Please Don’t Make Me Keep Beating The Children

Marchers in London protesting the visit of Donald Trump, July 2018, via “The Other 98%” on Facebook.
“I think we need to identify the real national emergency in this country and that is the question of whether or not Donald Trump is fit to be the President of the United States.”–Carl Bernstein


I don’t want to keep beating the children, but you are making me do it. I don’t want to refuse to give you the money you need to buy groceries and pay the rent. It’s a humanitarian crises, all because you won’t do what I tell you to do.

I know we once took an oath that all our decisions would require mutual agreement. I intend to live by that oath. That’s why I’ll keep beating the children until we both agree that you will do exactly what I tell you to do.

Everything I do is for you and the kids. You are a stupid, obstructionist, do nothing partner who won’t negotiate or compromise. This entire situation is entirely your fault because of your choice not to do what I’ve told you to do.

When a person effectively says “I’ll keep inflicting pain on you or others unless you do what I want,” they are engaging in coercion through sadism. If the party or parties subject to the acts of sadism do not consent to it, the sadist is engaging in abuse.

Malignant narcissism, as starkly exemplified by the actions of America’s President, has four components: narcissism, paranoia, antisocial personality and sadism. As I indicated was likely last November (See: Really Bad Things Are Going To Happen Now), America is today a nation of 325 million people enduring ongoing domestic abuse by a President who has shut down the government in an effort to deliberately inflict pain upon and cause harm to the country he swore an oath to serve and protect. And those who support and enable his behavior are complicit in his domestic abuse. (See: Narcissism, Codependency, Gaslighting, Reality Distortion Fields and The American Presidency.)

If someone subject to sadistic behavior gives in to the demands of the abuser, they are effectively rewarding the sadist for engaging in abusive behavior. With their behavior reinforced by a positive result, the sadist will then in the future be further emboldened to repeat and even increase their sadistic behavior. It is a cycle of horror that domestic abuse victims live out every single day.  And now it has become a cycle of horror that the American people as a whole live out every single day as well.

Even if Trump’s proposed border wall actually provided a real solution to America’s immigration problems, Congress is now in a position where they could not agree to it, without it setting a precedent that would effectively end the checks and balances envisioned by the Constitution. Our founding fathers deliberately created a government structure centered on checks and balances to protect the people from the whims of any individual politician and to make it difficult to spend public money on new things without consensus. New laws, appropriations, and spending authorizations must be passed by a majority of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and then signed by the President, requiring a consensus of all the parties involved. If the President vetoes or fails to sign off on a piece of legislation, there is a process by which the House and Senate can override the President, requiring a 2/3 vote in each Chamber.

As Robert Reich correctly observed this past week: “Here’s my advice to Democrats in Congress: Don’t negotiate until Trump reopens government. Never allow Trump to treat the government of the United States as bargaining chit. Allow him to do this once, he’ll do it every time funding runs out. And he’ll do it over raising the debt ceiling.” And, “The idea that Trump is using the government of the United States as a bargaining chip is morally, ethically, and constitutionally wrong. This is the behavior of a dictator, not the leader of a democracy. It must not be tolerated.”

America has a clear problem related to immigration and control of its borders. Trump made a campaign promise that he would have Mexico pay for a wall between the United States and Mexico. It was an idiotic promise made to swindle the gullible and foster hate, fear and racism among his base. He has pretended that a couple of hundred poor, starving people people walking to America seeking asylum while trying to escape near certain death in their home countries actually constitutes a threat to America, when nothing could be farther from the truth. If built, the wall will become a monument to American stupidity and racism, one costing billions of dollars to maintain on an ongoing basis while providing little to no solution to the real immigration and border problems faced by America. (See: As the government shutdown over Trump’s border wall rages, a journey along the entire 1,933-mile US-Mexico border shows the monumental task of securing it.)

To call the situation at the border a “crisis” seems to significantly misrepresent the situation. Illegal border crossings have been declining for nearly two decades. In 2017, border-crossing apprehensions were at their lowest point since 1971. (See: Trump Claims There Is a Crisis at the Border. What’s the Reality?.)

Yet, there are in fact two significant humanitarian issues related to the border. The first one is related to the conditions in the home countries of the people seeking asylum that causes them to trek across Mexico to try to find hope of a life in America. Trump didn’t create those conditions, although his policies with regards to those countries are designed to worsen them rather than abate them.

The second issue is the manufactured crisis related to the overflowing camps/prisons/cages at the border and Trump’s deliberate and genocidal separation of children from their families, often without a plan to ever reunite them (See: The Uncounted Families Torn Apart at the Border by the Trump Administration). The situation constitutes a “Don’t Make Me Beat The Children” kind of tragedy that is about 95% of Trump’s creation. His sadistic policies were designed to deliberately inflict harm upon those already enduring tragic circumstances. The solution to it seems to be twofold… 1) reversing the changes the Trump administration has deliberately made to exacerbate the situation; and 2) vastly increasing the judicial network necessary to allow timely adjudication of asylum claims followed by quick expulsion of those not being accepted. Of course, the biggest cause of illegal immigration into America stems not from illegal border crossings or asylum seekers but from people who came into America on legal visas and who then don’t leave when their visa expires. America needs a solution to that issue as well, but a border wall does absolutely nothing to address it.

Trump generates fear by talking about the high rates of horrific crimes and terror committed by illegal immigrants. Yet, he unfailingly falsifies and fabricates his “facts,” something that would be unnecessary if his arguments actually held merit. (See: Fact-checking Trump’s border speech and DACA offer.) The reality is that the rate of crime among undocumented immigrants is generally lower than among native-born Americans. The data shows that the greatest terror threat to America today actually comes from white Christian males who are in the country legally.

Finally, part of Trump’s fear mongering campaign talks about the illegal importation of drugs into America across the border. Again, that is a real issue, but there is no evidence that any substantial amount of drugs are coming into America across the parts of the border that do not have barriers. The evidence is strong that the vast majority of such drugs are smuggled in through checkpoints at legal ports of entry. So again, building a border wall fails to address this issue.

As I have written before, Trump is extraordinarily talented at identifying things in society that are broken, dysfunctional, or unjust and then instilling fear in others of what will happen if the issue is not addressed. He will typically choose topics for which core problems truly exist (immigration, health care, education, tax reform, international relations with various allies and adversaries, the decline of waning industries like coal or steel), and then he will embellish his story with plentiful untruths to further exaggerate fear. He then uses the fear he creates to call for changes that typically make the situation even worse while fulfilling his own corrupt objectives. This is often done at the further expense and injury of those who were damaged by the initial injustices he used to justify his actions in the first place. And as sad as it is to admit it, there is a non-trivial segment of Americans who are ignorant and gullible enough to fall for this con over and over again.

What happens if the government shutdown continues? These article illustrate some of the consequences as the dominoes fall:

•  The ‘doomsday’ scenario: Here’s what happens if the shutdown drags on

•  FBI Agents Say the Shutdown Is a Threat to National Security

•  Federal Courts, Running Out of Money, Brace for Shutdown’s Pain

•  For a Besieged F.B.I., the Shutdown is the Latest Trump-Era Assault

So how does the government shutdown situation end? The President has painted himself into a corner with no decent exits. (See: The President’s Hostage Attempt Is Going Miserably Wrong and Trump Has Defeated Himself.)

There are five main scenarios by which the shutdown might end:

1) The Democrats could give in to Trump and agree to fund his border wall as a condition of Trump agreeing to reopen the government. The probability of this happening is extremely small. The Democrats know that if they do this, Trump will be able to hold the government hostage on any issue of his choosing, and Congressional checks and balances will be lost forever. Further, the Democrats have little to nothing to gain by giving in on anything related to his wall. (Most of the Democrats will, however, support funding for greater border security and immigration reforms.)

The blame and responsibility for the shutdown lies with Trump alone, and the Democrats rightly realize that the more harm that Trump purposefully inflicts upon America and the more damage he causes its economy through his sadism, the better it will go for Democratic candidates in the 2020 elections. You might recall that before the shutdown began, Trump invited Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Schummer into the White House to discuss and negotiate the matter. What should have been a private negotiation turned into a public spectacle when Trump invited the cameras in to broadcast the meeting, presumably to feature his “tough negotiating skills.” In one of the most idiotic, self-inflicted deliberate acts of stupidity a President has ever broadcast, what the public saw was Trump admitting that he would take full responsibility and ownership of the Shutdown, doing so for the entire nation to witness. Efforts to blame-shift and rewrite history by backtracking on that admission, by both Trump and other Republican politicians, have become truly comical.

2) Trump simply capitulates and says “Oh, never mind.” Given Trump’s personality and his need to please his base, this isn’t terribly likely to happen either.

3) Trump declares a national emergency, and attempts to steal funds from other government programs. This situation would be far outside the scope of how national emergency powers where envisioned to be used, and it further isn’t clear how his doing this will actually get him the funds to build much of anything. And further, it is likely that in a few months time the courts would rule his use of emergency powers unconstitutional. Nonetheless, if Trump doesn’t manage to botch it by making additional budgetary demands that the House finds unacceptable, this could give him a way to partially claim to save face while putting an end to the shutdown.

4) Congress passes a budget resolution that will withstand a Presidential veto or non-signing. This will happen if Trump privately let’s Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell know he won’t attack him for having Congress end the standoff, or if McConnell decides that enough is enough and that he is going to buck the President’s wishes and bring an end to the manufactured crisis on his own. If the latter happens, it will signal a significant tipping point in the Trump presidency, opening the door to there being sufficient votes for Trump’s eventual removal from office.

5) The House impeaches Trump and the Senate removes him from office. Each day Trump inflicts pain upon America through his sadistic acts is one day closer to the day enough Senators will reach the tipping point to vote for Trump’s removal from office. Still, it is expected that this process will take about a year, so it doesn’t seem to provide a near term solution.

The most likely path is that eventually something really bad will happen (See: Waiting for a Shutdown to End in Disaster). The resulting outrage, which could include seeing large numbers of people taking to the streets in massive protest, will then trigger #3 or #4 as a resolution.

Appeasing an abuser NEVER works to end the abuse, whether with regards to psychologically abusive personal relationships or to the abuse stemming from the American President. The only way for an abuse victim to break the cycle and start on a path to healing is to remove the abuser from their life. Regardless of what happens with the shutdown, this particular American nightmare will not end until Donald Trump is removed from public office.

What does it say about a country when its people, persuaded with a fair bit of election interference from a foreign adversary, chooses to elect someone President who exhibits all the abusive characteristics of malignant narcissism? What does it say about the country’s elected representatives when they allow the abuse to continue unabated? What does it say about the American people when they don’t speak out en masse and take to the streets to demand an end to it immediately? It points to a country that is dysfunctional in deep and fundamental ways.

Even sadder still, there are also some people who choose to continue to support the abuser and his abusive conduct. Sadly, there are those for whom abuse is all they have known virtually their entire lives. In some cases, they almost seem to have a need to be treated abusively because living that way is what is normal for them. A person who stays in an intimate relationship with someone who engages in clear and obvious gaslighting behaviors is disrespecting themselves every single day. I know someone personally who makes the choice to do this, and it is heartbreaking.

Similarly, I find it heartbreaking to see America disrespecting itself every single day that it’s citizens choose to allow Donald Trump to remain in office.

The consolation to each abusive act that Trump commits is that it brings us closer to the day he will be impeached and removed. We know 2019 will be filled with Trump doing very bad things as he gets more and more desperate. With each terrible thing that he does, he will move Senate Republicans closer and closer to the tipping point. Some of the bad things he does will have lasting and irreversible negative consequences. Some of them might cause people to die, wars to be started, children to be forever torn away from their parents, businesses to be destroyed, economies to be devastated and the environment to be irrevocably harmed. Other bad things that he does might have a temporary effect that can easily be reversed once he is gone. The best case scenario we can hope for is that he will be removed from office before he does too many things that have irreversible negative effects.

I look forward to the day that America finds the strength and courage to end this nightmare. I believe that day will come, but only if each of us takes an active role to speak out and make it happen. The alternative is simply too horrific to contemplate.

Cliff Kurtzman
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One thought on “Please Don’t Make Me Keep Beating The Children”

  1. Could Congress agree to fund the wall with contingencies like it has to show a net benefit (or at least no significant negative impact) on an environmental impact statement, and barriers have to likewise show a positive balance on a cost:benefit analysis? This would allow Trump to save face and claim a victory while in actuality delaying funding for the wall pretty much forever.

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