Trump reflections II

Continued from a previous post.

Focus on the issues, not the person. A lesson from Italy and other places is to focus on the issues, not the person. Focusing on Trump’s insanity (a) distracts from the real issues, and (b) galvanizes the Trump supporters and makes their position even more entrenched. The issues are real and important enough. There is no reason to dilute it by focusing on Trump himself, no matter how tempting it may be.

Why is he so fascinating? That said, there is a huge temptation to focus on Trump’s personality. The media certainly gave him a huge amount of free airtime, and they did so because of his outrageous statements and behavior, and the drama and chaos he creates.

A deeper reason why people are drawn to focusing on his personality is that he reflects something in all of us. He is an outrageous caricature of some of the worst sides in all humans. He shows us our shadow. And that is inherently fascinating.

In that fascination is wisdom. There is an invitation for all of us to find ourselves in him. How would I describe him? (Write it down.) How does that apply to me? Find specific examples. (It may be that what I find in myself is much less strong, and appears in a different way. After all, he often functions as a caricature of these sides in us.)

Nov. 23, 2016

Projections. It’s precarious to say that someone else is projecting. It can be seen as attacking the person and not the issue (which is often the case), and who is to say I am not projecting as well? The remedy is to make it clear that this is something we all do. In the case of Trump, the projections are often quite obvious. For instance, he accused Hillary Clinton of lying, while independent fact checkers were very clear that he lied several times as often as she did. She were among those who lied the least during the campaign (only beaten by Sanders). In general, he blames others for what he himself is doing. And it’s important to make this clear, point it out, and not let him get away with it.

The other side of this is my own projections. What does Trump and his supporters bring up in me? For instance, when I write down how I see him (he is….) and turn it to myself, how can I find specific and concrete examples of how those statements fit me?

Love for Putin? Putin and Russia may have had a more significant hand in this election than most suspected. Trump’s admiration of Putin is no secret, and no surprise since they are both authoritarians with little regard for human rights and democracy. It’s more surprising that some liberals seem to admire Putin. Why on earth would they? (Especially considering his assassination and jailing of political opponents, invasion of Ukraine, support of Assad etc.) My theory is that some liberals get news through Russia Today and similar Russian new sources. After all, these news sources and some western liberals share a criticism of some western foreign policies. (I do too.) In the process, they may have been fed pro-Putin propaganda and swallowed it. The weird result is western liberals having a fondness for an authoritarian as or more dangerous than Trump.

Nov. 24, 2016

Saying what he thinks will get him what he wants in the moment. One key to understanding Trump is that he seems to say what he thinks will get him what he wants in the moment. In a different situation, he will say something else. (I know this since I recently had a boss who did this.) For instance, before the election, he strongly suggested he would not accept the result if he lost. Now, when they are going to do a recount of the votes in some states, he takes the opposite view. He has similarly changed his view on prosecuting Hillary Clinton (which is not in his power anyway), climate change (perhaps), and a range of other issues.

Nov. 25, 2016

Separating person and views. The Trump situation is an invitation for differentiation. Mainly, differentiating people from their views. We can treat people with respect and kindness and seek to understand what their real concerns are, while also being very clear that we disagree with their views, and – in this case – that their views often are based on misinformation. A key here is curiosity and being willing to dig deeper than usual to discover what their real concerns – and often fears – are.

A basic guideline from NVC is to separate out needs and strategies to meet those needs. What are the needs of the different Trump supporters? How can these needs be met in a way that’s less destructive, and supports all of life?

Nov. 26, 2016

More moderate? I heard someone express relief that Trump seems to have moderated his approach since the election. I think it’s more likely that he says what serves him in the moment. Before the election, he made more inflammatory statements to appeal to the emotions of the voters, and now more moderate statements so he can be left more alone to do what he wants. Judging from who he has asked to join his cabinet, he is certainly not on a more moderate path. It’s as destructive and reckless as anything he did and said during the campaign.

Emotional reactivity. Trump and some of his supporters seem to largely come from emotional reactivity. It can feel good in the moment but it’s not a good strategy in the long run, especially not if you are the president of a country. At the surface level, it’s immature, childish, and dangerous. And it can also be a strategy to appeal to people’s emotions and distract from the issues.

Nov. 28, 2016

Insanity? Is Trump insane? It depends on your definition, of course, but I would say he certainly has serious mental and emotional issues. I am sure some of what he says and does is strategic, but wanting to use those strategies to such an extent points to serious trauma and wounding.

We all have trauma and wounds, and we can recognize them as such, seek to heal them, and be conscious of acting less from them, or we can act on them with gusto which is what Trump seems to do.

Nov. 30, 2016

Ask for clarification. “You don’t argue with a toddler if you want to win; don’t amplify the toddler’s voice, because you’ll just get trapped in the toddler’s world. Rather, just keep asking the toddler to elaborate, because logic is the downfall of every toddler.” – The Daily Show on handling Trump.

This is, in general, good advice: Stay on topic. Ask for clarification. Ask for sources and more details. In the world of Trump, since it’s often not based on facts and not very much thought through, it will fall apart quickly.

Of course, in reality, it’s not this simple. With Trump and his supporters, they may not be willing to engage in this form of discourse. They know their views don’t hold up to this form of exploration. They will engage in distractions to avoid this form of scrutiny.

Still, what I wish is to see reporters doing this with Trump and his supporters more systematically.

Dec. 3, 2016

Sources. Mainstream media is relatively critical of Trump, which is appropriate and necessary. Here are some news sources I read: The Guardian, New York Times, PRI/NPR, NRK, and sometimes LA Times and SF Chronicle. And some magazines: Yes! Magazine, The Atlantic, and Slate. The ones I read regularly are The Guardian, Yes! Magazine, and also Robert Reich.

Trump supporters. I keep having cognitive dissonance about the Trump supporters. On the one hand, I want to understand and do understand that they have their own reasons for supporting him and that these make sense from their perspective, situation, and background. On the other hand, it’s completely baffling that anyone would support him, especially considering that his policies will harm most of them. He is in it for himself, as was obvious from the beginning.

Those supporting him do so for a variety of reasons. Most likely, they do so out of a combination of one or more of the following: (a) They act from party loyalty. (b) They agree with one or a few of his views or policies, and those are important enough for them to support him. (c) They were disappointed with what Obama did, and voted for the other party’s candidate for that reason. (He was limited in what he could accomplish due to obstruction from Congress.) (d) They think it’s time for a change. (No matter how reckless that change is.) (e) They are misinformed, misled, and act on false information. (f) They lack thorough and accurate information. (g) They acted from emotional reactivity, and Trump fueled those emotions and reactivity. (h) They don’t recognize that he is in it for himself, and says whatever he thinks benefits him in the moment.

Surveys show that Trump supporters, in general, have less education and are “low information” voters. Although it may sound a bit unfair, I can add that research shows that less intelligent people tend to judge and blame groups based on characteristics such as religion and ethnicity, and Trump played very much to this simplistic way of looking at things. (More intelligent people tend to judge from a “they should know better” approach.)

Unfaithful electors. I understand that some in the electoral college are reluctant to vote for Trump. So far, one has resigned and given the position to another, and another has said he will cast his vote for another republican candidate. What is a bit puzzling to me is how some democrats/liberals encourage them to do so. Many Americans seem to have a shaky understanding of democracy. And encouraging electors to vote against their mandate is clearly against the basic principles of democracy. Some say that this is a uniquely dangerous situation and that justifies such actions. I am not so sure. What would democrats think and say if the situation was reverse?

End of the US empire? The US empire will, of course, end. The only question is when. With the election of Bush jr. and now Trump, it seems it may happen sooner rather than later. Here is an interview with Johan Galtung who has predicted the end of the US empire by 2020. The main questions are: When the US empire ends – whether it’s intentionally or not – who will fill the gap, and what will happen to the US? The US empire has kept the world overall relatively stable, and at a high cost of human lives, local and regional devastation, and by supporting oppressive regimes. What comes instead may be more or less enlightened in terms of human rights, social justice, and sustainability. (What I hope for is a form of global governance strong enough to keep multinational corporations in check, and takes the side of people, nature, and future generations.) And what will happen to the US? Again, it could be greater social and ecological problems, or it can be taken as an opportunity to help the US as a nation flourish.

Why do people vote against their own interests? I am repeating myself, but a few things come to mind: (a) People are misled and misinformed. Some are “low information” voters and base their votes on what they hear from certain media and people around them, and this information may not be accurate. For instance, Fox News has created an information bubble that severely and consistently misleads their viewers. (b) Some see certain issues as very important (even if these don’t impact them directly), vote based on these, and are willing to put up with much they don’t agree with. (c) Party loyalty. (Combined with a or b.)

Privatization. I have never understood privatization. Perhaps because I am from Norway and I see how well public ownership of vital resources – such as oil, land, water, transportation – can work. And also because it just makes sense. We, the people, should collectively own our vital resources. The only function of privatization is to move public resources into the hands of the few already wealthy. It is, of course, cloaked in ideology and reasons that may make sense on the surface, but they fall apart as soon as you look a little closer into the situation and history. For a long time, it’s been baffling to me how politicians can support austerity policies when they so obviously are aimed at moving public property into the hands of the already wealthy. Are they bribed, or perhaps not too bright? Fortunately, the tide seems to be turning somewhat, at least in regards to the awful austerity policies. I am not sure what line Trump will take on this topic, but the republican party has a clear policy of privatization.

Give him the benefit of the doubt? Some people still talk about giving him the benefit of the doubt. (Even Adyashanti!) Many gave him the benefit of the doubt early in in his campaign, but even then it was a bit naive. He has shown his true colors his whole life (just read interviews with his biographers), during the campaign, and now in preparation to take over as president. There isn’t much doubt to give him the benefit of. From the beginning of his campaign, there never was.

Post-Truth = lies, & postmodernism. Someone said “you are entitled to your opinion but not your facts” but that’s not how things work in the Trump world, and also the world of some rightwingers and the more conspiracy prone left. We now have a situation where some media (Fox News, Breitbart etc.), some politicians, and some people in general, tell stories first and foremost to support their existing positions and care little about reality. And they all can find support for their facts and views, especially if they don’t look too closely at the sources. This is an extreme consequence of post-modernism. The gifts of post-modernism is an awareness of

The gifts of post-modernism is an awareness of how we all create our experience of the world, and how bias is built into this experience. Another gift is realizing we can question everything, which can be very valuable. The danger is disregarding facts altogether or thinking that our “facts” are as good as anyone else’s. I thought that only happened to a very few who had seriously lost contact with reality, but now it seems far more widespread. If people can disregard a near 100% consensus among scientists (human created climate change) and instead see their own opposing view as equally or more valid, where are we left?

Of course, this is a conscious strategy among some. They promote and validate this nearly insane approach to sow just enough doubt and confusion so they can get away with what they are doing. That was a strategy that worked to some extent for the tobacco industry, and now the petroleum industry is attempting the same – helped by Fox Nows, Trump, and many Republicans.

One definition of insanity is to (a) be out of touch with reality and (b) not realizing we are. If so, people inhabiting this “post-truth” world are insane – at least in an everyday sense.

I realize that living in such a world must be very stressful. It’s stressful to uphold and defend views so clearly out of touch with reality. It’s stressful because they must know, somewhere, that that’s what they are doing.

And I realize that we all do this to some extent. On the one hand, it’s stressful to believe any thought and take it as an absolute or final truth, and it’s helpful to be able to recognize this and hold the views more lightly. On the other hand, we need to have some consensus reality and some agreements to operate from in order to live and function.

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