Resisting the boss baby
Businesses tend to take on the personality and character of their leaders. If a boss, for example, is cynical and calculating, ragingly ambitious and utterly devoid of empathy, a glib mediocrity concerned only with power and personal enrichment, then the organization or business she runs will follow suit.
The same holds true of politicians as well. I’m sure there were millions of non-evil Germans during the Holocaust, but no one could possibly contest that life in Germany under Hitler was dominated by Hitler: by his ideas, his policies, his rage and his insanity.
Thankfully in the United States we have, for the time being, at least, a series of checks and balances specifically designed to keep a power-mad tyrant from transforming our nation into a brutal dictatorship. I’m equally thankful that so far the series of checks and balances at the core of our political system seem to be working.
So when Trump tried to enact a racist and deeply unAmerican travel ban, our legal system, to its credit, essentially said to Trump, “Get the fuck out of here with that bullshit” and he was all, “Oh no! Our system is working as it should!” The other branches have done their part to keep Trump from horrifically and unconstitutionally overstepping his power.
Yet Trump casts such an enormous shadow over literally every facet of American life that he helps define the lives even of people who despise him and everything he’s done. It’s damn near impossible to be neutral about Trump. It’s damn near impossible to not have an opinion about the man, although it would be fascinating to explore the psyches of people who thought he was nothing more than “meh” or “okay, I guess.” On a similar note, it’s impossible to ignore the President, although God knows I have tried.
At the very least, I have stopped acting as if angrily responding to Trump’s tweets represents an essential component of good citizenship. When I lived in a group home as a teenager, the people who ran it would talk a lot about “feeding into” someone’s negative, limit-testing behavior. The idea was that if someone was misbehaving, or throwing a temper tantrum, the best/only acceptable way of dealing with it is by purposefully ignoring the person misbehaving.
It does not seem like an exaggeration to say that so far, Donald Trump’s Presidency has represented a months-long temper tantrum interrupted very rarely by fleeting moments of non-terribleness. His campaign similarly resembled an enormous temper tantrum and when the leader of the free world behaves in such a surreally immature fashion, it’s hard not to feel like you need to respond to that craziness, and respond to it forcefully, just to remain part of the cultural conversation.
Trump inspires feverish emotions on both sides. I realized at a certain point that responding to Trump angrily and constantly and with real rage made me more like Trump, however, and that was a chilling realization.
I don’t want our country to take after President Trump, even as I fear that that is inevitable. I’m sure foreign countries didn’t all assume Americans were attractive, smart and dignified when Obama was in office but when people like W. and Donald Trump are the face our nation chooses to show the world, it doesn’t exactly contradict European stereotypes of Americans being demented overgrown children.
Trump is a baby in an old man’s body but we can’t let him define us, to ourselves, or to the rest of the world. That’s why we need to resist, both by taking active steps to counteract the terrible things he and his minions are trying to do, and by refusing to feed into Trump’s negative, limit-testing behavior. And if that entails a lengthy “time out” in some manner of prison, so be it.
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