The Shadow of Fred Trump

150202142706-new-york-times-profit-780x439To a degree greater than his Oval Office predecessors, President Trump is waging perpetual war with the press, especially the New York Times.

Why?

Like Father, Like Son

Sons who reflect deeply on what makes them tick eventually wade in the muddy waters of their relationships with their fathers.

Although psychotherapists warn against armchair diagnosis, especially by those not trained in the DSM and diagnostic practice, some things have always been in the public domain of human wisdom. Among them is the existential relationship of a father and a son.

It’s taken 75 years of self-reflection to reach the little clarity I have about my father and me. Along the way I have listened to men, young and old, wrestling with — or refusing to wrestle with —their fathers.

Sometimes the fathers are alive. Sometimes they’re dead. But a father never dies. He lives on in the son who looks to him for approval, for legitimacy, for love.

The Story of Jacob

Although we are not trained in clinical diagnosis like our psychology counterparts, rabbis, priests, ministers, and imams, rabbis, priests, ministers, and imams are privileged to wade in these sacred waters with other waders and wrestlers.

We are schooled in a companion tradition to the DSM, the ancient wisdom passed on from generation to generation by the Torah like the story of Jacob wrestling with the night visitor by the ford of the Jabbok.

The back story of Jacob’s night of wrestling is Jacob’s tricking his blind father Isaac into giving him the father’s blessing meant for Esau and Jacob’s crafty theft of Esau’s birthright.

“After that Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing from Isaac. He thought to himself, ‘My father will soon die, and I will be sad for him. Then I will kill Jacob.’” [Genesis 27:41.]

Esau’s fury has sent Jacob into flight fearing for his life. Now, after years of running for his life, Jacob is about to meet the brother he assumes intends to kill him.

300px-Eugène_Ferdinand_Victor_Delacroix_061

Jacob wrestling with the angel – Eugene Delacroix 

It is the night before Jacob’s encounter with Esau.

“Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.  When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’

So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then the man said, ‘You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.’ Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.’ The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.” [Genesis 32:24-31 NRSV.]

Jacob’s dark night of the soul appears at first to be his unresolved sin against his brother Esau. But beneath the obvious, what the Genesis narrator sets up as a life-and-death moment between the two estranged brothers is a night-dream resolution of Jacob’s very being — his grounding in God . . . and his father.

Jacob is not the only one who has wrestled alone in the night. No night is bleaker than the absence of love, and the darkest of them come when the absence comes from one’s mother or father.

The memory of a father like Isaac casts a long shadow over a man like Jacob. No matter how far Jacob runs from his brother, he cannot walk outside the shadow of Isaac’s disapproval. So long as we run, we miss the holy limp that results from the wrestling.

Perhaps in the light of a son’s relationship with his father we see something much deeper than politics in the behavior and speech of Donald j. Trump.

Walking with a Limp

Jacob’s night of wrestling leaves him permanently injured. Forever after he walks with a limp. After his night by the ford of the Jabbok and the next day when Esau embraces him against every expectation, Jacob and Esau join together to bury their dead father.

For Donald Trump’s sake and for all the brothers and sisters the president has managed to estrange across the world in 2017, one can pray, and hope against hope, that Fred Tump’s heir would finally bury his father’s fight with the New York Times.

FredTrumpArrest

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 21, 2017.

 

Intoxicated with Success

“[People] are undoubtedly more in danger from prosperity than from adversity, for when matters go smoothly, they flatter themselves, and are intoxicated by their success.”

This bit of wisdom from what many will consider an unlikely source invites reflection in these days when one of America’s most successful has met adversity from his peers at the G-20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany.

421DA3B800000578-4674150-image-a-95_1499432704494He sits by himself at the table while others mingle. The chairs of China and the United Kingdom, whose leaders he has scorned, stay empty until they will be filled, begrudgingly, at the very last minute. One may hope it is a sobering moment of adversity.

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. He was laying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back . . . ” – Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis.

As an infant, Donald Trump was baptized by a Presbyterian church in Queens, New York in the tradition of the controversial 16th century theologian John Calvin. Perhaps all these years later, after all the success, but suddenly regarded as a cockroach, feeling like Gregor Samsa, he’s reading the passage from John Calvin and remembering who he really is.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, July 9, 2017.

 

Listening at Lost Nation

Shouting comes easily. Listening does not. Especially in February 2017.

Today’s Washington Post offers an exercise in listening to the real-life, on-the-ground voices of Iowans who voted for Donald Trump – who they are, why they did, and how they view him one month after his inauguration.

Click HERE for the story as told by Jenna Johnson who listened to ordinary folks in beer halls, barber shops, meat-processing plants, and places like the Pub Club in Lost Nation.

Does the piece have a bias? Of course it does, but it asks the questions and reports answers we otherwise might not hear. It begins:

“Tom Godat, a union electrician who has always voted for Democrats, cast his ballot for Donald Trump last year as ‘the lesser of two evils’ compared to Hillary Clinton.

“He’s already a little embarrassed about it.”

The point of view is biased. but it’s not fake. For those of us who are deeply troubled and unable to understand the results of the 2016 election, this reporter’s reporting of the real-life views of real-life people offers insight not available in the silo within which we live most of the time.

“On the other end of Clinton County is the tiny town of Lost Nation, where the president received 66 percent of the vote. On Wednesday night, a couple dozen local farmers and union guys gathered to play pool at the Pub Club, situated amid downtown storefronts that once contained a funeral home. (Beer is chilled where bodies were once stored.)”

Only by listening will people such as I begin to understand what happened last November and gather wisdom from beyond our silos to sustain us through this cold winter when soul food sometimes seems so far away.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Feb. 27, 2017.

 

Donald Trump is going to snap very soon, and here is how I know

Richard Willmsen of Infinite Coincidence offers this reflection from a different angle worthy of a larger audience: “I … offer up this short account of my own personal emotional development, and then explain why I think it helps explain why Trump is heading for a breakdown very, very soon.

Infinite Coincidence

curbtbewiaaaj0h

I believe that rather than smashing our own glass houses to pieces in the act of destroying Donald Trump’s Presidency, we need to be aware of our own inner Trump, to reflect on our own tendencies to think and behave in catastrophically immature, venal and insecure ways. I therefore offer up this short account of my own personal emotional development, and then explain why I think it helps explain why Trump is heading for a breakdown very, very soon.

I used to suffer from a quite disabling insecurity, particularly when it came to things like being creative and forming relationships with other people. I got better, partly by virtue of living in and studying Portugal, learning about its people’s tendency to swing between moments of self-aggrandisement and self-abnegation, from ‘we are great’ to ‘we are nothing’. I also learnt about my own habit of projecting my own feelings onto…

View original post 1,261 more words

The Clampetts are off to Washington

J.D. “Jed” Clampett and the Clampett family are leaving their Hollywood mansion for Washington, having taken offense at Meryl Streep recalling Jed’s ridicule of a disabled reporter at the Golden Globe Awards. Jed tweeted:

Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a…..

Hillary flunky who lost big. For the 100th time, I never “mocked” a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him…….

“groveling” when he totally changed a 16 year old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media!

Jed was a Beverly Hillbilly, but whenever he had something on his mind, he would sit on the curbstone of his Hollywood mansion and whittle, the way he used to do back in the swamp. When he came up with the answer, Jed would exclaim, “Welllllll, doggies!”

Jed had the wisdom to his time. He was honest. He never denied his actions. He didn’t make fun of people. Jed never tweeted.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 10, 2017

Is Democracy Threatened?

After a brain stretching week with The Nation‘s Katrina Vanden Huevel, John Nichols, Laura Flanders, Sasha Abramsky, Dorian Warren, Peter Kornbluh, Dennis and Elizabeth Kucinich, my head is still spinning. Too much to write about.

We return to Views from the Edge with this thoughtful NYT Sunday Review op-ed that addresses what The Nation speakers, panels, and guests spent the week discussing.

Click HERE to read  “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?”

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Dec. 17, 2016

Now (regretfully) I Know

Exhausted by the 2016 election, and knowing that undecided voters are few and are unlikely to be persuaded by anything I might say, I nevertheless decided to speak up one last time here. There’s a knot in my stomach. Silence only makes it worse. Silence – even for a day – would contribute to evils I’ve long deplored.

From the time I became conscious of the world, I have asked how Hitler could rise to power.

Now I know.

A child of World War II, I have learned that the questions are more important than the answers, and that sometimes the answers don’t come. Yet, as I look back on my life story, the question was not about Hitler. It was about the German people who elected him.

It still is. But this year, it’s not about the Germans. It’s about us, the Americans.

I’ve spent a lifetime living in the shadow of Adolf Hitler and the societal madness that elected him, determined from very early in life to oppose the darkness, the terror, the long shadow of Dachau, Buchenwald, and Auschwitz. Of nationalism, militarism, Arian racial superiority, global imperialism, and the startling echoes that still ring out from the gas chambers and gallows of the same society that bequeathed the world with the high culture of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schopenhauer, Hegel, and Thomas Mann. How, I have asked myself forever, could this have happened? I’ve looked inside myself and wondered what I might have felt and done during the rise of the German Third Reich.

Now I know.

The question is no longer hypothetical. No longer abstract. No longer just philosophical, psychological, or sociological. It’s immediate and practical. It’s staring me in the face every day as I watch the crowds clapping for a presidential candidate whose name is on everything he’s ever touched as a businessman and who has made it his business to put his hands where they have not been welcome.

The crowds that support Donald Trump are drawn by an irresistible force to make America great again. In Germany it was the same. It’s a page out of Hitler’s playbook, but the differences between the United States in 2016 and Germany in 1930s are strikingly different. Germany had been defeated in World War I. America was victorious. Its economy was in shambles. Ours is the envy of the world. Germany’s post-war sovereignty was limited.Ours is not. The German people perceived the Weimar Republic as weak, powerless, and ineffective, a refrain echoed in the American far right’s cacophonous contradictions that charge the Obama Administration with too much power in domestic policies, on the one hand, and weakness against international terrorism.

During the 1920s and early ‘30s, the people of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Hegel felt humiliated, their national pride had been assaulted. But. . . assaulted by whom?

Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals became the scapegoats against which the pure Germans could define themselves and make Germany great again. Today in America Muslims, Mexicans, and LGBTQ have become the equivalent scapegoats of the Donald Trump campaign, and a copy of Hitler’s speeches is in the Trump master bedroom.

If the German people were drawn like iron to a magnet by a charismatic personality who gave singular voice to their grief and anger, it was not the last time a nation would go down that road to fascist madness. It begins as a kind of love affair. Looking into the human psyche, Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860) wrote:

The ultimate aim of all love affairs … is more important than all other aims in man’s life; and therefore it is quite worthy of the profound seriousness with which everyone pursues it. What is decided by it is nothing less than the composition of the next generation …. (The World as Will and Representation, Supplements to the Fourth Book).

The next generation and generations to come are at stake in the U.S.A. on November 8, 2016.

As every American president has said, “May God bless the United States of America.” I add, and may God save us all from the worst in ourselves.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, November 5, 2016

When caught with a hand in the cookie jar

How will Donald Trump present himself in tomorrow night’s presidential town hall meeting?

A) Attempt to compare himself favorably with Bill Clinton, alleging worse comments to Hillary’s husband on the golf course?  It’s just what guys do when guys are alone, and Bill’s more lewd than I am.

B) Allege, as he has already, that Hillary has had a relationship/relationships outside of marriage? “Hillary is no angel!”

C) Apologize in the manner of the evangelical advisor, declaring that the event in 2005 was before he had a spiritual awakening, and that the issue now is forgiveness for a past indiscretion?

D) Make eyes for Moderator Martha Raddatz . . .  or Anderson Cooper?

E) Come out as a recovering sex addict?

F) None or some of the above? “None of the personal stuff matters. It’s about Making America Great Again! It’s about restoring America’s right to grope the world again. It’s about winning again. All the complainers and accusers are losers! They’re all pussies!”

The question now is not how big are his hands, but how big is his base?

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN 55318

What every New Yorker knows about Donald Trump

For a good dose of both truth and humor, click What every New Yorker knows, a Washington Post piece about the presidential candidate whose name we ruefully deign to mention.

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, September 22, 2016.