Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The Trump Plague

Early yesterday morning, our outgoing president Donald J. Trump, tweeted: "I won the Election!"

It was at this point that I decided I had had enough. What? No -- I had enough of that other stuff a few years ago. What I have now had enough of is the people who refer, condescendingly, to the opinion of anyone who dislikes Trump, as "the politics of personality." By this, they imply that (or outwardly state that) you don't have to like the president and that complaining about what kind of a guy he is is childish. 

To me, this argument is something of a "straw man." It reduces how I and many others feel about Trump to a mere impression. It is an attempt to cast our distaste for the man as a superficial thing that is a step above not voting for him because of his face.  

I would have a hard time listing politicians I have liked, to be honest with you. John McCain is one of the rarities. I liked President Obama very much, even when I often disagreed with his policies. As a guy, I liked George W. Bush, though I thought he was a poor president. Bill Clinton? I think he is a cheating, immoral creep, but he was, to me, a decent president, practically speaking. 

So what I don't want to hear when I complain about Donald Trump is that I am engaging in the "politics of personality." Donald Trump is worse than unlikable and rude; his personality and behavior is a virus that has been here long before COVID-19: The Trump Plague. His personality has been and continues to be a disease that has infected the collective psyche of the American people. 

Consider that Tweet: "I won the Election." Putting aside the energy he is putting in to tweeting about the election at the expense of, oh, working as the president, look at what he is done: only through an extended program of legitimizing whining, on the highest level in our country, could he not be called an unmanly ass by an overwhelming number of Americans. 

The image I see is him on the floor of the presidential bedroom, pounding his feet and hands and screaming in a toddler-like rage "I won the Election." He is behaving in the way my father taught me not to. A man, my dad said, does not throw aside all dignity and whine about his losses. 

(By the way: contesting one's losses? Sure. No problem. I support Trump's right to ask for recounts anywhere he wants. The truth is most important. To me. I'd rather suffer through four more years of his antics than have a president in office who was not truly selected by the American people. But, when the proverbial obese woman sings, will Trump accept the conclusions of court and investigations? No. He will continue to argue his case, regardless of evidence...and his followers will believe him over everyone else. Why? Because they believe, now, that it is more likely that one man is telling the truth -- just because they have decided for some reason that this person they never met is 100% trustworthy --  than that scores of courts and thousands of election officials are. This is he Trump infection.) 

At any rate, my dad taught me, as I said, that whining about losses is unmanly. The scary part is that the same thing was taught by parents all over the country in my generation. Yet, somehow, Trump has managed to infect those who believed in such conservative principals about manly (and mature, womanly) behavior into forgetting all about it. What has caused people who traditionally have despised behaviors like his to laud those behaviors when it comes to him is a mystery. It is, if you will, The Trump Plague that seems not to have a vaccine. They simply can't see how this guy is the very opposite of everything they have stood for for decades... He simply is not a champion of true conservative values, yet they think he is. It's like declaring Michael Jackson the poster boy for positive body image.  

Many others have talked about how he has destroyed the norms of the presidency; how he has reduced the Democratic principals to rubble while, at the same time, trumpeting about upholding the Constitution. I won't get into that, especially since I am not as savvy about politics as they. 

His "fake news" tirades ("fake news" being any news he doesn't like) have destroyed the legitimate complaints about the media that I have always had but that I once communicated with a certain level of nuance: the news has always been biased and more interested in headline draw (and money) than in informing the public. But he has destroyed my ability to talk about that because of the black-and-white infection he has caused. If I point out "fake news" people in MAGA hats will be embracing me and liberals will label me as a moronic, rabid Trump follower. He has appropriated and warped the idea of criticizing the media. 

Science? For a long time I have held the opinion -- and written about it -- that science has been slowly transformed into the new religion; that people worship and will not question science, even when science itself admits that it doesn't know all everything; that there are more mysteries than answers in the universe. But Trump chooses to ignore science completely and his followers fall, lock-step, into line. My criticism of science-worshippers probably looks identical to his in the minds of the MAGA hoards. The liberal side? They -- unless they read my work carefully -- are now most likely to see me as an ingnorant dismisser of scientific evidence, which I am not. Again, he has destroyed nuance and reason; he has made buckets into which all people fit -- but only two buckets. 

Through his crassness and artless tenacity, he is now able to say that 2+2 = 5 and within minutes it will be the trending hashtag on Twitter. 

His "personality" spreads like a virus. It is The Trump Plague. Bill Clinton is a worm, but he was not an infectious worm whose disease brought out irrationality and ignorance like a rash on people's souls. To moral people, he was just a pathetic womanizer and a seedy politician. 

No other president has caused such disharmony -- a disharmony that is rationalized by his followers as a result of his "going against the grain" of the establishment. But if Trump had fought the good fight against the "deep state" with any outward degree of dignity or humanity, I'd have been more likely to believe in him. I, too, have, longed for politicians who are more "real." But he is not more real; he is a rude embarrassment whose behavior has been embraced by and that has amplified the worst parts of human nature. 

All of this said, I have friends who, though they despise him as a man, think he has done good things as a president. Our difference is that they think his awfulness is worth it; that the outcomes make his sleazy immorality and obnoxious narcissism a non-issue (or less of an issue than I think it is). In short, they see him as infected, but not infectious -- more of a Clinton. Those people are not his sheep...they just see things differently than I do. I think they are wrong, but I respect their position. I like to say that even if Trump has been good for the body of America, he has been devastating for the spirit. 

So, please, don't say I am engaging in the "politics of personality." That's a cute little deflection but it's about as effective as calling Biden "sleepy Joe." I don't want Trump out of office becuase I don't like him; I want him out of office because I've never seen a Presidential Plague like him. All over the soul of America, the cancer has spread; a cancer caused by arrogance, lies, meanness, and a total lack of human dignity. In the end, it has brought out the worst in all of us. 

I don't hate Donald Trump. I am eminently embarrassed for him and I have a hard time seeing why everyone else is not. Can you picture the moment? He is sitting there with his phone... Was he afraid it had been too long since he posted? Was he trying to think of something clever to say? Was he red with anger? Whatever the situation was, he decided to send out the weakest and most pathetic of statements, after all the bluster and after all the days and days of legal challenges: "I won the Election." And, up to this moment, 251, 000 have seen that worthy of a "like" and 56, 000 have retweeted it. 

That statement impressed them. How do you fight against that?