When a megalomaniacal public figure fears that his Echo is growing faint, and that the spotlight is fading, or turning against him, an ingrained and well-practiced defense mechanism kicks in, as surely as night follows day:
When a critic attacks, project onto your critic what you yourself are, and fear becoming.
Former Director of Homeland Security, later chosen to serve as White House Chief of Staff, retired Marine Corps general John Kelly, claims that his boss tried to use the FBI, the IRS, and other federal agencies as weapons against the president’s perceived enemies — former FBI Director Jim Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, among them.
The former president’s current spokesperson refutes Kelly’s claim with the defense mechanism to which Americans have become accustomed:
"It’s total fiction created by a psycho, John Kelly, who . . . made it up just because he’s become so irrelevant.”
“You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life?” asks the Epistle of James. “You are a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James
A Letter to the Editor
A Letter to the Editor in today’s Star Tribune (Nov. 17, 2020) asks and answers a few vexing questions about fiction, psychos, and irrelevance.
Gordon C. Stewart, public theologian, author, Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness (2017 Wipf and Stock), Brooklyn Park, MN, November 17, 2022
Donald Trump’s long-time lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen reminded Congress during the first impeachment hearings that his old boss doesn’t talk like us.
“That’s not how he talks. He talks in code.”
The Code of Insurrection
President Trump’s silence in the wake of the cyber attack on America national security seemed to speak as loud as words. He stayed silent, as he had after George Floyd’s murder until clearing a lawful protest from Lafayette Park to hold up and Bible and proclaim himself our law-and-order president. The Capitol on January 6 was not protected, raising the question of how that happened.
“The plan was a failure,” by every account. Was it? The appearance of white supremacist thugs on January 6 was not an accident. It happened by the president’s invitation. It was the president who then told them to march up to the Capitol during the normally ceremonial Congressional vote to approve the Electoral College’s certification. It was Roy Cohn’s apprentice and Michael Cohen’s old boss who spoke by silence when his supporters breached the security of the building where the Constitution is meant to be preserved and protected. The president failed to defend it. He and his closest advisors watched the attack on television, smiling and laughing like guys at a frat beer party.
What was the plan? Was it a failure? Or had “the plan” been a rousing success? Why was the security presence so much less than it was the day the Administration violated the First Amendment-protected peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration in Lafayette Park? Who refused Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s offer of the National Guard to help secure the Capitol, and why was it refused in the midst of a national crisis? Why did some Capitol Police Officers seem to enjoy taking selfies with insurrectionists? Why was there no word from the White House or anyone in the Trump Administration while MAGA marauders rampaged through the Capitol?
Where were the Homeland Security special forces without identification that had mysteriously descended on a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Portland, Oregon? Why did Homeland Security wait until the shards were being swept from the Capitol floor to show up?
A Page from an Old Playbook
“Whether he realizes it or not,” wrote Jeffery C. Billman (Orlando Weekly, September 9, 2020), “Trump has borrowed a page from the fascist playbook.
This is the truth: Whether he realizes it or not, Trump has borrowed a page from the fascist playbook. I’m not referring to his well-documented authoritarianism or even his willingness to steal the election if he can’t win it legitimately. Nor am I suggesting that Trump is planning a genocide. I’m talking specifically about inciting violence against leftist protesters. That’s how fascists claimed power in the 1920s and ’30s. The Nazis sent Brownshirts to left-wing gatherings to provoke street fights and instigate chaos, most famously the Red Wedding rally in 1927, in which more than 100 people were injured. They then portrayed themselves as victims of leftist anarchy. Sound familiar?
Like Jeffery Billman, Views from the Edge has called attention to the borrowed playbooks, Mein Kampf and The Speeches of Hitler, perhaps too often. But I’m old. I remember. I am still in part the three-year old sitting around the dinner table with my mother and grandparents, listening to the evening radio broadcast. I was my grandson Elijah’s age, fearing my father would not make it home from his air base n the South Pacific. My grandparents were conservative Republicans. They didn’t like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but he was their one and only President pledged to defend the Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke complete sentences and paragraphs from his wheelchair. He didn’t give instructions by code and silence. It would not have occurred to them that the president they didn’t like could be Domestic Enemy Number One.
By reason of Insanity and by reason of cowardice
Between now and January 2021 a man who belongs in the hospital for the criminally insane remains the only human being on the planet sworn to defend the U.S. Constitution against himself. More than 100 Members of the House of Representatives and six Senators who cannot plead “Not guilty by reason of insanity” will plead innocent return to their seats in the Capitol they have failed to preserve and protect. Given the opportunity to take action to remove their party’s leader, they will fail again to keep their oaths of office.
January 17, 2021
If January 6, 2021 was unprecedented and horrifying, January 17 may be worse.January 17 is the day the Proud Boys and Trump supporting comrades will return to the nation’s Capitol. The social chaos produced by ramped-up mob attack will become the president’s public reason to save the nation by invoking Marshall Law.
Cabinet Invokes 25th Amendment
What happens next is anybody’s guess. What might have happened appeared in a June, 2018 Views from the Edge commentary. Click Trump Cabinet Invokes 25th Amendment for a tongue-in-cheek description that was, in fact, fake news.
Today Martin Luther King Jr’s successor was elected to the U.S. Senate. It was also the day Senators and Representatives wore gas masks in their chambers of the nation’s Capitol. Yesterday’s elections of Rafael Warlock and Jon Ossof in Georgia is an historic moment never to be forgotten by historians. Whether it will become a footnote depends in part on the Trump far-right occupation of the Capitol where the work of representative democracy tales place.
“We’re still fighting, and you’re going to see what’s going to happen.”
Donald J. Trump to rally in Dalton, GA, Monday, January 4, 2021.
Today we saw what was going to happen
“Liberate Michigan,” “Stay back and stand by (Proud Boys)”, and get ready for “trial by combat” (Rudy Giuliani today) beg for answers. How and why was the U.S. Capitol security left so insecure?
The President was silent until a tepid text and video that stoked the fire he lit. Where was Homeland Security? Where was the U.S. Attorney General? Where were the federal agents who cleared Lafayette Park so the president could hold up a Bible the book in front of the Saint James Episcopal Church, and return to declare himself “your law-and-order President”?
The violent insurrection that invaded the U.S Capitol today is an act of domestic terrorism orchestrated by domestic enemy #1 and supported by 12 cowardly senators and 100-plus representatives who broke their oaths of office.
Stopping it now
May Congress re-convene tonight to finish its constitutional responsibility of approving the Electoral College certification of the 2020 election. But do not stop there. Ask how and why the Capitol was so unprotected, and move now to remove the president before he does worse in the two weeks he will remain at the desk of the Oval Office: Declare Marshal Law as the guardian of law-and-order, a military attack on Iran’s nuclear research sites, and who knows what else.
Who needs foreign enemies when you have a law-and-order domestic terrorist inciting a coup d’etat in the homeland? Do it now. Before it’s too late. Do it, members of the House and Senate, before America becomes the cuckoo’s nest. Impeach him and send the men in white coats before the country loses its soul to Mein Kampf.
Like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, many a son is driven mad by a father’s ghost. Although most of our fathers were not murdered, as was Hamlet’s, our fathers whisper through the air long after they have ceased to be. We hear a voice that defies us to be as big as they or to exceed their stature, or to fill the void of emptiness and their sense of shame and shortcomings they took to the grave, or to find the love they withheld from us as children. A father’s ghost sometimes drives a son mad.
We are our father’s sons. Appearances to the contrary, madness is never far away.
“That he is mad, ’tis true; ’tis true ’tis pity;
And pity ’tis ’tis true —a foolish figure….”
— Plutonius to Queen Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother.
(William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2.)
The healthier sons among us still see our father’s ghost without being stuck in a room where his is the only voice that keeps us captive. We write a wider narrative that puts the father’s ghost where it belongs within the expanding narrative to which experience over time leads us to write. The less fortunate walk through life in “the hollow inner space where the story should be, but never was.” (Dan P. McAdams, The Strange Case of Donald J. Trump.)
The hollow inner space where the story should be
People without a redemptive narrative of the self — a life-story written in one’s own blood: the defeats no less than the successes, the release from the father’s ghost, the changes that unmute the helpless child’s cry for love and integrate the conscious changes that awake us from sleep-walking — deserve our pity and prayers.
A truly authentic fake
“Trump is always acting, always on stage,” writes McAdam, “— but that is who he really is, and that is all he really is. He is not introspective, retrospective or prospective. He does not go deep into his mind; he does not travel back to the past; he does not project far into the future. He is always on the surface, always right now.
“In his own mind, he is more like a persona than a person, more like a primal force or superhero, rather than a fully realized human being.”
Glitter and compassion
Long before the chairs and drapes in the Oval Office were glittered with yellow-gold, Edgar Alan Poe wrote in his Philosophy of Furniture, “Glitter — and in that one word how much of all that is detestable do we express.”
Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a tragedy too detestable to express: a trail of tears created by a son’s inability to write a narrative that integrates and moves beyond obsession with his father’s ghost.
The hollow inner spaces of others bring a tear to God’s eye, and call us to compassion in hopes that a new narrative of redemption. Truly authentic fakes who hide their emptiness with glitter deserve our pity and our prayers. They do not deserve applause or votes.
The daily White House updates on the coronavirus pandemic bring to mind the Medieval folklore of Faust’s bargain with Mephistopheles (the devil). Faust surrenders his soul for the diabolical blessings of wealth, power, and fame.
Dr. Fauci, Dr. Trump, and Dr. Birx
We see and hear POTUS Donald Trump; then we see and hear Dr. Fauci, and Dr. Birx. Two of three have M.D. degrees required to diagnose and dispense medication. The other has no degree and no license to practice medicine but repeatedly ignores and contradicts Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci.
Yesterday’s White House update (April 23) offers the latest conflict between knowledge and what seems like insanity. The president referred to “emerging” research showing that the increased sunlight and higher humidity of spring and summer kill the virus. Past studies have not found good evidence to support the theory. But that’s not the worst of it.
Noting unidentified research into the effects of disinfectants on killing the virus, the president went further off the rails by wondering aloud whether a disinfectant could be injected into people because the virus “does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.” Where is Sigmund Freud when we need him?
Sigmund Freud’s Case Study in Demonic Neurosis
We are children of the Enlightenment. Few of us believe in real life Faustian bargains with the Devil. But Sigmund Freud became intrigued by Johann Christoph Haizmann (1651-1700), a Bavarian-born Austrian painter, after reading Haizmann’s newly recovered narrative description (L) and triptych painting (below) of his Faustian bargain.
Haizmann’s personal description of his experience became the occasion for Sigmund Freud’s and Gaston Vandendriessche’s research on “the Haizmann case” became a part of the study of psychology and psychiatry.
The Burgher and the Deal with the Devil
Of interest to us here is Haizmann’s depiction of the Devil as “a fine burgher” in the left panel of Haizmann’s triptych. ‘Burgher’ was a title of the medieval a privileged social class. Public officials were drawn from among the burgher class of medieval towns and cities. Haizmann’s choice of a burgher as the Devil in disguise is its own repudiation of wealth, privilege, and power. Only the Virgin Mary could free him from the pact with the Devil.
Freud de-mythologized the religious language and metaphors by which Haizmann had understood himself and his world. In 2020 only a quack would speak of demonic possession! Yet the biblical pictures of demonic possession still have a way of reaching parts of us we cannot explain or escape. Every one of us is a little insane at night, or locked in during the coronavirus pandemic. Few of us keep our twitter feeds on the pillow to push away the darkness. Few of us belong go the burgher class, yet there is something about Donald Trump that was with us before is election and will remain with us after he is gone: the age-old demonic dreams of wealth, privilege, and power.
We speak of neuroses and psychoses instead of demons or the devil the way Haizmann did. But still, there is the haunting memory of King Saul dropping into the abyss of insanity, throwing his spear at David, and the man who had been possessed by the Legion of demons before Jesus asked his name and sent them into the herd of swine. What is happening to us in America defies rational explanation. How does it happen that we allow a soul-less burgher who imagines injecting Lysol into our veins to take the world stage with Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci?
The Art of the Deal and the Deal with the Devil
The Art of the Deal put Donald Trump on the world stage. Art of the Deal is an autobiography. But it’s not. According to the publisher and the book’s ghost writer, Tony Schwartz, Mr. Trump never wrote a line, but continues to say he was he author. Now that the coronavirus has shut down the economy he tricks himself into being a doctor who always knows best.
By way of contrast, Johan Christoph Haizmann, relieved from the frantic need for the burghers’ recognition. He joined the Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God, aka, the Brothers of Mercy to spend the rest of his life serving the poor, and the sick of body and mind.