Alan Zendell, January 6, 2018
Two thousand eighteen has thus far been a year in which subjects that have been whispered about all throughout the previous year are spoken about openly. The president’s sanity and emotional stability, his ability to process written information, his attention span, and his ability to control his behavior when something angers him are being discussed by millions of people all over the world.
These issues are equally flooding the print and broadcast media, even Fox News. The only difference is that while almost every commentator and alleged expert is publishing opinions and analyses that challenge the president’s competence, Fox News simply repeats Trump’s denials. In all of this turmoil, we have heard only one voice stand up in unqualified defense of the president. I find it depressing that that lone voice is his.
Today, the world was treated to the spectacle of Donald Trump declaring himself a stable genius. To highlight how bizarre that is, consider that the only other well-known public figure to make such a statement about himself is Sheldon Cooper, a fictional character in The Big Bang Theory. Everyone familiar with Sheldon knows he’s a highly exaggerated caricature of a narcissistic insensitive misanthrope who is laughed at by virtually everyone who knows him. And although they all agree that the fictional Sheldon actually is a genius, his constant self-aggrandizing and the insulting barbs he tosses about like rice at a wedding are a constant source of ridicule.
He pouts when his feelings are hurt and he complains constantly about being unappreciated. The mockery he invites reaches its peak when Sheldon, a physicist who thinks he’s the equal of Stephen Hawking calls him on Skype and is totally unaware of the way the fictionalized Hawking repeatedly scorns him. He doesn’t hear it because he lives in a delusional world where it’s inconceivable that that could happen. Does any of this sound familiar?
In the real world, what sort of person would declare that he’s smarter than everyone else, he knows more about every aspect of governing than people who’ve devoted their lives to study and real experience, and that he’s a better military strategist than all of his generals and admirals combined? Who but Donald Trump could publicly announce in the face of everything that has occurred in the past week that the investigation of possible collusion between his staff and Russia has now been dismissed as a hoax? And who else would have the gall to call everyone who angers him a liar and invent insulting nicknames for them?
If you listen carefully, even people who for political reasons continue to support him never say they believe him or take him seriously. The best they can do is try to minimize the impact of his actions. Sure, he’s eccentric, he has his own way of doing things. Yes, he’s rough around the edges. We’ve all heard him brag about mistreating women, but that was just for show, he’s not really like that. We observe that he’s incapable of completing a coherent sentence unless he’s reading from a script, but his ramblings and rants are oh, so entertaining. His disregard for facts is just a negotiating tactic. His lack of respect for science is simply overlooked.
But here’s the thing. Back in the sixties when the Civil Rights Act was passed people said it wouldn’t make any difference in the way we treated each other. But the men and women who wrote the law knew that they were writing it for the next generation. They said young people growing up in an environment in which basic human rights and decency were the law of the land would be shaped by that, and to a large extent they were right.
The problem is that the same is true about out president’s behavior. Looking the other way and pretending it’s not happening doesn’t mean it isn’t. And the longer this insanity is allowed to go on the more normal it will seem. More and more people will lose respect for truth and basic honesty. More and more people, especially those of us who rely on some kind a guidance in their lives, will start to believe that Trump’s way is the right way, because he gets to do and say anything he wants to with no consequences.
So gradually we will evolve into a society that has no respect for law or the courts, that ridicules intellect as a massive joke on everyone else, and that thinks being white and male is an entitlement to treat everyone who isn’t as subservient. We’ll stop caring if a quarter of us have no access to health care and we’ll pretend we don’t notice when hard-working immigrants who were brought here as children are deported so people like them won’t ever be the majority. And wealth and greed will rule once again with nothing to rein them in. That’s where we’re headed if we don’t make it clear that bad behavior has consequences even if you’re the president – especially if you’re the president.
I got a fortune cookie in a restaurant today with an eerily timely message: Doing nothing is the worst possible choice in the face of necessity.