The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age
    Danny Cardwell's picture

    Trump Has No Character

    "It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth...arrogance into humility…brutality into patriotism. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character."

    Joseph Heller Catch-22


    Truth, sometimes, is stranger than fiction. This quote, in some form or another, has been used to describe Donald Trump by a number of people. His performance in Helsinki and the subsequent press conference to clean up that mess is par for this presidency.


    Donald Trump had a complete meltdown less than 10 feet from Vladimir Putin. He proved once and for all that he is a Beta male using bravado to hide his insecurities. Watch the video again; his discomfort was visible. I wasn't surprised by his lying and scapegoating: he does that almost every time he's in front of cameras, but the timidity was stunning. He looked like a child with a disappointing report card.


    The right-wing response to the Helsinki debacle was predictable. Some of his early GOP detractors pounced in an effort to show some sort of strength. His supporters did what they always do: defend him and his ineptitude at any cost, and when that didn't work they fell back on Hillary Clinton's emails and Barack Obama's existence. Sarah Sanders stood in front of reporters and "Trumpslained" her boss's 45 minute comedy of errors. This whole experiment is absurd.


    Donald Trump's cult following gets​ stronger after every one of his catastrophic public appearances. He is the manifestation of Joseph Heller's quote from "Catch-22". His utter lack of character is only surpassed by his most loyal supporter's ability to ignore and defend his almost daily indiscretions. Donald Trump has waged a war on virtues, truth, humility, and patriotism.


    1. Donald Trump's vices are his virtues. Donald Trump’s money, lifestyle, and pseudo-machismo are attractive to many of his followers. A lot of Evangelicals subscribe to an overly ascetic interpretation of the Bible that causes them to, publicly, deny having urges of the flesh- much less acting on them. The fact that he is an unapologetic serial liar, adulterer, misogynist, and bigot is seen as a sign of strength. He says out loud what some only say in the comfort of their home. Trump's army of self-professed Christian conservatives always defend him- even when his behavior is antithetical to the teachings of Jesus. He turned ignorance, arrogance, and apathy into redeemable qualities.  


    2. Donald Trump's slander is his truth. His mantra of "fake news" is a linguistic and rhetorical tool used to handicap factual discussions. The idea that broad swaths of the American media and intelligentsia should be ignored is a genius strategy for someone who can only be hurt by the truth. This sort of Tammy Wynette "gaslighting" has been very effective. Donald Trump's war on the truth and empirical data is the embodiment of the Chico Marx line from the movie Duck Soup, "Who ya gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?" When confronted with incontrovertible facts his base is unswayed. He has convinced millions of people to suspend their commonsense. His lies and personal attacks are equated with facts in the world.


    3. Donald Trump's arrogance is his humility. Arrogance is defined as: an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions. Donald Trump loves the use of superlatives. He constantly reminds us of his personal greatness. He is the smartest, best, richest, and my personal favorite: least racist person any of us knows. In Meher Baba’s 1967 book Discourses, he described pride as “the specific feeling through which egoism manifests.” Donald Trump is so much better than us that we should be happy he humbles himself to talk to us- even if it is about himself.


    4. Donald Trump’s Patriotism is brutal. There is a dangerous and false pride woven into Donald Trump’s America first ethos. His treatment of Barack Obama, The Kahn Family, and Judge Gonzalo Curiel is tacit proof that being born in America doesn’t mean someone is a “real American”. He has a litmus test for patriotism. In his view, anyone who questions the status quo is un-American. He calls NFL players “sons of bitches” for protesting police brutality while he ignores, equivocates, and even excuses Russia’s attacks on the country he professes to love so much. There are segments of the American populace who feel increasingly vulnerable in the age of Trump. The spike in racial attacks, unwarranted calls to police, and the normalization of bigotry is a form of violence that has been visited upon people who don’t conform to the “Trumpian” view of who is an American. This is a problem many in his camp ignore.


    I've written over 30 articles about Donald Trump since the spring of 2015. They all have a similar tenor and tone. I have ceased trying to understand or respect a man who has shown a complete lack of character. Donald Trump's agenda is dangerous to people on the outside of his racial, religious, cultural, and heteronormative conception of who is an American, but it's become obvious that it is just as dangerous to those in his base. Sadly, this won't be the last time he embarrasses America on the world stage.


    Thanks for another excellent column. Along with the increase in hate crimes, there has been an outbreak of police being called on black people for merely existing. Blacks have had police called for waiting for a business partner to show up, for example. BBQ also resulted in a call to police. Blacks have been harassed for sleeping ina common dorm space, relaxing poolside etc. Trump encourages people to feel free to put blacks in their “place”. This pathological need to embarrass black people will persist even after Trump leaves office.

    Plato's observation that the tyrannical soul shares the same defects of his subjects through some mirroring function could apply here. But the present case is so much about the absence of important things that we may be in the land of Carl Jung who tried to figure out what the opposite of what he was looking at looked like:

    If you imagine someone who is brave enough to withdraw all his projections, then you get an individual who is conscious of a pretty thick shadow. Such a man has saddled himself with new problems and conflicts. He has become a serious problem to himself, as he is now unable to say that they do this or that, they are wrong, and they must be fought against… Such a man knows that whatever is wrong in the world is in himself, and if he only learns to deal with his own shadow he has done something real for the world. He has succeeded in shouldering at least an infinitesimal part of the gigantic, unsolved social problems of our day.

    “Psychology and Religion” (1938). In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. P.140

    Excellent post.

    Found this which provides a pretty apt description of Trump's (unconscious or calculated?) fashion of 'personality cult' demagoguery:

    The main features of rule by 'charismatic authority'  consists of a proclaimed heroic 'mission' and the presumed greatness of the leader. The personal domination of 'charismatic authority' cannot coexist with an impersonal, functional legal-rational exercise of power which lies at the foundation of the ideal modern state system.....Such authority cannot become 'systematized' without losing it's charismatic edge.... Failure to produce concrete results along with an exhaustion of dynamism can severely undermine such a regime.

    From Economy and Society, by Max Weber. 

    interesting how Jerry Falwell is trying to sell bad morals to the faithful:

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