Food for Thought: ‘A Credible Tale of Chaos’ in Trump Land

Food for Thought: ‘A Credible Tale of Chaos’ in Trump Land September 10, 2018

Here’s a couple of excellent articles to help you recover from the weekend, if they trip your trigger:

‘Bob Woodward’s meticulous, frightening look inside the Trump White House’

trump fear
Digging democracy’s grave. (IoSonoUnaFotoCamera, Flikr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Woodward’s blockbuster expose, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” is unnervingly summarized in this Washington Post op-ed by Jill Abramson, a former New York Times executive editor. Abramson is now a columnist for the Guardian newspaper, a senior lecturer at Harvard University and an author (“Merchants of Truth: The Business of Facts and the Future of News” will be published in January).

Wrote Abramson in her piece:

“It’s hard to imagine a more disturbing portrait of a president than the one Bob Woodward painted of Richard Nixon in his final days: paranoid, poisoned by power, pounding the carpet and talking to the portraits on the walls. But the early days of Donald Trump’s presidency, as recounted by Woodward in his new book, ‘Fear,’ are strikingly similar and in some ways even more gut-wrenching. Then, as now, the country faced a crisis of leadership caused by a president’s fatal flaws and inability to function in the job.”

This is a thoughtful, assenting review of a damning book.

Abramson boils everything down to one fatal flaw in Trump’s cruel, mendacious character: lying.

‘Famous abusers seek easy forgiveness. Rosh Hashanah teaches us repentance is hard.’

This wise, kindly op-ed, also from the Washington Post, is penned by a female rabbi and asks the important, timely question: What should repentance and redemption look like in the context of sexual misconduct?

I was particularly drawn to this article because I’ve lately written a couple of posts in this blog about comedian Louis C.K. and his admitted sexual abominations — and whether nine months of  self-imposed exile in the proverbial wilderness without any other form of restitution to victims is an adequate mea culpa.

I have received quite a bit of blowback from readers who chastised me for being unfairly shaming and retributive, and one even said I was callous for not acknowledging that all transgressors themselves are victims of life’s inherent unfairnesses. However, none of my disparagers were able to tell me what “justice” in the case of Louis C.K. and his victims should look like, only that hateful and punitive rhetoric toward this predator was.

Danya Ruttenberg, the good rabbi and writer of this piece, offered an answer far more eloquent and learned than mine could ever be.

“A great many men have been named as perpetrators and suffered almost unprecedented professional consequences for it. Yet not even a full year later, many of the accused whose careers initially seemed ruined are angling for comebacks, including Mario BataliCharlie RoseBill O’ReillyGarrison Keillor and Kevin Spacey . Matt Lauer told some fans in late August, “Don’t worry, I’ll be back on TV,” despite allegations of an extreme and rampant pattern of sexual harassment. Louis C.K. performed a couple of weeks ago at a comedy club, his first gig since admitting that he had forced a number of women to watch him masturbate. Are these men sorry? Should they be forgiven? More to the point, perhaps, who has the right to forgive them?”

A lot of the blow-back I received from my posts — mostly from humanists, surprisingly — can be summarized thusly: unless rape, sexual transgressions are no big deal, and wimpy, judgmental victims still whining about being violated and disrespected should stop unfairly piling on abusers and just deal with it.

Ruttenberg advises, and I concur that:

“There are many talented people whose work we could reward instead of rushing back to people who haven’t truly repented. That would send a clear message about not tolerating rape culture.”

Keep in mind that this culture is also complicit in accommodating the boorish behavior of its aficionados who don’t rape but otherwise defile with little appropriate consequence.

Indeed, what should real justice look like in these circumstances? It’s not a whiney question.

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