’re wrong. And you’re also still my brother. And, I unequivocally support your right to vote for whomever you damn well please, which should go without saying, but somehow in the current political atmosphere I feel it needs to be said.

      Do you really think one man can single-handedly destroy the multigenerational movement that is Political Correctness?

      Reply
      1. james

        I appreciate your response – while we may not see eye to eye, people like you are far more likely to convince me of any possible dangers of Trump than reductionist name calling. So thanks for that.

        My post was just to offer a perspective on what I, as a Trump supporter, believe (in contrast to the other posts here, in the spirit of good discussion).

        To answer your question regarding political correctness – of course not. We, in western society especially, are obsessed with the concept of idol worship where we tend to put people on pedestals instead of simply appreciating and learning from them.

        While he can’t single handedly save us from PC culture, his election will deal a massive blow to the media and the regressive left. It will also embolden people to speak up and be more honest about topics that are dangerous to talk about now (there are hundreds of examples of people who have lost their jobs or have been forced to issue apologies for taking controversial yet nuanced/fair points about difficult issues).

        Reply
        1. Drew

          I take your post in that spirit, and I appreciate your contribution to the discussion.

          Here’s something to think about re: the regressive leftist media. Trump is the original Reality TV Show Star (“You’re fired!”) Right?

          The media LOVES him. He makes ratings. He makes them money. Have you seen the 24×7 news cycle media feeding frenzy on him? He’s the best thing to ever happen to an election season! He IS TV!

          I don’t think Trump will destroy the media or deal any blows to it, left-leaning or right-leaning. I think he IS making media companies lots and lots of money.

          And that’s really what this comes down to: money. Whether left or right, both parties are controlled by money. Could we agree on that?

          And if we can agree on that, then can we also agree that money isn’t the thing that should be running our (so-called) democracy? I mean, why does it take over a Billion dollars to run for President, anyway? Why should someone have to be mendacious and a power-fund-raiser like the Clintons to even have a shot?

          Reply
          1. James

            I agree on your point regarding the media – he is great for ratings and they love that about him.

            But they are also going out of their way to attack him and make it difficult for him to win. And to get Clinton elected. Eg he regularly pulls in crowds of over 10k whereas Clinton can barely get a 300 (but they won’t report this and will crop pictures of her rallies). Think about the DNC leaks, which exposed the media as being lapdogs for the Dems.

            They may use him for ratings, but they are terrified of him. Look at how he feuded with Megyn Kelly. You think it was a coincidence that she cut her long hair after Trump called her a bimbo?

            I also agree with your point regarding money in politics. It is sad, but an unfortunate reality that you need money to run a campaign. People aren’t going to work for free. That’s why I liked what Bernie did when he crowdfunded his campaign.

            But look at how little Trump has spent compared to his rivals in the primary http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/us/elections/election-2016-campaign-money-race.html?_r=0. He and Bernie have shown that it is possible to run a campaign without whoring yourself out to big corporate donors.

            And consider this: Wall Street *hates* Donald Trump. They can’t buy him out. These are all good signs for me.

  4. wouter

    It makes complete sense and you “zenned” me out of a lot of fear. In South Africa where I live we have Zuma. I will attempt to change my point of view accordingly. It was a great change of view but I don’t know if I’m ready to apply it yet. But I will attempt changing my view of things.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Drew

      Little by little, bit by bit, we change our minds, the most powerful device given to us for creating change. Thank you for taking the time to let me know this piece had its intended effect.

      Reply
  5. Michael Adams

    Thank you for the excellent piece, Drew. What I take away from it is less about loving Trump than it is about examining my own responses and attitudes. You are exactly right about where the problem lies. It isn’t within Trump, it’s within us. Trump would have no power if we refused to let our more hateful instincts lead our discourse, especially our inner discourse. Good job.

    Reply
    1. Drew

      You are spot on. Instead of pointing the finger, we need to take a good hard look in the mirror. What have we done (or not done) to contribute to this situation? How does the outer discourse mirror our inner discourse? Thank you for your reflective comment.

      Reply
  6. Ruth

    Sorry Drew, I’m afraid that whilst I agree with your overall philosophy, your conclusion to simply love him is erroneous. I think the less cowardly thing to do is to dispassionately advocate for truth (ie actual facts) over his emotional manipulation of the vulnerable.
    I think that Edward Burke’s words are very relevant here: the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to remain silent.
    Respectfully yours, a gentle woman (disclaimer)

    Reply
    1. Drew

      Ah, but did I advocate to “simply” love him? Based on the conversation related in the article it doesn’t seem like loving the man is all that simple.

      And is advocating for truth and facts mutually exclusive with loving him?

      How are we to act in the face of men who deny “truth and facts” in favor of emotional manipulation?

      And who are we to decide who is ‘vulnerable’ to emotional manipulation without risking a slippery slide paternalistic, patriarchal elitism? I wager the supporters of Trump would rail at the idea they are being manipulated or that they are vulnerable. How are we to open a genuine conversation with them in this case?

      Your comments are deeply appreciated. Please take my questions in the spirit of sharpening all our thinking and acting.

      Reply
  7. Mark Goblowsky

    Drew,

    Thank you for writing this article. I’m sure it will bring up many emotions… as do both the people running for president. But then again, that is the point. Often, the things I find that I get worked up about, are more a picture of my inner landscape than the world outside. Life IS a mirror. I appreciate your reasoned and reasonable opinion. Very well thought out. I’m proud to say I know you Sir!

    Reply
  8. Neil B.

    Drew, first of all I get your email notifications and saw this essay in preview, so I checked it out. You start out asking good thoughtful questions, but I don’t see where you are going with that. If you just mean, try to understand and humanize Trump but not to endorse him, I can see sense in that. But then, that I ♥ Trump image up there, and wonder what you’re getting at. After acknowledging the criticism, do you really support him? I don’t think he is even a “fierce gentleman”, maybe not even a gentleman at all. Or as I hope, you are just saying: don’t give into conflict, love “even Trump” too – to show what a gentleman you are.

    Reply
    1. Drew

      You’ve got it Neil B. If we can’t love people we disagree with, where does that leave us? A gentleman is able to love people whose behavior is non-gentlemanly. That is a prerequisite for being able to call yourself a gentleman.

      I will not be voting for Trump but that won’t stop me from loving him.

      Hope this makes it clear. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

      Reply

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