The Contemptomania of Donald Trump


Now we would like to share with you something we have discovered while we were exploring the possibility that your God may have chosen Donald Trump to play a unique role in bringing the story of America to its end.

We began to see that the simple story question, which America has faced from the beginning…


Who are we, here in the story?


Puts Donald Trump on stage in a unique way…


We are calling it…

The Contemptomania of Donald Trump


There are two Americans who helped open our eyes in this unique way to the possibility that Donald Trump may have been chosen to help bring the story of America to its end.

Their names are Arthur Brooks and John Gottman.

And they can help you see the great danger to America of Donald Trump’s verbal actions.

And we are very interested in whether you will take them seriously and explore the implications for your unfolding drama in America…


As part of our deep-dive on the state of American politics, Brooks aptly likened our fetid political culture with a bad marriage by riffing on the research of John Gottman at the University of Washington in Seattle. “He’s the love doctor. And he finds that the number one predictor of couples getting divorced is eye-rolling, and sarcasm, and mocking,” Brooks said. “What’s bad for a marriage is bad for politics and bad for a country. The biggest problem that we have in the country today is this culture of treating each other with contempt.”

Arthur Brooks says contempt is not just bad for marriages. It kills politics and the country, too. By Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post, August 7, 2018

Political contempt is the problem

Marriage counselors say that when a couple view one another with contempt, it’s a top indicator that the relationship is likely to fail. Americans, who used to know how to disagree with one another without being mutually contemptuous, seem to be forgetting this. And the news media, which promote shrieking outrage in pursuit of ratings and page views, are making the problem worse.

Is America headed toward a civil war? Sanders, Nielsen incidents show it has already begun, By Glenn Harlan Reynolds, USA Today, June 25, 2018

And our team is wondering if Gottman was chosen to provide you a warning…


The destructive power of contempt is well documented in the work of the famous social psychologist and relationship expert John Gottman. He is a longtime professor at the University of Washington in Seattle and cofounder with his wife, Julie Schwartz Gottman, of the Gottman Institute, which is dedicated to improving relationships. In his work, Gottman has studied thousands of married couples. He’ll ask each couple to tell their story-how they met and courted, their highs and lows as a couple, and how their marriage has changed over the years-before having them discuss contentious issues. 

After watching a couple interact for just one hour, he can predict with 94 percent accuracy whether that couple will divorce within three years.4 How can he tell? It’s not from the anger that the couples express. Gottman confirms that anger doesn’t predict separation or divorce.5 The biggest warning signs, he explains, are indicators of contempt. These include sarcasm, sneering, hostile humor, and-worst of all-eye-rolling. These little acts effectively say “You are worthless” to the one person you should love more than any other. Want to see if a couple will end up in divorce court? Watch them discuss a contentious topic, and see if either partner rolls his or her eyes. What does all this have to do with American politics? I asked him that. At this question, Gottman-an ebullient, happy person becomes somber. 

Arthur Brooks, Love Your Enemies

Paula keeps reminding me, so I’ll remind you too. Remember: Politics is all about relationships.

So, what if what has already been developing in America is a condition which ensues when a party in a relationship comes to the quiet conclusion that things won’t change and therefore they begin to detach and desire a breakup?

This condition comes prior to any open declaration of a desire for breakup.

The other party may sense something, but not fully understand what’s going on or the depth to which it has progressed.

It’s like your classic American film, Kramer vs. Kramer, when Meryl Streep suddenly informs Dustin Hoffman that she wants out.



What looked to Hoffman’s character like a placid relationship on the surface had already deteriorated beyond repair.

And that is a lot like the concept of ‘mental divorce.’

Paula Wong showed us this video on YouTube … 

John Gottman: The Mental Divorce


Once the condition sets in, it’s very difficult to reverse. It becomes an infernal affair.

Consider as an illustration the film starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, The War of the Roses.


As you see in the trailer, over time the marriage deteriorated as the couple held each other in increasing contempt.

And as John Gottman points out, contempt is very dangerous:

  The Best Predictor of Divorce


I’m sure you wonder if it can it really be as simple as all that. Each person is their own person, with their own emotional issues. How can this be an indicator for your entire country?

Well, hear this from a very important recent book by Arthur Brooks…


As important, contempt isn’t just harmful for the person being treated poorly. It is also harmful for the contemptuous person, because treating others with contempt causes us to secrete two stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. The consequence of constantly secreting these hormones-the equivalent of living under significant consistent stress-is staggering. Gottman points out that people in couples who are constantly battling die twenty years earlier, on average, than those who consistently seek mutual understanding. Our contempt is inarguably disastrous for us, let alone the people we are holding in contempt. 


Arthur Brooks, Love Your Enemies


Contemptomania and Pride


Your famous writer, Malcolm Gladwell, wrote a fascinating piece about Dr. Gottman’s understand of the role contempt plays in predicting whether married couples will break up…


He’s gotten so good at thin-slicing marriages that he says he can be in a restaurant and eavesdrop on the couple one table over and get a pretty good sense of whether they need to start thinking about hiring lawyers and dividing up custody of the children.

How does he do it? …. He has found that he can find out much of what he needs to know just by focusing on what he calls the Four Horsemen: defensiveness, stonewalling, criticism, and contempt.

Even within the Four Horsemen, in fact, there is one emotion that he considers the most important of all: contempt. If Gottman observes one or both partners in a marriage showing contempt toward the other, he considers it the single most important sign that the marriage is in trouble.

“You would think that criticism would be the worst,” Gottman says, “because criticism is a global condemnation of a person’s character. Yet contempt is qualitatively different from criticism. With criticism I might say to my wife, ‘You never listen, you are really selfish and insensitive.’ Well, she’s going to respond defensively to that. That’s not very good for our problem solving and interaction. But if I speak from a superior plane, that’s far more damaging, and contempt is any statement made from a higher level.”

“The Importance of Contempt,” Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, By Malcolm Gladwell

And notice how Gladwell connected contempt to pride — “superior plane”… “trying to put that person on a lower plane than you.”

Does it sound to you like he’s talking about Donald Trump?

Consider again the insight about pride which the famous British Christian writer C.S. Lewis made in his book, Mere Christianity …


The point is that each person’s pride is in competition with every one else’s pride. It is because I wanted to be the big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise. Two of a trade never agree. Now what you want to get clear is that Pride is essentially competitive – is competitive by its very nature – while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accident. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest.


That’s Trump.

No wonder the Donald is not worried about dissing his opponents so dismissively.

He looks down on them.

It’s the pride of comparison.

So, it doesn’t look like the Donald will change, because, if Christianity is the story we are in, what you Americans see — his contempt for others and embrace of revenge — flows right out of his narcissistic pride…


Vaknin: You just have to look at Trump’s business history to extrapolate America’s future under a President Trump. Narcissists are unstable and go through repeated cycles of self-destruction (with other people usually paying the heft of the price). Narcissists tend to be divisive, vindictive, confrontational, aggressive, hate-filled, raging, incoherent, judgment-impaired, and irrational. Narcissists are junkies: they are addicted to attention (“Narcissistic Supply“) and will go to any extreme to secure it. Narcissists are liars, confabulators, and miserable failures (although some of them, like Trump, are geniuses at disguising the fact that they are, in fact, losers). Is this the kind of person you want in the White House?

Donald Trump and Narcissistic Personality Disorder: An Interview with Sam Vaknin, By Arlen Williams, The American Thinker, March 6, 2016

Trump lacks empathy and clearly enjoys embarrassing and hurting other people gratuitously. Such antisocial misconduct makes him feel (and, in his mind, actually renders him) all-powerful and God-like (“omnipotent”).

Donald Trump and Narcissistic Personality Disorder: An Interview with Sam Vaknin, By Arlen Williams, The American Thinker, March 6, 2016

Boy, narcissism and pride are intimately intertwined…


His contempt for the political class is rooted in conceit, not conservatism: They haven’t governed well because they’re supposedly not as smart as he is. Other candidates denounce crony capitalism as a betrayal of the national creed. Trump tells us how good he is at it.

Trump Wrongs the Right, By Rich Lowry & Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review, October 5, 2015

But beneath that pitch resides a sneering misanthropy toward individual components of American society as well as toward the country’s very fabric.

“For the most part, you can’t respect people, because most people aren’t worthy of respect,” Trump told me as we spoke for my new biography of him, “Never Enough.”

More remarkably, Trump also said that the country was fed up with negativity. “People are tired of that now,” he said. “They’re looking for inspiration.”

Regardless, he has instead exploited resentments by revealing his own contempt for just about everything.

….

ULTIMATELY, Donald Trump’s overweening, insatiable ego is the mirror image of his dour attitude toward everyone else and, collectively, the country.

Consider his vehemence in proclaiming himself smarter than anyone with whom he negotiates — that he is the guy who gets the best of every deal — and then consider who’s now sitting across the table from him: voters. These are the people who elected the “morons” he sees everywhere — and so what does that make them in Trump’s mind? The word he so often uses comes to mind: losers.

Donald Trump, the unhappy warrior, by Michael D’Antonio, New York Daily News, October 26, 2015

But, Trump is part of something much larger…


He is the political pioneer of the Narcissistic Age. He cannot be too outrageous, because shocking and offensive are spoon-fed to America as the norm, courtesy of both unscripted and scripted television, which grows bolder with every new series in portraying what was once taboo language and scandalous behavior.

Trump is the product of a narcissistic media age, By Gary Abernathy, Washington Post, August 21, 2019

What a strange time it was for you Americans, coming to know Trump as the 2016 election unfolded. You quickly learned how enormous his ego is. Check out how this very early Christian supporter of Trump, Ralph Drollinger, speaks with such candor and insight about people of pride, after drumming up Christian support for Trump in the 2016 election…


A. PRIDEFUL PEOPLE ARE SCOFFERS

Prideful people will often display attitudes and actions of scorn (open dislike and disrespect); derision (the use of ridicule); and mockery (a counterfeit appearance) to manifest con­tempt. Scoffers are quick to pass judgment on others. The Psalmist warns us not to go near them: Do not sit in the seat of the scoffer, he says, lest you learn his ways. In addition, Sol­omon identifies proud people as indexed by manifest scoffing in Proverbs 1:22:

“How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight them­selves in scoffing and fools hate knowledge?”

What compels one to scoff? The soul of the scoffer contains an underlying predilection toward self-greatness; he fancies himself, leav­ing little room for the presence or thankful­ness for his chief sponsor. Scoffing is nothing more than an unconscious or else clever form of self-adulation via the systematic discount and elimination of others. In Proverbs 9:7-8 Solomon states the risk others run in associat­ing too closely with individuals steeped in self absorption:

He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, and he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. Do not reprove a scoff­er, or he will hate you, reprove a wise man and he will love you.

Rather than add to the nobility and culture of the capital, scoffers detract from it. States Proverbs 24:9:

The devising of folly is sin, and the scoffer is an abomination to men.

In Proverbs 3:34a Scripture says that God scoffs at the scoffers. Unlike fallen mankind, God has every right to do this because He is perfect!

THE FIRST CHARACTERISTIC THEN, OF PROUD PERSONS IS THAT THEY ELEVATE THEMSELVES BY PUTTING OTHERS DOWN

Dealing with Pride: in Life and in D.C., BY RALPH DROLLINGER, Capitol Ministries, MAY 1, 2018

Such haughty and contemptuous people, if not brutal in their behavior or language, become increasingly overbearing and arrogantly critical.

Dealing with Pride: in Life and in D.C., BY RALPH DROLLINGER, Capitol Ministries, MAY 1, 2018

Go Drolly, go. You nailed it. And we wonder what he would think of what this famous Christian Trump supporter said…


One of President Donald Trump’s evangelical advisors recently pulled out his version of spicy language in describing certain evangelical leaders who are bent on opposing the president at every turn.

Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Dallas and a regular Fox News contributor, was talking with Fox News host Todd Starnes last week when apparently he reached his fill of a cadre of evangelical leaders tearing into who Jeffress has described as “the most pro-life, pro-religious liberty” president in American history – and refusing to acknowledge the good the president has done, particularly on the issue of abortion.

Jeffress (on Starnes’ program): “Let me say this as charitably as I can. These ‘Never Trump’ evangelicals are morons. They are absolutely spineless morons and they cannot admit that they were wrong.”

“This is an issue of life and death. This is so black and white, so much about good versus evil. I don’t get it. It really goes to the core of who we are as a country and what kind of a country we have in the future, and if we can’t get this issue of life right – I just don’t know where we’re going to go down the road.”

“I may have had one too many cups of coffee when I talked to Todd,” the pastor chuckles as he discusses with OneNewsNow that interview. “But even though I might change the words, the sentiment remains the same.”

Never Trump’ evangelicals ripped for ignoring pro-life advances, By Steve Jordahl, OneNewsNow.com, February 18, 2019

See that? Sounds like he may have learned from the Donald.

Oh, and it turns out Jerry, Jr. has an issue too…


Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. denigrated students and staff alike in several newly obtained emails dating back to 2008 — one in which he called a student “emotionally imbalanced and physically retarded,” according to a new report.

The comments, contained in email exchanges with colleagues obtained by Reuters, range from labeling some students at the Lynchburg, Virginia, evangelical Christian university as “social misfits” to calling the school’s police chief a “half-wit.”

Jerry Falwell Jr.’s emails denigrating Liberty University students revealed, By Amanda Woods, New York Post, September 13, 2019


Contemptomania and the Status Genre

Now we’ll show you another factor with this Trump character in your American story, which we learned from our story studies of the status genre…


We try to get or maintain status in two ways.

The first is prestige. Prestige is earned when we and others recognize our skills or our value to the community. Prestige can be established by performance or by relationships.

The second is dominance. Dominance is demanded by appearing or behaving physically dominant over others (faster, stronger, bigger, more violent), or by intimidating others with threats or bullying.

SECRETS OF THE STATUS GENRE, by Rachelle Ramirez, Story Grid

Did you pick up on the contemptuous pride there? Faster, stronger, bigger, more violent…


Characters pursuing status through dominance will likely be argumentative and focused on winning at any expense; stubborn, defiant, and accusatory. At their most passive they are suspicious, indifferent, tense, and passive-aggressive.

SECRETS OF THE STATUS GENRE, by Rachelle Ramirez, Story Grid

Do you see where Donald Trump fits? Clearly, the character who is pursuing status through dominance…


The president’s search for opponents to defeat has also resulted in regular displays of contempt for our dearest values. He has impugned the legitimacy of the democratic process and our elections, claiming voter fraud on levels that—if true—would make a mockery of the entire electoral system. He has questioned the authority of the judiciary, once on the basis of ethnicity. He continually lambastes the free press as “such lying, disgusting people,” and even declares them “the enemy of the people” (a term famously employed by both Lenin and Mao). He has exhibited a nostalgic fondness for violence at political events, pining for the old days when protesters were “carried out on a stretcher” and complimenting a supporter who punched a protester in the head as someone who “obviously loves his country.” And he regularly fans the fears about Muslim immigrants beyond all reasonable proportion, as when he tweeted that “many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country” as a result of the judicial stay on his travel ban, and that if given even “one week notice, the ‘bad’ would rush into our country during that week.”

In this context, it is hardly surprising that so many Americans have come to see the president’s agenda not as some all-inclusive citizens’ patriotism, but as exactly the kind of narrow ethnic “blood-and-soil” nationalism that the New Nationalists claim not to endorse. When a president so thoroughly omits all the ideals of the American creed from his program, yet continues to stir so much passion, anger, and resentment against “the other,” the vacuum of ideas will be filled by something very ugly, whether actively encouraged or not.

What Makes America Great?, By Daniel Krauthammer, Weekly Standard, April 28, 2017

That was written way back in 2017 near the beginning of Trump’s presidency. Did he understand how prophetic-like his words would become in light of recent shooting events?


Bringing up their differing worldviews can be a way for Trump-supporting or anti-anti-Trump conservatives to diminish or dismiss the president’s connection to these shootings. That’s not what I’m doing. I think Trump is deeply connected to what happened last weekend, deeply connected to both massacres. Not because his immigration rhetoric drove the El Paso shooter to mass murder in some direct and simple way; life and radicalism and violence are all more complicated than that. But because Trump participates in the general cultural miasma that generates mass shooters, and having a participant as president makes the problem worse.

The president’s bigoted rhetoric is obviously part of this. Marianne Williamson put it best, in the last Democratic debate: There really is a dark psychic force generated by Trump’s political approach, which from its birther beginnings has consistently encouraged and fed on a fevered and paranoid form of right-wing politics, and dissolved quarantines around toxic and dehumanizing ideas. And the possibility that Trump’s zest for demonization can feed a demonic element in the wider culture is something the many religious people who voted for the president should be especially willing to consider.

But the connection between the president and the young men with guns extends beyond Trump’s race-baiting to encompass a more essential feature of his public self — which is not the rhetoric or ideology that he deploys, but the obvious moral vacuum, the profound spiritual black hole, that lies beneath his persona and career.

The Nihilist in Chief, By Ross Douthat, New York Times, August 6, 2019

This gets very interesting to us since you Americans are front and center on the world’s stage…  


When winning is all that matters, questions of morality are superfluous. The president celebrates strength—the ability to win—as the highest virtue. The rest is weakness; the rest is losing. This is not “might makes right.” Right just isn’t a factor. Might is the whole point. From this worldview flowed the seemingly bizarre adulation of authoritarian leaders around the world. Vladimir Putin was only the most notable of the “strong leaders.” Others Trump has complimented or noted for strength include Mussolini, Saddam Hussein, and the Chinese Communists who put down the Tiananmen Square protests.

What Makes America Great?, By Daniel Krauthammer, Weekly Standard, April 28, 2017

And since Krauthammer wrote this, you can add our friend Kim Jong Un. Think about it.


Donald’s Unique Contemptomania Character

Donald Trump’s contemptomania is wonderful for us, and we love it. He knows how to treat others with contempt. He has become very skilled in it.

But while we love it, maybe it’s not so good for you.


It’s not entirely clear why Trump became this sort of person, but Trump is animated by his contempt for people, as well as by his belief, stated elsewhere, that “man is the most vicious animal of all, and life is a series of battles ending in victory or defeat.” Trump believes life is a kind of war that should be waged by any means necessary, including mudslinging, bullying, greed, deception and prejudice. This approach worked for him for more than 40 years.

You’re Wrong, Jeb. Trump CAN Insult His Way to the Presidency. By MICHAEL D’ANTONIO, Politico, December 16, 2015

Sure, contempt is great for winning elections, but how is it for governing?

A democracy is designed for disagreement; it is undermined by mutual contempt. And Trump’s whole style of politics is the cultivation of contempt. This directly weakens our unity as a nation.

….

But Trump is not merely Jacksonian in his crudeness. The president has made the denial of dignity to certain people and groups a political rallying cry. This kind of cruelty and dehumanization is the defining commitment of his political life. He is not merely undignified as a leader; he is committed to stripping away the dignity possessed by others.

There is a tie between incivility and injustice. When a president uses his office to demean others, he is undermining an essential democratic premise — that those out of power are still protected from abuse by general respect for their inherent worth and dignity. They are still partners in a common enterprise. And they deserve better than cruelty and contempt.

Trump boldly asserts that he has learned nothing these past two years, By Michael Gerson, Washington Post, March 4, 2019

Turns out Donald Trump’s contemptomania, while winning him the office of President, isn’t so good for your common enterprise of democracy.

See how his contempt is putting your nation in danger?

As a result of Donald Trump, we are taking much more seriously the possibility that, if Christianity is the story we are in, your God may have chosen Donald as the character to play a unique role in bringing the story of America to its end.

Hear this important Mad Dog voice…


He’s an unusual president, our president is. And I think that especially with the, just the rabid nature of politics today, we’ve gotta be careful. We could tear this country apart.

— Former Defense Secretary James Mattis, in an interview with CBS Sunday Morning

With “Rabid Nature Of Politics Today, We Gotta Be Careful, We Could Tear This Country Apart”, Posted By Tim Hains, Real Clear Politics, September 1, 2019

Can you hear this Wehner voice?


Many other presidents have been viewed as divisive figures, but none have taken as much delight as Trump in provoking acrimony, malice, and bitterness for their own sake; in turning Americans against one another in order to turn them against one another. He seems to find psychic satisfaction in doing so.

Trump’s Sinister Assault on Truth, By Peter Wehner, The Atlantic, June 18, 2019

Or can you Heer this voice in the Jeet stream?


Trump is unique in American politics in having no real institutional, ideological or partisan loyalty. He’s really out for himself, which makes his threats to bring down American institutions all too plausible.

Trump Won’t Hesitate to Tear It All Down, By JEET HEER, The New Republic, May 28, 2018

Will Donald Trump bring you down?

It does make one ponder.

He is a unique character, and your God may have selected him for this point in the story of America…


The charged atmosphere surrounding Trump is charged because he has charged it.

And if you have the sickening feeling this is only the beginning, you’re not alone. Trump, I’ve often said, is a manifestation of Loki, the god of misrule. Misrule breeds chaos. Chaos breeds violence. A political party that chooses Loki for its leader is a political party with a rank-and-file choosing chaos. And a political party whose populist left is provoking its rival into choosing chaos is morally stained as well.

Trump Is Loki, by John Podhoretz, Commentary Magazine, March 12, 2016

Chaos breed violence, Podhoretz says. Are you worried yet?

Let’s look again. His skills are unique…


For decades, Trump took little interest in matters of state, but he has studied the media for years. Even as a real-estate mogul, he was not a master builder; he was a master manipulator. He spent decades honing his self-aggrandizement in the pages of the New York tabloids and on local television. Then he took his graduate degree in media studies as the central figure on “The Apprentice.” He learned the dark arts of misdirection, bullying, and lying. He came to believe that he could fool enough of the people enough of the time to suit his purposes. He learned how to render himself as a distinctive and “colorful” character.

Trump and the Enemies of the People, By David Remnick, The New Yorker, August 15, 2018

And in his own unique way he is stirring, stirring your pot…


Of course, as Yogi Berra might have said, Trumpland isn’t even about Trump. As invaluable as he has been to the Republican Party, as Pied Piper and lightning rod, diversion and screen, the president is too self-obsessed, too ignorant, and too disinterested in the workings of government to be anything more than a rude kochleffel, the spoon endlessly stirring the pot. He is the galvanizing agent of our present chaos, not its cause. Even if he is ushered from the scene, the America we have become since he took office will not magically become lotus-land.

The Myth of Normal America, by Kevin Baker, The New Republic, February 15, 2018

His unique leadership…


To read a stack of new and reissued books about Mr. Trump, as well as a bunch of his own works, is to be plunged into a kind of Bizarro World version of Dante’s “Inferno,” where arrogance, acquisitiveness and the sowing of discord are not sins, but attributes of leadership; a place where lies, contradictions and outrageous remarks spring up in such thickets that the sort of moral exhaustion associated with bad soap operas quickly threatens to ensue.

That the subject of these books is not a fictional character but the Republican nominee for president can only remind the reader of Philip Roth’s observation, made more than 50 years ago, that American reality is so stupefying, “so weird and astonishing,” that it poses an embarrassment to the novelist’s “meager imagination.”

In Books on Donald Trump, Consistent Portraits of a High-Decibel Narcissist, By MICHIKO KAKUTANI, New York Times, August 25, 2016

And you could have, should have known what a unique character you were electing…


How then, I asked Ambrose, should one portray the prince of darkness?

After a pensive moment, Ambrose replied, “A merciless real estate developer whose largest projects are all casinos.”

And recalling this exchange brought Donald Trump to mind. You know the fellow: developer, speculator, television personality, hotelier, political dilettante, conspiracy theorist, and grand croupier—the one with that canopy of hennaed hair jutting out over his eyes like a shelf of limestone.

….

How obvious it seems to me now. Cold, grasping, bleak, graceless, and dull; unctuous, sleek, pitiless, and crass; a pallid vulgarian floating through life on clouds of acrid cologne and trailed by a vanguard of fawning divorce lawyers, the devil is probably eerily similar to Donald Trump—though perhaps just a little nicer.


A PERSON YOU FLEE AT PARTIES, by David Bentley Hart, First Things, May 6, 2011

Donald’s Contempomania Trickstering

Tricksters, according to Wikipedia are defined this way…


In mythology, and in the study of folklore and religion, a trickster is a character in a story (godgoddessspirithuman, or anthropomorphisation), which exhibits a great degree of intellect or secret knowledge, and uses it to play tricks or otherwise disobey normal rules and conventional behaviour.


Tricksters use their skills to play tricks. In other words, tricksters are inciters. And that sure fits with this insight from Shawn Coyne…


The trickster enjoys mischief in order to change people’s world views in a way.

….

Yes. They want change. They want mischief. They want to knock people — They’re inciting characters. They incite a lot of things. They’re causal inciting things.

Shawn Coyne, Hero’s Journey – Archetypes

So, think about the Donald…


Trump’s hagiographers tend to skip over or minimize Trump’s most repellant or disabling traits.  To his credit, Hanson takes a different tack. At various points in his book, he enumerates a panoply of what he calls Trump’s “sins.” Among them he includes “multiple bankruptcies,” “endless lawsuits,” “creepy sexual scandals,” “loud public spats,” “crude language,” and “gratuitous cruelty.” He writes that Trump is often “uncouth,” “vulgar” and “divisive,” and that his closet contains “an ethical necropolis of skeletons.”

Hanson is probably correct that voters—or at least some quotient of voters—“preferred an authentic bad boy of the private sector to the public’s disingenuous good girl,” i.e. Hillary Clinton. But Hanson himself also seems to revel in Trump’s unsavory and unhinged side, or if not revel in it at least find virtue in some of the vice.  Likening Trump, extravagantly, at one juncture to Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon, and at another juncture to Martin Luther nailing 95 theses to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, he sees Trump as a “tragic hero,” whose flaws, much like those of Sophocles’ Ajax, will deny him the recognition he deserves for his “undeniable accomplishments.”  

Thus, Trump’s critics, deeming him unpresidential, fail to recognize that his superior negotiating style rests on “his use of exaggeration or spinning fantasies as a bargaining chip.” In the same vein, Trump’s embrace of “verbal intimidation” is a successful way “to confuse his adversary.”

Sophistry in the Service of Evil, by GABRIEL SCHOENFELD, The Bulwark,  MARCH 7, 2019

Inciting rhetorical grenades from his Twitter feed…


Ross Douthat: Of course you’re not wrong, Frank. In his presidency Donald Trump has shown no interest in actually presiding over the country, as opposed to just trying to mobilize his own coalition against the liberal Other. For him to respond to a pair of far-right terrorist attacks with defensiveness and partisanship is simply who he is — a self-justifying polarizer who finds the other aspects of the job tedious and prefers, even amid trauma, to just hurl rhetorical grenades from his Twitter feed.

Trump Can’t Unite Us. Can Anyone? By Frank Bruni and Ross Douthat, New York Times, October 30, 2018

And this inciter enjoys driving others crazy…


President Trump said he “eventually” wants to unite the country during a raucous Monday campaign rally where he repeatedly attacked Democrats and the news media. 

“I do eventually want to unite, but the fact is, we’re driving them crazy,” Trump said inside a packed Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. “They’re going loco.”

Trump’s rhetoric during his nearly two years as president has featured a constant, pointed onslaught against his opponents. 

Trump says he wants to unite the country ‘eventually’, BY JORDAN FABIAN, The Hill, November 5, 2018

And he incites those willing to be incited…


Of all the disorienting and disturbing cultural effects of Trump’s ascension to the presidency, few are as disorienting and disturbing as the redefinition of ideal masculinity in the hearts of many of his biggest fans. The sheepdog has been replaced by the wolf.

Cheap shots have replaced bravery. A certain kind of animal cunning has replaced honor. Libertine aggression has replaced fidelity. It’s as if the movie was remade from the bully’s perspective, and the bully became the hero. The man who evaded his generation’s war, who compared the dangers of his sex life to serving in Vietnam, is honored beyond the warrior.

Moreover, the very defense of virtue is now seen by some as fundamentally unmanly. Criticize Trump and you’re “pearl-clutching.” You’re “low-testosterone.” You’re wetting your panties. Sadly, even some veterans have succumbed to this impulse, viewing Trump’s pugilistic style—there’s no critic he’s not willing to (rhetorically) punch in the face—as a continuation rather than a corruption of their previous life of courage.

Trump mocks and exploits women. He shamed and attacked a Gold Star family. He coddled the pathetic tiki-torch brigade in Charlottesville, Virginia. And he does all these things while basking in the approving roars of his testosterone-fueled crowd.

The Unmanning of Conservatism, By DAVID FRENCH, The Atlantic, January 13, 2019

He takes every opportunity to incite….


Only two things really get Trump motivated: the opportunity to boast and repeat praise of himself from other people, and the opportunity to lash out at critics.

Realistically, Trump Could Win in 2020, By JIM GERAGHTY, National Review, April 24, 2019

And Republicans rally around this trickster…


Monday morning, after demanding an apology from the women he’d attacked, Trump offered a hypothetical: “If Democrats want to unite around the foul language & racist hatred spewed from the mouths and actions of these very unpopular & unrepresentative Congresswomen, it will be interesting to see how it plays out.”

Trump, ever the master of projection, is at it again here. If one wants to see what happens when a political party unites around foul language and racist hatred spewed from the mouth of an unpopular and unrepresentative politician, the Republican Party serves that purpose too.

Trump Goes All In on Racism, By David A. Graham, The Atlantic, July 15, 2019

And the trickster takes pride in his inciting….


BW: In the Republican Party, I mean . . . there is a lot of angst and rage and distress.

DT: A lot. Record-setting.

BW: Record-setting.

DT: I bring…

BW: And you have to tame that rage, don’t you?

DT: Yes, yes, but I bring that out in people. I do. I’m not saying that’s an asset or a liability, but I do bring that out.

BW: You bring what out?

DT: I bring rage out. I do bring rage out. I always have. I think it was . . .  . I don’t know if that’s an asset or a liability, but whatever it is, I do. I also bring great unity out, ultimately.

Transcript: Donald Trump interview with Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, Washington Post, April 2, 2016

The trickster bends the rules….


For years I’ve bounced between these two interpretations of the president — at times astonished by his incompetence; at other times amazed by his cunning. There’s much about the world that Trump will never understand. What he knows, however, is that success is above all a matter of being seen (regardless of results); that the more one lies, the less people notice; that winning is a matter of playing by one’s own rules (and changing them as needed); that, while hope may be inspiring, rage is intoxicating.

These ideas may be noxious, but they are also the fundamental political insights of our time.

Is Trump Keyser Söze — Or Inspector Clouseau? By Bret Stephens, New York Times, March 28, 2019

The fear-stoking inciter…


While other leaders have expressed concern about border security and the costs of illegal immigration, Mr. Trump has filled his public speeches and Twitter feed with sometimes false, fear-stoking language even as he welcomed to the White House a corps of hard-liners, demonizers and conspiracy theorists shunned by past presidents of both parties. Because of this, Mr. Trump is ill equipped to provide the kind of unifying, healing force that other presidents projected in times of national tragedy.

El Paso Shooting Suspect’s Manifesto Echoes Trump’s Language, By Peter Baker and Michael D. Shear, New York Times, August 4, 2019

It turns out calling people “invaders” was rather inciting…


On August 3, Patrick Crusius shot and killed twenty-two people in a shopping center in El Paso, Texas, in the name of ethnocentric nationalism. On August 5, President Donald Trump declared: “In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated.”

Yet Trump and his supporters have more in common with Crusius than many would like to admit. They can only see the Latino as the foreign, and the dangerous. The president has relied on the language of onslaughts and invasions in his own speech, and he laughed at a public rally when supporters joked about shooting illegal immigrants. His campaign has run more than 2,000 ads that use the word “invasion” in the last year alone. He also stated that, in the wake of the weekend’s shootings, “Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform. We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events!”

El Paso, the President, and the “Invaders”, BY ASHLEEN MENCHACA-BAGNULO, Public Discourse, AUGUST 11, 2019

As we’ve mentioned already, many see him as a creator of chaos. Definitely inciting…


But Mr. Trump is not Henry IV. Synthesis is not his way. He does not yet grasp that his compulsion to create chaos—sometimes an asset—may ultimately prove to be the greatest threat to his presidency.

People are either conciliators or confrontationists. Mr. Trump is a confrontationist. He will not kneel at the altar of the progressives’ church—nor will he betray the faith of those who sustain him, those widely derided as “the base” by progressives who half-consciously invest the word with its second meaning: low and degraded. Mr. Trump is sustained by the base; progressives are the exalted ones.


Trump’s Chaos Theory, By Lance Morrow, Ethics and Public Policy Center

The Contemptomania of Donald the Insulter

Contempt, remember, is lifting oneself to a higher plane, looking down on another. Donald Trump manically loves to do this, for remember, he loves the dominance status. And, one way to show dominance over another is to insult them. The very act of putting another down simultaneously lifts the insulter up.

Insults make sense as part of Trump MO, and James points out that Trump relentlessly insults others


What’s distinctive about Trump’s campaign so far is that it reads strictly as a solo act. He doesn’t seem to tote the retinue of consultants and advisers that most campaigns lavish lousy money on, has few allies, and his wife, Melania, is a murmur in the breeze, seldom seen and even less heard. It is his weaponized mouth that has gotten Trump where he is. The performance art that has loogied him to the top of the Republican polls is insult comedy, and an insult comic as presidential timber is not something the Founders anticipated, judging from the screams resonating from the Hereafter.

I am a student, nay, a scholar, of insult comedy, and you can be, too. Watch Trump on the televised stump or during debates with the sound off (your blood pressure will thank you) and observe how he grips the lectern, employing a battery of shrugs, hand jive, and staccato phrase blurts—it’s like being teleported back to an old Dean Martin roast, those medieval days of yore when Foster Brooks hiccuped through his drunk act, Phyllis Diller cackled, and Orson Welles shook from underground rumbles of Falstaffian mirth.

How Donald Trump Became America’s Insult Comic in Chief, by James Wolcott, Vanity Fair, December 2015

He’s compulsive about his insults, or so says Jacoby…


DONALD TRUMP is a compulsive insulter. When faced with any criticism or opposition, he resorts instinctively to taunts and put-downs. His smears and invective are so unremitting that they no longer shock. It’s simply a given: If you spar with Trump, you’ll be slandered by Trump.

In extolling ‘honorable’ tyrants, Trump shames America, by Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe, January 16, 2019

And, well, if insulting is talking, remember, those are actions. Constant actions…


Sitting down with the collected works of Donald J. Trump is unlike any literary experience I’ve ever had or could ever imagine. I spent this past week reading eight of his books — three memoirs, three business-advice titles and his two political books, all published between 1987 and 2011 — hoping to develop a unified theory of the man, or at least find a method in the Trumpness.

Instead, I found . . . well, is there a single word that combines revulsion, amusement, respect and confusion? That is how it feels, sometimes by turns, often all at once, to binge on Trump’s writings. Over the course of 2,212 pages, I encountered a world where bragging is breathing and insulting is talking, where repetition and contradiction come standard, where vengefulness and insecurity erupt at random.

I just binge-read eight books by Donald Trump. Here’s what I learned. By Carlos Lozada, Washington Post, July 30, 2015

It must have taken great courage for Mark DeMoss to speak up about Trump, because the stuff Jerry Falwell was saying about Trump was sure a different perspective.

Ultimately, Liberty University split over Trump. Its current president, Jerry Falwell Jr, endorsed his candidacy. But Mark DeMoss, a member of the university’s board of trustees and a former chief of staff for the elder Falwell, objected and resigned as a trustee. In a Washington Post interview last year, DeMoss described Trump’s rhetoric as antithetical to Christian values. Related article How America’s friends and enemies have adjusted to the age of Trump As US allies wrestle with what to do next, China hopes to benefit from a world in flux “Donald Trump is the only candidate who has dealt almost exclusively in the politics of personal insult,” DeMoss said. “The bullying tactics of personal insult have no defence — and certainly not for anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ. That’s what’s disturbing to so many people. It’s not [the] Christ-like behaviour that Liberty has spent 40 years promoting with its students.”

How the Bible Belt lost God and found Trump, By Gary Silverman, Financial Times, April 13, 2017

Forty years is a long time, and DeMoss doesn’t believe Trump’s insults fit with what Liberty has tried to build.

And neither do insults fit with a political movement built on love.

During a campaign rally in New Hampshire on Thursday, President Donald Trump proclaimed that he created a political movement “built on love.”

Moments before, however, he fat-shamed an individual he mistook for a protester, mockingly telling him to get some exercise. 

“Go home, start exercising,” the president said.

Trump Fat-Shames Man At Rally, Then Says His Movement Is ‘Built On Love’, By Carla Herreria, Huffington Post, August 15, 2019

Really? A political movement built on love? It’s not too hard to see through that one. His political movement is built on lots of things, but we are not sure love is one of them.

So, since your Greatest Commandment is a quest for loving your God, and your second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself — why did so many Christians embrace someone like Donald?

What is it they wanted that moved them that way?


Will Trump’s Contempt Wreak Havoc?

We know you are going to deny these possibilities. But we are telling you all this because we want to know what you will do. This is because we hope to help the Central Military Commission seriously consider how Trump’s embrace of contemptand revenge could wreak havoc in America’s unfolding relational breakdown…


In other words, once the poison of jealousy, contempt, and even hatred enters the bloodstream of the body politic, a dark and foreboding bleakness will begin to cover the society, from which nothing good will come. 

Mark Levine, Rediscovering Americanism


Contempt creates fractures in society which are very difficult to heal…


President Trump has pioneered a new politics of perpetual culture war, relentlessly rallying his supporters against kneeling black athletes, undocumented Latino immigrants, and soft-on-crime, weak-on-the-border Democrats.

….

Once the dogs of war have been unleashed, it’s hard to call them back. And we should at least consider the possibility that we’re fighting this forever war because we like it.

The thing I remember most about Trump’s rallies in 2016, especially the auto-da-fé moments in which he would call out various liars and losers who didn’t look like the faces in his crowds, was how much fun everyone seemed to be having. The drill-baby-drill candidate would drill the Mexicans, drill the Chinese, drill the gun grabbers, drill all the boring Washington politicians who had made America not-great. It sure as hell wasn’t boring. It was a showman putting on a show, a culture-war general firing up his internet troops. It wasn’t a real war, like the one that Trump skipped while John McCain paid an unimaginable price, but it made the spectators feel like they were not just spectating, like they had joined an exhilarating fight. They got the adrenaline rush, the sense of being part of something larger, the foxhole camaraderie of war against a common enemy, without the physical danger.

It’s not clear how a fight like that would ever end.

How everything became the culture war, By Michael Grunwald, The Week, November 22, 2018

With Trump, the fight goes on and on.

So, what if your combative president was chosen to help reveal the contempt which already exists in your culture?


We have stepped over the threshold of a revolution. It is difficult to imagine how we might step back, and futile to speculate where it will end. Our ruling class’s malfeasance, combined with insult, brought it about.

After the Republic, By Angelo M. Codevilla, Claremont Review of Books, September 27, 2016

Donald Trump has distinguished himself as America’s most anarchic and comical fomenter of violent contempt. He has not created this culture, however. We have.

Why Contempt Feeds Trump, By James Poulos, The Federalist, May 9, 2016

All this spells trouble for America’s future, because not only are you going to be dealing with major reconciliation hurdles from all the contempt you’ve already shown each other — but those obstacles will keep building because contempt also makes civic cooperation very difficult…


Polarization — particularly negative polarization rooted more in hatred of the other party’s members than loyalty to one’s own party — makes compromise and bipartisanship harder to achieve with each passing year.

The myth of an ending: why even removing Trump from office won’t save American democracy, By Dylan Matthews, Vox, April 23, 2018

This makes sense to you, right? Is it time to ask yourselves some hard questions about Trump?


It is remarkable to hear religious leaders defend profanity, ridicule, and cruelty as hallmarks of authenticity and dismiss decency as a dead language. Whatever Trump’s policy legacy ends up being, his presidency has been a disaster in the realm of norms. It has coarsened our culture, given permission for bullying, complicated the moral formation of children, undermined standards of public integrity, and encouraged cynicism about the political enterprise. Falwell, Graham, and others are providing religious cover for moral squalor—winking at trashy behavior and encouraging the unraveling of social restraints. Instead of defending their convictions, they are providing preemptive absolution for their political favorites. And this, even by purely political standards, undermines the causes they embrace. Turning a blind eye to the exploitation of women certainly doesn’t help in making pro-life arguments. It materially undermines the movement, which must ultimately change not only the composition of the courts but the views of the public.

The Last Temptation, By Michael Gerson, The Atlantic, April 2018

Are you willing to make your fellow countrymen into “bad people”?


There are all kinds of reasons these vindictive cycles of provocation and retribution are bad news for societies in general but democracies in particular; such was the source of much early-republic fretting about factionalism. They’re undoubtedly bad lessons in civic virtue, especially if we still purport to be something like a liberal democracy, whose key tenet is tolerance — a tough asset to claim if you’re perpetually scanning the discursive horizon for things to be disruptively furious about. But they’re worse than that. They are terrible moral lessons, and they make us into bad people.

We are no longer capable of forgiving our enemies, By Elizabeth Bruenig, Washington Post, June 1, 2018

What if the changes that are overtaking your country under Trump’s leadership — the contempt, the increase in your divided house — become deeply embedded?


If Rieff and Burke are right, there is a dark, secret link between Trump’s bald-faced praise of strength and his canine cut-downs—a connection that runs to the heart of our culture and its bad moral habits. The more we make lapdogs of our own identity tribe, pampering and spoiling our team, the more prone we seem to be to make scapedogs of another. Our failure to love justice has led us to celebrate injustice. Trump may come and Trump may go; left unfought, the democratization of contempt will dog us forever.

Why Contempt Feeds Trump, By James Poulos, The Federalist, May 9, 2016

But your self-government depends on cooperative relationships…


America has always been a partisan country, but not always as sharply as today. After liberals all sorted themselves into the Democratic Party and conservatives sorted themselves into the Republican Party, cross-party dialogue withered — in the U.S. Congress and in our country’s streets. Worse, disagreement about issues has morphed into something psychologists and political analysts call “affective polarization,” which means partisans don’t merely disagree with one another, they dislike and distrust each other. They think the other side is dishonest and dangerous. In a system designed by its founders to depend on compromise, that kind of angry tribalism is toxic to America’s capacity for self-governance.

Better Angels: Slowly Bridging Our Partisan Divide, By Jonathan Rauch, Real Clear Politics, December 22, 2017

Your angry tribalism is toxic. And your contempt is “pandemic”…        


The pandemic of contempt in political matters makes it impossible for people of opposing views to work together. Go to YouTube and watch the 2016 presidential debates: they are masterpieces of eye-rolling, sarcasm, and sneering derision. For that matter, listen as politicians at all levels talk about their election opponents, or members of the other party. Increasingly, they describe people unworthy of any kind of consideration, with no legitimate ideas or views. And social media? On any contentious subject, these platforms are contempt machines. 

Of course this is self-defeating in a nation in which political competitors must also be collaborators. How likely are you to want to work with someone who has told an audience that you are a fool or a criminal? Would you make a deal with someone who publicly said you are corrupt? How about becoming friends with someone who says your opinions are idiotic? Why would you be willing to compromise politically with such a person? You can resolve problems with someone with whom you disagree, even if you disagree angrily, but you can’t come to a solution with someone who holds you in contempt or for whom you have contempt. 

Arthur Brooks, Love Your Enemies

Or have Christians in America given up on being collaborators?

So, if contempt continues to spread, will you have increasing difficulty finding forward on the most pressing issues of the day as you struggle with deepening alienation from each other?

But, lest we lose sight, it’s very personal too.


If Christianity is the story we are in — and people are made in the image and likeness of God…

… then you’ll see that such contempt is very offensive…

… to both the Empathetic Protagonist in the story…

… and the person you are trying to put on a lower plane.


And as the tensions increase in America, you Christians might be wise to think seriously about how relational breakdown applies to your situation. For instance…


A second way in which the revolution has transformed politics is even less understood than the revolution’s connection to the omnipotent State, and arguably just as consequential. That’s the symbiotic bond between the diminution of the family and the rise of identity politics.

Sexual identity, racial identity, ethnic identity, and the rest of the now-familiar pack have become the driving force of progressive politics — so much so that imagining today’s progressivism without these group identities is an exercise in futility. Identity politics is behind many of the most incendiary clashes of our time. Campuses have become “safe spaces” in which the assertion of group identity now routinely trumps free speech. Language is policed down to the pronoun for transgressions offensive to one or another aggrieved tribe. Halloween costumes and other trivia that run afoul of “cultural appropriation” can exact costs in social opprobrium, social-media flaming, and even employment.

How did this way of doing “politics,” which was only in its infancy 20 years ago, ever ascend to today’s heights? To study the timeline is to see that identity politics in America has grown exactly in tandem with the spread of the sexual revolution — and for good, if pitiful, reason. Western human beings today, like human beings everywhere, are desperate to know who they are, to whom they belong, where they have a place in the world. But today, the old ways of knowing all these desiderata — that is, by reference to the family and extended family — no longer exist for many people, and are growing weaker for many more.

Why is this happening? Because our organic connections to one another have been sundered as never before, outside wartime or natural catastrophe. Today’s clamor over identity — the authentic scream of so many for answers to questions about where they belong in the world — did not spring from nowhere. It is a squalling creature of our time, born of familial liquidation.

Two Nations, Revisited, By Mary Eberstadt, National Affairs, Summer 2108

And there’s a danger in your division leading to an “us-verses-them” relational mentality.


The case for pessimism (“The fever may break us”) is that once all political conflict becomes organized around a single us-versus-them dimension, something dark and destructive happens to our collective psyche. We see each other not as fellow Americans, but rather as enemies who would use their power to destroy us and betray the true promise of the country. And once that happens, it’s hard to get back to peace without some kind of breakdown or violence.

I was pessimistic before reading Lilliana Mason’s new book, Uncivil Agreement. I am even more pessimistic now. Mason, a political scientist at the University of Maryland, has written an extremely important analysis of the social psychology of what happens when the political world gets divided into two warring tribes, with no overlap. The central contribution of the book is to show that partisan sorting isn’t just a consequence of identity—it also creates identity. This is critical, because, as Mason observes, “identities themselves have psychological effects of their own.”

Mason draws on a tradition known as social-identity theory, which explains how we construct our sense of self based on group memberships. Humans need to both fit in andfeel special. Affiliating with a larger identity group—a religion, a race, a profession, a class, a hometown—gives us both an us and a them. In normal times, this is fine, because we have lots of overlapping identities and, as a result, a wonderful mess of things to agree and disagree about. But when all our identities line up, and we divide into two opposed teams based on them, ugliness follows.

United We Fall, by Lee Drutman, Washington Monthly, July/August 2018

Just look at what happened in Iraq when there was no sense of shared identity…


Lacking ethnic or religious homogeneity, the new state almost immediately descended into authoritarianism.

…. 

Lacking a shared sense of identity, and with no loyalty to common institutions, Iraqis grouped themselves by tribe and sect, seeing their opponents, not as co-citizens, but as enemies. The same charge can be laid against almost every faction there: that it sees power as a winner-takes-all game, in which compromise is a sign of weakness.

The case for patriotism – and for the partition of Iraq, by Daniel Hannan, Telegraph, June 19, 2014

Do you American Christians want to see all others as co-citizens?

Or are you moving in the direction of divorce?

We really do want to know what you want as the drama unfolds.