The child has taken over. Right now, it appears the only adult in the room is the new Chief of Staff. I wonder how long he will last.
Unless you have buried your head in the sand and intentionally clogged your eyes and ears, you know that the POTUS has brought on John F. Kelly as his new Chief of Staff.
Kelly, a Marine and former Commanding General, has been part of Trump’s Cabinet as the Homeland Security Director. His bio paints a life of discipline, order, and dignity.
From what I can tell, the President and the new Chief of Staff are complete opposites in character, actions, and temperament.
One is an adult, informed by the self-discipline needed in the adult world; the other a child, never thwarted, never matured.
Here’s how an editorial today in the New York Times describes our current child-POTUS.
What but some profound sense of inadequacy could explain the neediness and the nastiness, the pout and the pettiness, the vanity and the vulgarity, the anger and the aggression? This president gets off on the humiliation of others. He is inhabited by some deep violence to which self-control is a stranger. It is almost painful to watch the degree to which he pursues self-aggrandizement. He confounds masculinity with machismo. As J.K. Rowling put it in a tweet: “You tiny, tiny, tiny little man.”
To be an adult
Adults know we can’t always get our way.
Adults know that the world does not center on us.
Adults know that we don’t know very much and will seek out and learn from the expertise of others.
Adults know that self-control and treating others with dignity and respect are the two necessary foundation stones to accomplishing anything worthwhile.
Adults know that keeping things in order makes everything easier and that too much chaos demoralizes even the best of us.
Adults know that screaming, cursing and degrading others will bring isolation and ultimate destruction.
As is written in the Holy Scriptures, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways (I Cor 13:11, NRSV).”
The religious world, eschewing adulthood, chooses to trust in a child.
Mr. Trump has not put an end to childish ways.
Yet, much of the current religious world has chosen to put its trust in this child. A Bible study, apparently attended by most if not all of the current Cabinet members, equates this selfish, uncontrolled man with the biblical character of Samson. Samson, a man of notoriously venial sexual appetites and an inability to exercise self-restraints, becomes a hero because he manages to kill lots of enemies.
But the analogy breaks down quickly. Samson, blinded and imprisoned, i.e., severely limited in the possibilities before him, decides to grow up. He offers his life as a way to bring freedom to others. He becomes a flawed but still intriguing Christ-figure.
Samson killed a bunch of party-goers in his final and redemptive act. Trump can destroy the world as we know it, as long as he is sure he can keep his hide safe.
I am more than sure that our current POTUS, in his undisciplined, unmatured mind, sees himself as a superhero. Who among us didn’t when we were children? We all wanted to fly, to be all powerful, to be the avenger, to be the victorious one surrounded by the blood and gore of our enemies.
But most of us grew up, learned that our “enemies” are also people, people struggling to find their ways in life and often with profound things to teach us.
Most of us figured out that the more we hate, demean and kill, the more likely we will be hated, demeaned and killed by others.
Most of us figured out that you can’t bomb evil out of existence, but that it is possible to face that which we term evil with a mature love and engage in the hard work of personal transformation.
Most of us have figured out that by offering others a hand up, we help everyone live better lives.
Most of us . . . except for the child who can now make all his childhood fantasies come true by one use of the nuclear codes.
National leaders need to be adults
We have always had extraordinarily flawed people in national leadership. No one can rise to that spot without being severely compromised and without the narcissistic tendencies necessary to envision oneself as the most powerful person in the world.
But most, not all but most, have been adults, acknowledging some restrictions on their behaviors.
Our current POTUS is not an adult, other than in the physical manifestation of age. But his mind and soul stay near the two-year-old level. And undisciplined, unregulated two-year-olds do not like adult-imposed restrictions.
I expect Kelly’s tenure to be tumultuous at best. The child has all the power. When thwarted by the presence of a person willing to act with adult dignity and impose restraints, the too-powerful child will kick, scream and destroy until they get their way.
I believe Kelly can serve as the adult in the room. But I have little hopes of a long tenure for his employment because the child can fire him.