“The man is clear in his mind. But his soul is mad.” Apocalypse Now
The bedrock of any social organization, whether it’s a softball team or a great nation, is the practice of civility. Put another way, what makes a community work is what we call common courtesy, or what all of the major religions teach in one form or another as The Golden Rule. For a long time now, for 30 or 40 years at least, civility in America has tanked.
The evidence is everywhere: email flame wars, slandering internet trolls, social media assassinations, up-skirt photos, road rage shootings, loud public cell-phone conversations in elevators and airport shuttles, revenge porn, line-jumpers at restaurants and theaters … the list goes on and on.
One reason is because incivility is endemic in our media. It is the stock-in-trade for political shock-jocks on the radio, for tabloid cable hate-mongers, for teevee celebrity stalkers, for ambush journalists. It’s dished out by the shovelful in reality television shows, by political commenters on websites, and by emotionally stunted ideologues in the blog-o-sphere.
Incivility in our politics is so commonplace that now the absence of incivility has become noteworthy and newsworthy.
By any measure you care to choose, the Grandmaster of Incivility in American politics is Donald Trump. When it comes to insulting, defaming, and demeaning others, Trump has no equal. He is truly, as he is so fond of telling us, the best and the greatest. He has proven it in political debates, in wee-hours tweets berating his social and political enemies, by insane rants at campaign rallies, in cringe-worthy televised interviews. When it comes to boorishness, bitchiness, and an utter lack of couth, Trump truly is the Lord of the Dance.
But it’s a title not much worth having, like winning a contest for the tallest midget.
And that’s what makes him a lousy candidate for President, beyond all the other manifest shortcomings of character and credentials.
Trump claims that he can “make America great again” (presuming,wrongly, that America is not great now), but the test of a great people lies not in their contempt and cruelty, but in their generosity and compassion. It lies not in the strength of their arms, or in their saber-rattling chauvinism, but in the power of their art and the beauty of their culture. Not in a howl of rage, or chest-thumping boasts, or baying for revenge, but in songs of joy and benediction.
Likewise, the true test of a great President lies in how well he or she represents the best of America, not in how well they personify the worst that is in us. A great leader serves as an example of our highest ideals, not the embodiment of our basest instincts.
Regardless of his wealth and fame, Trump is a man far too small to be great at much of anything. Being successful financially is not the same as being great. That’s a mistake that both he, and those who covet and admire his wealth and fame, continue to make.
Maybe that’s why Trump spends so much time and energy trumpeting his self-styled “greatness” to all and sundry. It’s almost as if he suffers from a compulsive need to convince himself of his own worth by convincing others. It seems the more people he can convince of his singular exceptionalism — in all things — the more he is able to believe it himself. There is at the heart of that compulsive emotional tick, that cloying needy behavior, a deep insecurity or sense of inadequacy. Trump must always be the center of attention, always elevated above others. There is a sickness evident in that behavior, symptoms of a “dis-ease” that needs treatment.
Donald Trump did not create the incivility of American culture or of political media, but he most certainly exploits it. People say that he’s a nice guy off-camera and off-stage. If that’s true, it’s unimportant. In public, Trump’s behavior encompasses the entire genre of incivility: he is arrogant, contemptuous, condescending, combative, insulting, racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic. No one would care, except that he’s now the presumptive GOP nominee for President and many of the policies he espouses seem to stem from one or another of these deficiencies of character. From building a wall to keep out Mexicans, to barring Muslims from entering the country, to his unspeakable disrespect for and objectification of women — Donald Trump has proven time and again that his brand of politics is based on a deep-seated contempt for, and hostility towards, others who don’t look like him and his mostly white base of mostly white male supporters.
In short, as a political candidate, Donald Trump is a monster. His public persona is a monster born of a monstrous self-image and a monstrous polity. He is like the demonic newborn of pulp fiction that kills and eats its mother. He is like the xenomorph-parasite of the ‘Alien’ movies that bursts through the chest wall of its host to immediately imprint its dying victim as a prey species. As a political leader, Trump’s positions and policies lack any semblance of a moral center or moral compass. He is utterly loathsome, utterly self-serving, utterly remorseless. He is clear in his mind, but his soul is mad.
And yet, he is not wrong about the world he knows and intends to rule from the Oval Office like a Grand Panjandrum. He knows very well the kind of men and women he calls to his banner and he knows exactly what they want. He knows the politics of the party he will soon take control of. He knows how to destroy those lesser leaders who resist him. Like the Borg, resistance is futile.
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