This post first appeared on BillMoyers.com.
In Mr. Moyers’ interview with Robert Jay Lifton last week, Lifton says, “Something has gone wrong with our democratic system in electing a man with all these characteristics that make up Donald Trump. Now we have to struggle to sustain the functional institutions of our democracy against his assault on them.”
I think quite a few more things than our “democratic system” have gone wrong for us to elect a person like Trump as our president. We have allowed the creation of an effective oligarchy, which leads to neglect and resentments.
We have allowed the state, distracted with its own welfare, to neglect our health, education, housing, jobs, security, infrastructure and environment.
We have become a nation that hardly respects wisdom, learning or compassion, but largely worships fame and conspicuous wealth. And we have a media that often shovels out crass slop as entertainment and entertainment as news.
Perhaps as important as all these in making a Trump presidency possible is our ignorance or denial of our own history. We believe in our innocence and our goodness, our grand “destiny” and our exceptionalism.
These beliefs are not supported by our history, which includes genocide; slavery; racism; lynchings; massacres; drummed-up hysterias; judicial and penal injustice; sterilization campaigns; the death penalty; interference in other countries’ elections; destabilization of still other countries; support for dictators and autocrats who persecute and impoverish their own people; wars of aggression and war crimes without accountability; a militarizes, spying state; unbridled avarice; destruction of land, water and air; and an unquenchable lust for power.
If we can deny these facts about ourselves, we can also accept someone who believes unquestioningly in his own greatness and who believes in (or pretends to believe in) a great American past, a past that rarely if ever existed in the clean, simple way many like to imagine. Many of our fellow citizens are in a state of denial — or ignorance, real or feigned.
In some ways, Trump seems to contain all the worst characteristics found in Americans, if not humans in general. Perhaps we (gulp) deserve him.
One tragedy in all of this is that there are many, many psychologically healthy, basically kind, fair-minded, peace-loving, creative and productive (in the best sense) Americans, most of whom are suffering from nervous exhaustion, praying that the psychotic break that is Trump doesn’t lead to nuclear disaster and/or hasten climate change, increasing the already surplus suffering of beings everywhere.
May any god help us, and may we find ways to deliver ourselves from this time, recover from it, and compensate for it — it and our less than lustrous past.
— Celine Grenier, Capitola, California