Thursday, July 7, 2016

Without limits, power becomes its own saboteur

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. (Abraham Lincoln)

Unfortunately, the people who voted in the Republican primaries over the last several months had neither read nor contemplated this insight. They have propelled into a position of considerable power, and even more power should he  be elected president, a man whose character, while pummelled daily by his opponents, has exposed a serious fault line in the American culture.

Manipulation of the public, through blatant and unabashed manipulation of the media, may demonstrate a degree of superficial, technical and opportunistic know-how, similar to the “know-how” of a young pre-teen who, knowing how to wrap her father around her little finger, and convince him that she promises to take her share of responsibility with a new puppy whose purchase she is strongly advocating. It is neither credible, nor is it lasting. And, in most cases, the compliant father, preferring to be supportive and to be encouraging of such articulate defense of her argument, that the dog in question will not interfere with her allergies, (she even recommends a call to her allergist to confirm her perspective!) and that both she and her sister will dutifully, daily and without reminders, rewards or sanctions, walk the dog, clean up after the dog, and help to train the dog, welcoming it into the family, accedes to her petition, knowing full well that he is not supported by their mother.

However, extending the power of a “yes” vote to a pre-teen, on a promise of adulthood, as a trial run toward the larger purpose of letting experience demonstrate how ‘things work’ (or don’t) to a young adolescent whose life has been and continues to be somewhat in your hands, and whose future shines like a mystical rainbow in the crevices of your imagination is a far different act that pulling a lever for a charlatan, a huckster, and one whose life, including even those exploits he considers “successful” betray a very deep black hole in a culture. And the black hole that is uncovered, and left pouring toxic puss all over the countryside, and through all the many digital platforms available to all, can be diagnosed as “the narcissistic bully” who probably believes that he has proven his mettle, that he has demonstrated who all others could model their lives as platinum and exemplary examples for their children.

Not only is his life a crashing empty bottle of salesmanship, befitting the hawker at the midway and the circus, and befitting the ponzi-perpetrators who have bilked billions from the unsuspecting, (including the illustrious and recently deceased Elie Wiesel, by Bernie Madoff), the very notion that all the major media outlets, owned of course, by the mega-corporations whose very survival depends, not on the degree of objectivity and responsibility they demonstrate when faced with piles of cash and mountains of positive Neilson ratings, have been seduced into his “infor-ponzi” scam demonstrates the black hole into which the media culture and potentially  the political system itself could easily tumble.

Wonder, just wonder, what a Walter Cronkite would think of what is going on? Wonder too, if Huntley and Brinkley would stand by and let their voices be show-horned into the pettiness of critical evaluation of the latest tweet from the huckster. And the latest tweet is not only flying across the twitter-verse, it comes like a pre-adolescent ad hominum against anyone who challenges the sender on any matter. One of the latest, and most lame, is “Sleepy Eyes Todd,” referring to Chuck Todd of MSNBC, host of Meet the Press, and of The Daily MTP, on MSNBC. For those of us who consider Todd one of the more interesting and informed talking heads, on the American political scene, given both his capacity to interview with dispassion and with energy, and his squirreling of polling data into his head, and then through the camera lens and into our television sets,  we might consider this latest “skewering” to be advantageous to his career. If he can be, and is, a target of the “paint-ball” gun of the presumptive presidential candidate (presumptuous still seems more fitting), then the gun is literally pointed everywhere all at once.

Such immaturity, such gall and such mindlessness....we used to say about such utterances, “ I guess it beats thinking”.....when thinking, deep thinking is so needed at all levels for all of the many complex and growing issues we all face.

Another way of diagnosing the black hole is to observe that, without answers from anyone that truly solves, fixes or even ameliorates a given issue, or public file, we are left resorting to making fun of it all, including ourselves, in a most trivial, party-like, animal-house manner. And yet, occupying the White House is not analogous to joining a frat party, or at least it has not been for the last 249 years. Of course, there have been a variety of personalities, intellects, mannerisms and even dialects in the men who have served in the Oval Office. And in America, the notion of individualism, and free speech runs rampant.

Nevertheless, it is not an accident that, in this piece, his behaviour is compared to that of an adolescent; his name calling, his body and bawdy talk about small hands and (while left unsaid) “endowment”....these are the kinds of verbal assaults that belong in the hallways or the schoolyards or the locker rooms of a middle school. If people were to waken to the insults he is throwing daily even hourly at the American ethos, by using the very language and the very attitude that accompanies middle school students, especially when they are under attack. And having served as a vice-principal in a middle school responsible for the discipline, the comportment and the school ethos, I am quite familiar with the kind of immaturity that cloaks their world view, their interactions and certainly their vocabulary.

Of a graduate of Mellon University, one expects a great deal more: more sensitivity, more subtlety, more sophistication, more curiosity, more serious questions and more penetrating analysis of all of the issues. And yet, if the model and the modus operandi, that he is using are analogous to the simplicity of a building’s location, size, design, and building and maintenance costs, and above all, potential profits,  then how can we expect more, especially the last, potential profits.

And, for Trump, profits are measured in two terms: dollars and status. Emblazoning your last name on every edifice, leaves one open to the scene behind Hillary Clinton yesterday, a faded shadow of a name following a collapse of the casino that used to “live” on the Atlantic shore. Flying your own jet, again emblazoned with your own name in uber-point font, generating an instant “stage-backdrop” for all the television cameras is just another of the many slick tricks that other serious candidates would find embarrassing. And the people, if they were honest with themselves, would easily and quickly concur that these are the tactics of one whose image is so identified with the ego that there is no separation, what Jung called enantiadromia, the fusion of mask and ego, rendering one incapable of individuation.

The pre-teen co-ed of the earlier puppy story, ironically, was already more advanced in her development, her individuation, than the current presidential candidate for the presidency. And that really frightens any observer, including this one. She knew that she had a slope to climb to make her case. She also knew that there was no guarantee that her wish would be realized. There were definite defined and honoured, as well as honourable, limits to her request and to her expectations. With the current Republican candidate, no such limits ever cross his lips: he simply “wills” everything he wants, as one who considers himself and his “designs” on the future of the country, and the world, he knows and accepts no limits.

This is not a man living and operating in reality: the reality of the Constitution, the reality of the many treaties to which the American Presidents’ signatures have already been affixed; the reality of the Congressional visions of the future of the country, and the country’s place in the world, not to mention the American peoples’ many levening views of how the “bread” of the political process can and will ‘rise’. Calling Putin a man worthy of respect, without also acknowledging the dangers of his potential and already realized incursions into adjacent nations, praising Saddam Hussein for his ‘killing of terrorists’, painting a picture of a high wall to keep Mexicans out of American, paid for the by the Mexicans, demanding that China stop manipulating its currency, barring Muslims from countries where war is being waged from entry into the U.S......these are all pictures of an exaggerated dystopia, of a world that only an egomaniac could both envision and then have the gall to promise, to make America great again!

A man who does not comprehend irony, especially the irony of his limited degree and number of options, even (or more significantly, especially) if he were to become president, a man who lives in the islands of his own ego/mask (without seeking to or wanting to separate them) and a man who has all the answers... is not a man to be vested with the power of not only the  nuclear codes, but also of the presidential executive order, of the presidential appointments to hundreds if not thousands of civil service appointments throughout the government.

In fact, I would be more willing to entrust that pre-teen adolescent with the White House than this man. And the American people have still time to waken to what it is they are being seduced into doing, falling into the trap of a huckster who has been playing in his own sandbox, without regard to the ordinary norms, rules and expectations of reasonable and responsible limits.


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