Amoral Imperative

Instagram photo by Nona Summers.
Instagram photo by Nona Summers.

 

He wounds the autumnal nation. A corroded knife, plunged and twisted into the very belly of our Republic, leaving us hemorrhaging from our core, pushing to the front the very worst of what We the People represent.

Donald John Trump has given us a mirror, and what we see in it isn’t remotely pretty.

And amidst the writhing and the screams of the agony inflicted, the casualties are our dignity and our honor and our pride; along with truth, justice, and the American way, all of which he has made a mockery of in the very worst ways imaginable.

Trump has defined himself as a narcissistic, ignorant, bigoted, racist, misogynistic, unethical and insecure bully, whose life has been spent figuring out ways to rip off and steal from people who he views as being stupider and weaker than he is. He will go on trial in November accused of racketeering. (The civil suit that was to go to trial in December for Trump allegedly raping a  13 year old was dismissed last week… see: Trump child rape accuser dismisses own lawsuit after saying she is ‘living in fear’.) He has used his foundation’s money to pay his legal fees, abused the family of a war hero, and refused to release his tax returns. He has bragged about his sexual assault of women. His legacy is one of corruption and con-artistry, of fraudulent businesses and of failure to pay his contractors for the work he hired them to do. (See: Trump’s history of corruption is mind-boggling. So why is Clinton supposedly the corrupt one?)

The day after Brexit passed in the UK, 2.5 trillion dollars was wiped off the value of world markets. (See: Brexit turmoil deepens: Dow down nearly 900 points in 2 days.) In the unlikely event that Trump should win the election next Tuesday, the repercussions come next Wednesday morning will surely be swift and immediate as the dominoes come crashing down: the 900 point fall in the Dow Jones Industrial Averages that happened in the two days following the Brexit vote will likely look like child’s play. The repercussions will be dramatically felt in the 401k plans and IRAs even of individuals across America who don’t otherwise invest in the stock market. (See also: President Trump’s First Term for a rather chilling and realistic vision of what would follow next.)

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
–Isaac Asimov, Newsweek, 1980

As the dominoes fall, the repercussions are many even if Trump should lose, and they are both severe and humbling. This election has shown us:

1) That a sizable portion (nearly a majority) of our nation prefers Trump’s vision of a neo-fascist state that forces a religious, ideological and moral perspective upon others, rather than a democratic state that does not (See: The rise of American authoritarianism and Thanks to Trump, We Can Better Understand How Hitler Was Possible);

2) Confirmation that a cult of ignorance and anti-intellectualism not only continues to exist, but actually thrives in our country. It is centered on the belief that it is okay to make up a world view on a daily basis that has no actual correlation to the way the world truly is and exists… that ignorance is just as good as knowledge as long as one can find legions of people to applaud us for saying things that they so deeply want to hear and believe, no matter how much it disregards the reality of the world we live in.

3) The realization that ISIL, and their related terrorist brethren, are in many ways winning their war of terror without needing to ever win a military victory on our soil. They are doing it by slowly turning us into a version of so very much of what they represent. Their method is to create fear and chaos that pushes us towards a society where our liberties are gone. The world vision that Trump promotes is one that fills our streets with people with guns, that presumes guilt in our judicial system, that believes in torture, that treats women and minorities with contempt, that denies due process, that eliminates first amendment rights, that blatantly seeks to erode the checks and balances of our political system centered on a separation of powers, and that does everything possible to erase confidence and belief in the concept of having free and fair elections. Doing such things under the guise of a Judeo-Christian fundamentalist value system rather than Islamic fundamentalist value system makes it no more tolerable or right.

It is easy to blame this all on Trump. He is classically symptomatic of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (See: The Mayo Clinic – Narcissistic personality disorder), as well as exhibiting virtually all of the aberrant traits I outlined in my earlier The Domino Principle article about individuals who act in a psychologically abusive manner (See: The Destructive Dominoes of Domestic Abuse). But this isn’t Trump’s fault. He is just a disturbed bully with a pulpit to speak upon. Trump is a symptom, not a cause. The problem is us. A society that has embraced the sickness that he spews and gives it credibility (See: The Dangerous Acceptance of Donald Trump).

There is no question that Hillary Clinton is a deeply flawed candidate… just for starters, questions about her email server and the possible encouragement of donations to the Clinton Foundation in return for personal access while secretary of state are troubling indeed. But even assuming the worst of the allegations prove to be true (the evidence available, so far, is more than convincing of bad judgement, while less than convincing of true criminal conduct), it doesn’t put her in even remotely close to the same category of horrific that Trump occupies. And that so much of the American populace cannot see this is terribly troubling.

They are our friends and they are our neighbors. Francis Wilkinson lays the perplexing contractions out well in her article The Moral Foundations of Trumpism:

“Tens of millions of Trump supporters consider themselves not only patriotic Americans but moral human beings, and most of their neighbors and families would no doubt concur. It’s a conundrum — good, decent people supporting a moral delinquent who subverts many of their most basic values. At the same time, many Trump supporters rage against a competent, unpopular, political operator whose most prominent flaws, including hiding her official e-mails, would not make a Trump top-10 list. They believe Hillary Clinton is an affront to their morality.”

and

“Win or lose, Trump will receive tens of millions of votes next Tuesday. His tally will be analyzed for its political content. But it will also represent the latest push in moral relativism sweeping conservative America and, as Shiller perceived, threatening vital American institutions.

“Once a system has become sufficiently elastic to accommodate, rationalize and even champion a Trump, there’s no telling where the boundaries move next.” 

Logical fallacies are styles of argument commonly used  in convincing people, where the focus is on communication and results rather than the correctness of the logic, and may be used whether the point being advanced is correct or not. (See: Wikipedia – List of fallacies.) Trump’s rhetoric is a pandora’s box of logical fallacies. When the media tries to compare him to Clinton, the logical fallacy most often employed is one called false equivalence, and it is well illustrated in this video:

As Seth Meyers recently stated… “Do you pick someone who is under federal investigation for using a private email server, or do you pick someone who has called Mexicans rapists, claimed the president was born in Kenya, proposed banning an entire religion from entering the U.S., mocked a disabled reporter, said John McCain wasn’t a war hero because he was captured, attacked the parents of a fallen war hero, bragged about committing sexual assault, was accused by 12 women of committing sexual assault, said some of those women weren’t attractive enough for him to sexually assault, said more countries should get nukes, said he would force the military to commit war crimes, said a judge was biased because his parents were Mexican, said women should be punished for having abortions, incited violence at his rallies, called global warming a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, called for his opponent to be jailed, declared bankruptcy six times, bragged about not paying income taxes, stiffed his contractors and employees, lost a billion dollars in one year, scammed customers with his fake university, bought a 6-foot painting of himself with money from his fake foundation, has a trial for fraud coming up in November, insulted an opponent’s looks, insulted an opponent’s wife’s looks, and, bragged about grabbing women by the pu**y.”

Sam Harris (co-founder and chief executive of Project Reason, a non-profit organization that promotes science and secularism, and author of the Waking Up with Sam Harris Podcast) states eloquently (excerpted from: Trump in Exile and Sam Harris on Trump…):

While Trump’s attitude toward women should be disqualifying, it is among his least frightening traits when it comes to assuming the responsibilities of the presidency. His fondness for Vladimir Putin, the whimsy with which he has entertained the first use of nuclear weapons, his disregard for our NATO alliances, his promise to use federal regulators to harass his critics, his belief that climate change is a hoax, his recommendation that we kill the families of terrorists, his suggestion that America might want to default on its debt—any one of these sentiments should have ended Trump’s bid for public office within the hour. In fact, Donald Trump is so unfit for the presidency that he has done great harm to our society by merely campaigning for it. The harm he could do from the White House can scarcely be imagined.

But hatred for both Clintons is now so blinding as to render Trump’s far more dangerous flaws imperceptible to millions of Americans. This is deeply disconcerting. Ask yourself, How would Trump appear if he were a malicious bully? The answer: Exactly as he does now. The man lies about everything, and yet he can’t even pretend to be a good person for five minutes at a stretch. How would Trump sound if he knew nothing about world affairs? One need only hear him speak to know. The truth is that Trump couldn’t have displayed his flaws more clearly during this campaign had his goal been to humiliate himself. And yet this hasn’t mattered to nearly half the electorate.

As many others have noted, there was a point in the second presidential debate when Trump’s campaign ceased to be a depressing farce and became the terrifying, national disgrace we now see before us. The crucial moment wasn’t when Trump threatened to imprison Clinton if he wins in November—it was the shriek of joy this threat produced in half the audience. That was the sound of our democracy unraveling. And there was Trump, the crazed man-child tearing at the threads.

If there is a silver lining here, it is that many of us now see how vulnerable our political system is to charlatanism, conspiracy theories, and populist unreason on both the Right and the Left. The role that the media has played, rendering us all moths to the Trumpian flame, will be scrutinized for years to come. The truth about us is sobering: We have been playing with our smartphones while hurtling toward the abyss…

and

I’ve been very clear about describing Clinton as the lesser of two evils. There is a ton to say about why she is not a great candidate. I totally understand why some people don’t like her and don’t trust her, but even with all her problems, she will probably be a competent President. In fact, I think she stands the chance of being a good President because she is actually smart and well informed and reasonably concerned about not destroying the world. And that’s true even with all the stupid lies and mistakes trailing behind her. Yes, there is something fairly rapacious and opportunistic about both Clintons. But their vices are mostly aligned with reasonable policies. There are exceptions but I think this is generally true. And, most crucially they are not idiots or ignoramuses.

Those of you who are mystified that I could forgive Clinton her lying and other indiscretions just don’t understand what a dangerous imbecile I think Trump is. I really think he is a child in a man’s body. He is a malignantly selfish, ignorant and petty person… and a tyrant in the making in so far as our system could accommodate a tyrant.

and

Then I get questions like this: Why is it logical to support a morally corrupt and criminal individual when you could choose to support none of the candidates? Because the prospect of a Clinton Presidency even granting all of the slander about her… and some of it is just slander, isn’t terrifying. Maybe depressing, but isn’t terrifying…

I would vote for Hillary if she were on life support. I would vote for her if I knew she would die in office the first week. President Tim Kaine is far preferable to President Trump. I’ll tell you how bad I think this is. If you gave me a choice to pick a random citizen, or take Trump, I would roll the dice with random citizen. You realize how bad that could turn out? You realize how many people in this country shouldn’t be President? I would go for door number 2. Because at a minimum I would expect a randomly chosen unqualified citizen to be so terrified and awed by the responsibility being thrust upon his or her shoulders that they would be desperate to defer to real experts. Trump has the opposite attitude. His lack of qualifications is married to an egocentrism the likes of which we have never seen.

Subscribing to the notion that one should support Trump based on a particular fiscal, ideological or policy perspective, and because our next president will fill supreme court vacancies, seems an exercise in folly. Trump has historically represented neither a conservative or a liberal agenda nor any particular ideological perspective other than doing what is best for Trump personally, and without regard for the consequences of his actions upon others. We know for certain he would not consider a Hispanic or Muslim qualified to sit on a Supreme Court that will rule on his actions. Given his history, my expectation will be that any Supreme Court candidate choice will be driven primarily by his desire to put in place justices who will support erosion of the separation of powers within our political system.

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”
–Origin uncertain, but usually attributed to Edmond Burke

And as tempting as it might be to either not vote at all or to support a third party candidate in this election, given the disdain one might have for both the Democratic and Republican candidates, doing so isn’t really conscientiously viable. As John Oliver so deftly points out in this video clip below, the third party alternatives are truly dreadful themselves. And, given that the third party candidates don’t have any real chance of winning, it would seem negligent to use one’s vote for any other purpose than assuring, in the strongest manner possible, that Trump does not gain office, and to send the strongest possible message that We the People do not embrace the principles for which he stands.

The absurdity of the circumstance that we as a nation find ourselves in was well spoofed by Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane in their “The Producers” parody of Trump’s campaign:

Even assuming a Trump loss this Tuesday, the question of how we move forward as a nation in a constructive and healthy way is problematic. A Clinton presidency will be a bright spot in having affirmed our first female Chief Executive, yet she will start her term with little respect and trust from the majority of the populace. And she will likely be encumbered by an utterly dysfunctional Republican-led Senate that sees no obligation to uphold its duty to engage in a confirmation process for Supreme Court Justices.

In his essay “An Open Letter to America’s Young Voters,”  actor and activist George Takei describes optimistic prospects for our youth leading the U.S. to a brighter and more enlightened future, post-Trump. Takei notes:

“You see, I am ever an optimist. A poll taken in August of voters aged 18-34 showed that the vast majority favored Clinton over Trump—64 percent to 29 percent. That split tells me the same thing that the polls for same-sex marriage told us years ago: Over time, reason and fairness will win out, while bigotry and hatred literally would die off. In 20 years, you will all be in charge, and demonstrate far less appetite or patience for Trump’s brand of nativist rhetoric and race baiting. Trump and his supporters understand they are on borrowed time, and while they may seem resurgent today, this in fact could be their last chance to take control. Our country is rapidly moving on from their discredited and archaic worldview. Perhaps that is why the death throes of their campaign are so spectacular. “

I want to believe this. But I’m not entirely sure that I really do. I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, a time in which a younger generation blazed a trail of expanding civil rights against the objections from many of an older generation. And today, more than forty years later, we are clearly a more progressive nation than we were back then, and the younger generation of that day is now the older generation of today. Yet, a culture of ignorance still thrives, and it only takes one disturbed and delusional man with a podium to drag us back into the darkness. Until we as a nation find a way to again place value on education, the scientific method, and the notion that we can’t just make up reality to fit our liking; until we find a meaningful way to bridge the gap between the have’s and the have not’s in our society; and until our spiritual institutions place less emphasis on trusting in divine providence and more emphasis on each person’s personal responsibility to make our world a better place… there will be openings for those who seek to destroy the core values this nation was founded upon.

And For What It’s Worth, I’m left humming the words of Buffalo Springfield:

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Cliff Kurtzman

Described as "pragmatically reckless with a high tolerance for ambiguity," Dr. Cliff Kurtzman is the founder of The Domino Principle. He is also an award winning entrepreneur, speaker, trend forecaster, and M.I.T.-trained rocket-scientist. Over the past 25 years, Cliff has launched several highly successful ventures by seeing technology trends in the world before they became widely realized, figuring out how they would impact our lives and then creating businesses that leveraged those trends ahead of many others. His bio is at http://www.kurtzman.biz.
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