Memoirs of a Superfan Volume 15.3: Rejecting Donald Trump’s Racist Visions!
By Ravi Chandra.
September 7. 2020
Donald Trump’s supporters seem to think he’s a heroic visionary, bringing their angry, antagonistic view of America to fruition. Let’s kick the tires of this “vision” as we head into the final stretch of the 2020 election.
Have you ever known someone with a so-called strong, clear vision? Something that looks beautiful in print, or on a drafting table, but takes no account of the people it leaves out, steps on, or uses? What happens when this person makes decisions, based on their vision? “To decide” literally means to “slay all other choices.” Let’s just say … a lot tends to get left out, lost, ignored, covered up, buried, devalued. Dissent, doubt, questions, free will and freedom itself are simply obstacles that cloud the fervent leader’s path. You’re either for them or against them. The vision splits the world in half, takes what it wants, and leaves others to pick up the broken pieces and people it shatters in its wake.
This is how vision becomes self-centered delusion.
This is how vision becomes arrogance, bullying, certainty…and ignorance.
Delusion leads to derealization leads to dehumanization. If you feel dehumanized and objectified, then you are in the grips of a self-centered delusion. All egotistical visions create power for some, and create othering and abuse for the marginalized. We create identity in the shadow of abusive power, and from the shadow rises a critique of the delusion. In the shadows where we’ve slumbered, tossed, turned and raged, in the involuted darkness of our pain we absorb nightmare, abuse and trauma. We fold it into our human knowledge of love. We dream medicine for wounds, we weave a web of healing to catch all hurt. We catch each other when we fall. We assert our full human selves. We inhabit our true, complete identities centered on compassion and integrity, the fundamental, life-giving facets of human life that have been marginalized by self-centered delusion.
I have respect for visionaries of all stripes, but we must acknowledge that the visionary is separate from the vision. If the vision doesn’t get along with reality, we must let it go, while accepting the visionary as human, warts and all, creative but perhaps not grounded, envisioning based on their own identity but not taking the needs and identities of others into account. Those taken with the vision are simply gullible, eager to be convinced and thus “secure,” fearful of falling out of the leader’s favor, or possessed by the same egoic needs and drives as the leader. We can all be gullible to our own visions or beliefs, or gullible to the visions or beliefs of others. We can delude ourselves, and in the deluding, cause harm. The chief delusion is forgetting the truth of the interdependence of reality and thinking that the harm we cause will not affect us, not caring about the harm we inflict on others.
White supremacy is an example of a harmful yet powerful delusion of dehumanization, that some have called a vision. There are others. And the chickens are coming home to roost.
I am extreme in my willingness to accept human beings while not accepting their behaviors or visions. Psychologist Albert Ellis called this “Universal Self and Other Acceptance.” He wrote that even Hitler was acceptable as a person, even as we reject and resist his behaviors. None of Hitler’s drafting table ideas looked good. It should give us great pause that he lived in a country and time that his hateful vision of destruction, genocide and self-aggrandizement not only got past the planning commission and permitting process, but nearly destroyed the world. The whole world had to fight this divisive delusion of so-called “Aryan superiority,” militarily, morally and spiritually, and there were enormous casualties. Truth, honesty and common humanity were the first casualties in Hitler’s self-aggrandizement. He came to power with his blinkered racist vision in 1933, and five years later, Kristallnacht occurred. In the immediate aftermath, “at least 91 Jews were killed in the violence, and 30,000 were arrested and interned in concentration camps (but not extermination camps). Over 900 synagogues and 7,000 Jewish businesses were severely damaged or destroyed.” We all know where this story went, though there are deniers in proximity to the Oval Office.
In our own democracy, at the same time, one of our most beloved presidents violated the Constitution with Executive Order 9066 and put 120,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese Latin Americans in concentration camps because of paranoid racist delusion. To quote Sox Kitashima’s famous speech on August 12th, 1989 before the National Coalition for Redress and Reparations, which was further immortalized by Jon Jang and the Pan Asian Arkestra on their album Never Give Up: Let Us Not Forget (available online):
“Let us not forget the trauma experienced with evacuation: the loss of property, both real and personal; the loss of earnings; the loss of human and civil rights during World War II. The wives and young children left with evacuation decisions because their husbands and fathers were taken away earlier. The deep furrows on the faces of our elderly; the loss of a lifetime of work; the agony of being helpless. I shall never forget the testimony of a mother with two small children shocked by the action of two military police. While waiting for her husband to return home, they knocked every picture off the wall, threw her Buddhist shrine outside and smashed it to pieces, tore up all the mattresses. The children were too scared to sleep by themselves. Military necessity, a weak excuse for racism, was never justified…”
Truth, honesty and common humanity went out the window when Roosevelt and General DeWitt felt threatened. The human and civil rights of American citizens were trampled because of a “military necessity” based on lies, fabrications, delusions, and the presumption of guilt based on ethnicity. Japanese Americans were suspicious persons then, and Asian Americans are suspicious persons now, smeared by President Trump’s blame game with China, itself part of a political stratagem to smear Joe Biden as being “soft on China.” Before that it was smearing Mexicans and migrants to get elected, and currently, Blacks, Black Lives Matter protestors and Kamala Harris to gin up his White Nationalist, law and order base and supposedly, suburban White women, if they’ll go along.
President Trump is not Hitler, but his vision follows spec.
Probably the most challenging situation I face as a psychiatrist and citizen is a working with a person filled with dogmatic certitude. They are what I call “headstrong and dead wrong,” in their thought processes and relationships. You feel misunderstood and devalued – and thus frustrated, tense, angry and disconnected – when you are with them. Everything you say can and will be held against you, because their truth is the whole truth and nothing but the truth – to them. And you will suddenly find yourself in their Supreme Court, prejudged in their show trial. In my experience, these individuals have often had severe relational trauma, and are profoundly disconnected in the present day as well. You’ve heard of the Golden Rule? Unfortunately, these sad individuals do unto others what they think has been done unto them. The way they treat others is both a reflection of how they’ve been treated, and thus the way they think the world actually works.
They develop a theory of what’s happened to them, and they collect a basket of injustices and an action plan to win in the world, which fuels their difficult emotions. The theory may or may not have a kernel of truth, but they spin that kernel into an overarching story of alienation. From that alienation, they pitch a story of revenge and empowerment, crime and punishment, envy and spite. If they had enough compassion, mindfulness, insight, relatedness and creativity, they could pitch a story of healing, at least for themselves. Instead, they imagine that total control and persecution of those who disagree will bring them satisfaction. They carry around a delusional reality, tagged by hostility, jealousy, resentment, envy and blame.
I do my job, but I can’t help everyone. My job is to be real, and to be myself. My compassion puts me directly in the path of their visions. I do my best to keep them from harming themselves, others, or me. I inevitably make my human faux pas, or faux pas in their eyes, and then all hell breaks loose. I’m in a re-enactment of their trauma, and I have become the bad object in their movie, the unfeeling bully, the Hitler. All I’ve done is resist becoming the all-bad object. All I’ve done is disagree with their twisted view of reality that wishes to make me their subject and twist me into their plaything. I really idealize selflessness, but I must admit that I have limits, and I can get overwhelmed by the controlling demands of some patients and people in the world. My own needs for identity, belonging and wellness keep me helpful for myself and others. There are some therapists who would see me as too related and perhaps too relatable – but to each their own. The world is relationships, and this is not always an easy or comfortable situation, by any measure. I have had to grow enormously to do my job, but luckily I already had the inclinations for the task. I have had the good fortune to have had enough loving relationships to strengthen my nature as a caring human being. We are always growing, and in our growth, we help others grow.
What I have learned is that when I am gripped by the patient’s certainties and need to control me and the therapy session, I am feeling their deep fear and need, their demand for attention. They are an infant grown tall, crying to their mother to be fed and changed, crying for her to make the world safe for them, crying for love. All this pain gets twisted by their minds that have gone years without solace, perhaps without capacity to receive or trust solace and care, and then projected onto me as anything from blame and rage to the intensity of an infant wanting to be held, fed, cradled and rocked to sleep, now. My job is to be a safe and trustworthy relationship for them, and sometimes this is the closest they have ever gotten to being loved. And I do love my patients in the therapeutic sense, because they couldn’t get better if I didn’t. But I’m not perfect, and sometimes I have been so blinded by the intensity of what’s coming at me that I haven’t developed the insight to see what’s underneath. Sometimes my own vision hasn’t been totally clear, and both patient and I have had difficulty seeing the adults and children in the room with us.
Now, classically, therapists absorb their patient’s projections and “metabolize” them. The severely disturbed and suffering patient theoretically moves from seeing you as all-good or all-bad to seeing you as a normal person trying to do their job as best they can, and certainly as a unique person and not a generic therapist-from-a-box. I am the “good-enough-therapist” similar to the “good enough mother or father” that they may not have had or accepted. In so doing, they can also accept that they are also human, unique and good enough, forgive themselves for being human, and also forgive others being human too, and for falling short of their excruciating, impossible standards and demands.
The president’s self-centered “vision” if you can call it that, is divide and conquer; to make bad objects of everyone who disagrees with him or presumptuously insists on being seen as individuals worthy of care and respect, most especially Blacks, Asians, women and migrants. White Supremacy insists on seeing “whiteness” as “all good” and BIPOC people especially as bad objects, outsiders, inferior and marginalized. This harms and objectifies all people, including the deluder-in-chief himself, though he thinks it brings him a kind of fear- and personality-based power.
Donald Trump’s delusionary vision worked in 2016. The mudslinging psychologically suppressed voters in key states. Sure, Hillary Clinton may not have been the perfect candidate, but when are women candidates given the kind of free pass that candidate Trump was given?
Here is the algorithm for his ardent supporters:
“White, Male, Christian and Right Wing is Right and All-Good;
Female, non-white, not-Evangelical/Fundamentalist-Christian, and ‘left’ is Wrong and All-Bad.”
He and his supporters don’t just want the rest of us to sit at the back of the bus. They don’t even want us to ride.
It’s a deliciously simple dogma, fit for people who can’t handle the complexity of diversity, do MATH (shoutout to our brother Andrew Yang!), or recognize that there are more important things than tax breaks for the wealthy, big oil, and small churches with narrow minds and bigotry in the pulpits. Truth be told, they can’t even handle the complexity of the human mind.
Who programmed them this way? Whose vision was this? I want answers, I need to know. We are literally fighting a cult of White Male supremacy, and metaphorically an army of robot-zealots, and they want people like me squashed, devalued, silent, disempowered, angry – because they want to win at all costs, and have us “lose.” Every power structure needs a bad object, and they have chosen us as theirs. Compassion and common humanity themselves are their bad objects. They want to “own” us in gamerspeak. And yes, it is a form of slavery.
Donald Trump’s slavery is the slavery imposed by an abused and angry toddler, who wants others to feel as dominated and enraged as his own inner child does, if it is even yet alive. Except now that toddler lives in the body of a president, his party and millions of supporters. Democrats and progressives are the psychological equivalent of the mother he wanted but never had. Why wouldn’t he be cruel, rancorous and sadistic to any woman who would run against him, or say he was a bad boy?
“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery – none but ourselves can free our minds.” – Bob Marley
How do you free yourself from a cult and a cult’s judgments? The classic interventions, per the Freedom of Mind Resource Center, is get physically away from them, preferably with your loved ones who knew you before the cult started changing your behavior, and reflect on how you were unduly influenced to join the cult, how it changed your personality, and how you learned to become hostile to anyone who “misbehaved” in the eyes of the cult leadership. Steven Hassan, the FOM director, had been recruited by the Moonies until his family loved him back to freedom. Now, he and his organization have supported thousands of individuals with personal interventions, and tens of thousands through his books, Combating Cult Mind Control, Freedom of Mind, and most recently, The Cult of Trump.
Hassan and people like him have their work cut out for them right about now. Trump’s delusional, derealizing, dehumanizing cult has inflicted collateral damage on the entire nation, and we all need to get unhooked.
The Cult of Trump turned me onto a great documentary, The Brainwashing of my Dad, showcasing how the director’s father turned from a sweet kind soul into a rabid racist and misogynist after listening exclusively to right-wing talk radio and watching Fox News. After his TV somehow got reprogrammed and he was no longer able to watch Fox, the sweet and kind soul returned.
We all influence each other. We have some choice about who influences us, how we are influenced by them, and how we influence others in turn. There’s soft power and hard power on the influence spectrum (see figure below, from the Freedom of Mind website), just like there’s good touch and bad touch. The people who are very certain, “headstrong and dead wrong” really lean into things. They are controlling, arrogant and selfish. You are either valued as a commodity in pursuit of their vision, or devalued as an obstacle to that vision. One way or the other, you are objectified and stereotyped, no longer a person, but a utility, a cog in their infernal, dehumanizing machine. You might feel good to be in their good graces, but look out: all hell will break loose when you step out of their narrow bounds of acceptability. In fact, they will push you out of bounds just to have an excuse to harm you and empower themselves.
All through this, they live in your head, rent-free, and apparently it’s the longest-running moratorium on evictions the world has ever known.
On November 3rd we get to write the most important eviction notice in the history of the world. A signed, sealed and delivered “you’re ours” notice to evict Donald J. Trump from the White House where he has been the most vile, corrupt, hate-hurling, incompetent and petulant leader I have seen in my lifetime. I have written extensively on PsychologyToday.com about the clear evidence for his distorted thinking process and his poor capacity for relationship. I have also written about holding a seed of compassion for him through insight into his human insecurity and vulnerability, which makes him “just like me,” and just like us.
But oh, where he goes with it.
Compassion tells me that his lies only come from a place of deep fear of not being on top, his absolute incapacity to have a proper conversation, and a complete lack of understanding of or concern for human relationships. He is incapable of even understanding why his behavior is problematic. As a psychiatrist, I know that people tell the truth when they feel safe – and this man seems to have no sense of inner safety. In my personal opinion, he is completely unbalanced and unfit to be president. He who makes so many people feel unsafe inherently feels unsafe himself, and this pushes him to sadism and cruelty. I wish him no ill as a human being – but he should not be a leader in any shape or form.
Perhaps he is seen best as a button-pusher. Well, he’s pushed all our buttons, and now your doctors are listening to hear where it hurts. Can they save this patient called America? All hands on deck.
Indeed, Trump’s only saving grace might be that he vividly showed us how easily the ideals of our system and values can be hacked and pillaged, and further wake us to the racism and oppression in our midst. How easily many Americans can become racist and oppressive if given license by a leader’s drafting table, his architects, his planning commission, and his zoning board. All of these are as corrupt as he for not offering up a single red flag warning of his clear ignorance of what keeps the house of America standing: its people, and their sense of the common good forged by the democratic process. Instead, they have allowed themselves to be weaponized against the house of America itself.
The democratic process has been broken for some time though. Executive power overreach has been a problem for decades or longer, and the common good warped since 1619 in favor of the wealthy and white, to say the least. President Trump lives rent free in the White House, but the delusion of White Male Supremacy has occupied our continent far longer.
Let’s not just deliver an eviction notice. Let’s deliver a verdict on this malevolent vision that disgraces our communities, our nation, and our world. As Bob Marley sang,
Until the philosophy, which hold one race superior and another, Inferior
Is finally – And permanently – discredited – and abandoned
Everywhere is war…
That until there no longer
First class and second class citizens of any nation
Until the color of a man’s skin
Is of no more significance than the color of his eyes
Me say war
We cannot have peace, peace of mind or rest for our weary souls until we end racism, totally, permanently, finally and absolutely. And I know this is a possibility, because enlightenment – well, enlightenment is a thing. Enlightenment marks the end of ignorance, self-centered delusion, jealousy, greed and hate.
As the Buddhists say, “practice as if your hair is on fire.”
And to put my psychiatrist’s hat on my burning hair, to hold a seed of compassion for Trump, his acolytes and his supporters – I have to recognize that they are deeply fearful of the Black, Brown, Yellow, multiracial, multicultural future that has been emerging for the last half-century. Yes, the female future as well, “a world in which we are linked not ranked” in the words of singer Madame Gandhi.
Kenosha Sheriff David Beth in January, 2018. He has since apologized for this racist rant, but Beth and his department are again under intense scrutiny in the aftermath of the shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, and the creation of conditions that led to the so-called “lone wolf assassin,” 17-year old Kyle Rittenhouse.