How will we describe Donald Trump to our grandchildren?
photo by Gage Skidmore
On January 6, 2021, and for several days after, I too, along with hundreds of millions of people the world over, looked on with sadness, abhorrence and disgust as a violent right-wing mob ransacked and pillaged offices and rooms on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., leaving 5 people dead and many injured. As a person who was born, raised, educated and lived in the US for 23 years, I can only say that it was a sad day for me to witness what was happening to the democratic country I was born into. It is one of those events and pictures that we will be remembering for decades into the future. And I am sure we will be remembering the outgoing, arrogant President, who incited this mob, and for whom they were protesting for- Donald Trump.
I am not drawn, experienced or particularly interested in politics, I tend to spend my time elsewhere. However, around such a traumatic event who can stay indifferent, not only to what has taken place (and at this time there are substantiated indications that certain protestors had come with arms and explosives seeking to assassinate Congressmen and other leaders).
I don't have any grandchildren today, but I hope to one day (something which is not in my hands, obviously). I found myself wondering- what will I tell them about this dismal president, Donald Trump, and how will I be able to describe just how awful and dangerous he was? I will want to tell them about the "9 lessons learned about life" from Donald Trump, hoping that they will never see the likes of such an irresponsible leader themselves.
I would tell them to look at the life and times of Donald Trump and consider:
1. How narcissistic power endangers the world
How a man with no political experience came to run the strongest nation on earth just because he managed to sell people the premise that money, power, greed and ostentatious living gives him wisdom and entitlement to do so. That this man became a "one man megabrand" that was strong enough to propel him into being the President of the United States. That having the "brand" masked the fact that he had little else to bring to the job(even some of his business "deals" were irresponsible ventures leading to bankruptcy), and yet he never relinquished his narcissistic desire to become president- "numero uno"- for his own ego.
2. "Look and be like me- I'm rich"
That this Donald Trump image was not only pathetic and dubious to begin with, but it managed to convince millions of people that they could trust this man, "to make a deal". Leadership of the world is not about making "deals", and certainly not by a narcissistic, charismatic, selfish individual as he was. How the "glitter of gold" is not only illusory, but can be fatal. Look and into a person and what he/she knows, does and lives by- beware of the shiny diamonds and the "powerful looks"…
3. Terrible Leadership kills
How Donald Trump consistently and recklessly played down the Covid-19 pandemic for months, publicly demonstrating against the use of masks, inciting lack of cooperation with State leaders, not supporting professional and medical leaders properly, poorly planning, judging and overseeing the beleaguered United States as hundreds of thousands of Americans died, (higher than any nation in the world by far!) and many more were left economically damaged and psychologically impaired.
4. Bigotry and hate know no bounds
Donald Trump never ceased sending out disparaging comments on so many "others"- Women, Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, foreigners- once you let the "racist genie out of the bottle" you never know where it will go. Is it any surprise that amongst the mob on January 6th there were people who wore clothing with phrases such as a translation of the Nazis’ infamous 'Arbeit macht frei', and 'Camp Auschwitz’? Trump had been caught not once or twice refraining from reprimanding white supremacist acts- even if he himself is not openly racist, people who live and brew hate will always fill the vacuum he created by his shameful words or shameful inaction!
5. Deceit never knows where to stop
How Trump relentlessly lied throughout his time as President, created the "Conspiracy Theory" because he could not decently admit to losing the election, called the horrendous climate crisis- mankind's greatest catastrophe in the making- a "hoax" -turned his back time and again on the poorer, vulnerable portions of the nation by saying that everything will be worked out by the "market", leaving millions without health insurance and without basic social support.
6. Beware of people who create poor human relations
How record levels of "hiring and firing" of senior staff members never stopped, how seeding this feeling of insecurity and lack of support in house was just a microcosm of what was happening at the national and international level. Trump never stopped "firing", as he did in his popular TV reality show in the past, "The Apprentice", which made him a household name in the US. What does it tell you when time and again people leave or are terminated because they "can't work with you"- and here it is not just another "boss" but the leader of the strongest democracy in the world!
7. Beware of Media Stars
There is nothing wrong with being a celebrity, but can people actually separate out the "brand" from the man? Can they really see through the crap and understand the seriousness of what it means to be the number one decision maker for such a complex institution as the Unites States of America? Trump is a prime example of how "popularity" and social media confuse, stain, obstruct and create messages without any foundation in reality.
8. What and where are the values?
In a time when we are trying to survive and prevail in a world pandemic with too much information, too often and too strong, how do we really know what the values are of the person who is leading us? Does he have any values all outside of "winning" ?
In Naomi Klein's book "No is Not Enough" on the rise of Trump and Trumpism she writes, " Donald Trump's brand is being the ultimate boss, the guy who is so rich he can do whatever he wants and to whomever he wants…this helps explain signifiers of Trump's wealth are so important to him- gold curtains and shots of his private jets constantly reinforce his brand and ultimate capitalist success story- power and wealth incarnate." (p. 29)
9. Don't ever say it can't happen here
We know all about this. Let's hope we are over the worst, but uncertainty is before us. The aberration of Trump needs to be a lesson- that it CAN happen in the US and it CAN happen anywhere! Political and societal systems are never immune- a coronavirus or a Donald Trump is always around the corner.
“Once a country is habituated to liars, it takes generations to get the truth back.” ― Gore Vidal