Friday, July 29, 2016

When Our Leaders Want to "beat people up," You know we Haven't come Far. . . .

Today, perhaps unsurprisingly, Donald Trump went on another one of his almost daily rants. This time he actively advocated violence, saying he wanted to "hit" several of the DNC convention speakers "so hard their heads would spin." (You can see a story in the Huffington Post here)

Personally I am entirely dumfounded by the idea of a presidential candidate in the 21st century who openly talks this way. And not only does he talk this way but his supporters lap it up. The irony of a guy who a few days ago tried to position himself as the "law and order candidate" talking openly about using violence on his opponents is too rich to make up. Comedians and Hollywood screenwriters must just be beside themselves at the professional goldmine that this man provides on an almost daily basis. But a good swath of Americans must surely be irony impaired, because they just aren't getting it. But oligarchs, dictators, and so-called 'strong-armed' leaders have always been this way. They talk about law and order but what they really mean is silence and obedience. Or Else!

In the words of one of my very favourite writers, Kurt Vonnegut, "So it goes."

By way of contrast, I was thinking today about the most popular and, arguably, the most left-leaning president the US has ever seen: Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Like any man, he had his faults. But when you contrast him with Donald Trump he seems almost saint-like. FDR was barely able to walk as a result of polio. And he went to great lengths to hide his disability from the public, a task that was conceivable in the age before television. Hiding his disability was understandable in those days. Even today, it is difficult to imagine a person with a significant disability getting elected president. But I suspect that FDR's disability is, in part, what made him the compassionate and socially conscious leader that he was.

One of the only photos of FDR in a wheelchair.

Trump lives in a world where men are still judged, by many, by their level of masculinity. His supporters, both men and women, like to hear him threaten people with violence because, in their eyes, it makes him manly and a good leader. Trump's popularity demonstrates how little we've really progressed in the past century.

The measure of person should never relate to how loud they speak, how angry they can get, how intimidating they can be. Physical courage can, indeed, be a useful trait. But without a conscience it easily becomes ruthlessness. Lincoln said, "No man is so tall as when he stoops to help a child." How is it that the first Republican president knew this lesson more than a hundred and fifty years ago, but the current Republican nominee has forgotten it entirely?

For some people, great leaders are people who have fought wars,  or did "what they said they would do" (no matter how terrible that act might be). But for those of us who actually want to move into the 21st century, great leaders must be defined by their compassion and their empathy. We know how Trump will be judged on this scale.


John B. said...

I believe that a lot of Trump's support has to do with pure sycophancy. I put it on his followers more so than on the man himself. He is the bully, perceived on account of his success and wealth as a superior individual, who has condescended to allow those would applaud him to partake in his debasement of the less powerful and the odd-man-out.

Trump understands his audience. The enthusiasm that he generates seems to be rooted in the excitement experienced by the most timid and dangerously feeble when they feel that an opportunity has presented to escape their fear and insignificance by having been noticed by someone very important and, rather than being picked on, been deemed acceptable to join his team. I encountered this phenomenon a few times during forty years in the workplace, but I would have to recall back to the lower grades of elementary school to cite so undiluted an example or one that approaches the depth of ignorance and depravity that Trump and his followers put on daily display. Perhaps, having never graduated from the playground, his followers are so dim and soft-minded that they have no choice.

Rather than strength or toughness, in his appeal and particularly within the ranks of his supporters, I see only weakness and pus.

doconnor said...

By law-and-order he didn't mean it literally. He meant police are free to beat and kill the disenfranchised.

I also don't think he meant that he would literally punch the Democratic speakers.

Anonymous said...

"Personally I am entirely dumfounded by the idea of a presidential candidate in the 21st century who openly talks this way."

Yeah much better if one shrugs off a Nobel Peace prize to become the Drone King (because it pays better.)

I would much prefer Archie Bunker in the White House than someone who plans on profiting off of waging wars (hot and cold,) with Islam and Russia.

If the bribe-taking corruption is not enough to turn people off of fake-liberal sellouts like the Clintons and Obomba, perhaps they should consider the spectre of war.

Republican president Dwight Eisenhower warned of the 'feed me Seymour' military industrial complex. Hillary literally told plutocrats "war is a business opportunity."

Although this meth-addict beauty contest is a tough one to judge, I have Trump slightly ahead in the "lesser of evils" column.

Of course, there is nothing evil about Dr. Jill Stein and her progressive platform founded on tried-and-true Keynesian 'New Deal' economics.

Hillary's neoliberal economics will only make the Great Recession worst, which will be 12-years long by 2020, ensuring an even nastier Republican revolution probably led by bible-thumper Ted Cruz. If Trump wins, this provides a springboard for an FDR-style New Deal led by Elizabeth Warren who would give meaning to the concept of first woman American president.

-Bernie Orbust

Anonymous said...

Surely you mean you sincerely hope, and what is life without hope, that:

"By law-and-order he didn't mean it literally. He meant police are free to beat and kill the disenfranchised.

I also don't think he meant that he would literally punch the Democratic speakers."

Because if you aren't full of hope that these statements are just of the "I'm kidding" variety, then you are nothing but a Trump apologist, and so far down the rathole you're merely apologizing for the dumb git and his highly uninformed and easily duped followers. Just like the types the first commenter wrote so lucidly about, merely following a bully leader because you're too wimpish to stand for something yourself. You will have become a sychophant for a man speaking from a bottomless well of ignorance.

Quite why you should have such hope that underneath it all Trump is a great guy and that he's just kidding, while he's actually egging on the knuckledraggers tone-deaf to such nuances as his actual view being 180 degrees from what he states, is beyond my ken. Literally. (To re-use a word you banter around with so freely in your imagination)


Anonymous said...

LOL. Little Kirby has to censor comments for content. Can't let his readers think for themselves and form their own opinions. Critical thinking is dangerous! I can see you don't think Hillary Clinton is the "lesser of evils." She represents everything you stand for!

-Bernie Orbust

Kirby Evans said...

@ BM - Your comment is, I am afraid, entirely too obtuse, and I am not even sure what your point or position is.

@ Bernie Orbust: First of all, please site one example of where I defended HIllary Clinton. Your criticisms of her are all entirely legitimate and I am not sure I would disagree with any of them. My criticisms of Trump were exactly that: criticisms of Trump, not a defence of Hillary Clinton. I think one can make a concerted argument that Hillary is the "lesser of two evils." However, I never made that argument. A critic of someone is not a priori an endorsement of someone else. As for your claim that I censor comments, that too is unfounded. I am not sure where this is coming from, and the appearance of your comment is a demonstration of your falsehood.

Why is it that it that comment boards seem to drive people to make blatantly counterfactual, and abusive comments?

doconnor said...

Just to be clear I recently I recently said about Trump, "He is a incoherient, hatefilled narcissist with the intelligence of Rob Ford and the paranoia of Richard Nixon. If elected he will either be quickly impeached or destroy American democracy." Certainly I left room to be both more insulting and/or more poetic with my statement.