Two years ago, I commented to some of my American friends that I thought Donald Trump oddly expressed the ‘heart’ of the American people. The comment was made from the underside of the United States border in Guatemala. I also emailed some of my friends in the Bay Area and didn’t hear from them again until early summer as Trump made his bid for the presidency a more aggressive reality. Reality shifted – creeping adjustments were beginning to be made everywhere on the US political landscape.
However, now it’s easy to get focussed when there are ‘facts’ and ‘alternative facts’ being forwarded, being waved across the screens that I have come to call our new prayer books – the ‘smart’ phones in our palms. Two things are happening simultaneously in the world of United States political life. One started with this recent electoral process, the other has been long on the ‘books’ but not out in the open – that the US has more work to become a lived democracy than a good many other countries in the world. American Intelligence has not always been an oxy-moron.
Let’s begin with the Donald Trump as President phenomenon. This is what we are facing at the moment. It typifies the necessary examination of the descent into the ‘heart’ of the US. All the evidence, if one can still use such terms, is that Donald Trump needs help. He should either be in jail or in a mental institution. A TV columnist recently stated, “This isn’t policy, this is pathology. Let’s be clear.” The expression of ‘experts’ from the US and around the world has endlessly articulated the asinine, leading to the insane, behaviours of this man. Various diagnoses have been forwarded, all timely, except that a good number of experts carry forward the ‘ethical’ perspective that you can’t diagnose from a TV interview, a moment in a campaign, or now, from the presidential podium. Once passed the post, an odd phrase in itself given the US electoral system, Donald Trump has been overwhelmingly diagnosed a narcissist. He seems to be staring into a puddle!
But, there are some concerns with this. This is not a diagnosis from which there is hope for recovery according to ’experts’. It also raises the outrageous, but perhaps more important thought, that the American people as a collective are narcissistic. Let me gaze into my own puddle for a moment. At one point, as a Canadian, I had spent half of my life in the US. After ‘birthing’ in Montréal, Québec, I spent my early ‘Freudian’ years until seven in Minnesota, then my graduate years in Oregon, with various moments of Canadian, British, and Malaysian interlude. As so many experience, the fascination with the ‘American’ life often transfixes. Since then, I have spent the last twenty years as an ‘arrogant’ Canadian wondering: What is the Chip that is missing in the American psyche? What is it that they just don’t get?
Donald Trump is narcissistic. The American people are narcissistic. A couple of over-worked phrases help here: The US is the greatest country on earth. The President of the US is the most powerful man in the world. He is the leader of the free world. We are fighting for Freedom. These phrases are not only made by patriots. Wendell Berry, who some consider the greatest thinker and philosopher in recent US history, stated after 9/11 (to paraphrase) ‘we live in the greatest country on earth’ at the end of a full page piece in the New York Times. Michael Moore’s film, Where to Intervene Next, after richly examining many other countries in the world, ends with the thematic that it all came from the US. Is there some wild logic here? We needn’t meander through each of these to recognize their vapidity. The All About Me culture seems as vacuous as it is rampant. To call the President of the US the most powerful person on the planet doesn’t resonate very well when you look at the track record of one of their most eloquent and intelligent Presidents, Barak Obama. Some have called him too nice a guy!
One needn’t be a schooled historian to know that this country has intervened or invaded more countries than any other, yet continues to neglect its own ‘swamp’. Writing from Guatemala, one finds the new elected President’s comments before the CIA ‘stars’ extremely unwelcome. The ‘fact’ that he didn’t recognize these ‘fallen’ Americans many of whom may have transgressed the sovereign rights of others was one of his first faux pas. The fact that most Americans don’t understand the endless invasion of other countries undertaken by the CIA is disheartening. The ill-read, out-of-touch narcissistic behaviour of the man and the nation is frightening. There is a difference between fear and disgust!
The real issues that face the people of United States are so much deeper than the surface gaming we now see as Trump attempts to find his way into the Oval Office. Yet, it’s all of a piece. Yes, sexism and racism and classism are the present targets. It’s interesting that bell hooks stated that the women’s movement was the most successful movement of the 20th Century. The Women’s March resurrects that power. The removal of the Spanish White House website, the deaths of many African-American youth and others at the hand of police agencies over the past year, the ‘fact’ that Americans know less about those countries that they invade than most other nations in the world, the ‘fact’ that if you were to attempt to design an electoral system that wasted as much time and had as many loop-holes as the American one, you’d be hard pressed to come up with anything close – all leads to a narcissistic nation in decline and at civil war. To spend the past hundred years in Commie-Phobia further debilitates intelligent social/cultural systems of thought. And to export all of this as a Military-Industrial-Hollywood ‘complex’ driven 21st Century state, forcing it upon others, needs some review.
The United States has been in Civil War for over one hundred and fifty years. To not recognize this is to have your head viewing your own eye brows in the puddle. Is narcissism impossible to overcome? All countries are experiments of sorts. There are few countries in the world that have the resources to pull out of their own demise? No one is going to intervene in the American time of re-think. Donald Trump is an overwhelming problem. To only focus on him wastes precious time. To try and get a white American male who voted Trump with ‘legitimate reasons’ to reflect upon America’s deeper problems seems like a heavy task.