The words of a wise man’s mouth win him favor, but the lips of a fool consume him. The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness, and the end of his talk is wicked madness (Eccl. 10:12-13 RSV).
Abusers and bullies love to manipulate others, finding any way they can to excuse themselves from taking the blame for the harm which they cause. They want to be thought of as great and powerful by others, thinking this is how they can respect. Some act out without much speech, but many abuse others with their words, showing the full fury of their madness when they do not get their way.
One of the things abusers fear the most is resistance. It calls into question their power. The more people identify an abuser as being an abuser, the more people will resist them, and the less and less power they will possess. Abusers know this. They don’t want to be identified for what they are. They will try to deflect accusations of abuse. They will seek to blame their victims. Indeed, when a pattern of abuse becomes noticed, the abuser will try to use their victims as scapegoats. That is, the abuser will try to justify their actions by saying it was in response to what their victim did or failed to do. The abuser will try to convince their audience that their victim is the one who is at fault, and often, sadly, this can be effective. It might not convince everyone: but it will give enough cover to convince those who do not want to act, those who do not want to resist evil.
Sometimes, indeed, often, abusers like to appear magnanimous. They warn their victims of the consequences they will suffer if they don’t do as they are told, but when the time comes, they tell their victims they are being “let off the hook.” At least, for the time being. They might punish their victim a little, just to make sure their victim remembers who is in charge, but they do less than they said they would do, to show how gracious they can be. The victim, after all, is the one who is at fault, so the abuser can show how great and merciful they are to others, proving beyond a doubt they are not the ones guilty of any wrongdoing. And yet, in doing this, they are far from merciful: they are playing with their victim, making their victim even more afraid, because they do not know what to expect from their abuser. While the abuser might make themselves appear to others as being benevolent in their mercy, their victim knows how capricious their abuser is, and so far from rejoicing in mercy, they have every reason to be concerned as to what might happen next. Victims know when abusers act like this, it is not because they are merciful, but rather, because they are being manipulated, and an excuse is being made for the abuser to do something far worse, far more sinister than before. “I was kind to you, and look what thanks you gave me! No more!”
Sadly, this is the kind of behavior which is associated with President Trump. He never takes the blame for his actions; he always finds reason to scapegoat others; when it is his policy which creates a crisis, such as with migrant children being taken away from their families and locked up in cruel detention centers, he points to his political opponents as being the ones to blame. When he delays raids intended to round up immigrants, it is meant to make himself look great and merciful, all the while he prepares for something worse in the near future. Likewise, when dealing with other nations, such as Iran, we see his bullying tendencies out in the open. He planned a military strike on Iran with the least bit of provocations, a drone which was shot down in or very close to Iranian airspace, and then stopped the attack right before it was to take place, so that he could look merciful and yet powerful. He wants to be praised, and his loyalists denounce anyone who sees through his deception. The retaliation was stopped, but of course, if Iran does not do as Trump wishes, they now are being threatened with something worse: obliteration.Trump does not seem to help himself; it appears that he thinks that the only way he can remain in control is through bullying. If he wants “cheap money” for the government, then, as William Cohan explained in Vanity Fair, he will bully the person who he thinks can get it for him, Jerome Powell. The insults he gives, such as on twitter, the insults he gives to leaders of other nations, the insults he gives to his critics, all serve the same purpose: to try to take away the power of his opposition. But, as we have seen, he often stops short of executing his threats. This is a part of the process of manipulation. As Joe Scarborough noted, when Trump bullies and then “pulls back,” he hopes that he will then garner support by appearing moderate. But we must not be fooled: he is not moderating himself. If he does not get what he wishes, he will do worse, as his history demonstrates.
When a bully threatens to beat up a kid who does not give him lunch money, but tells the kid who gives only half of what was expected “That’s good for today, give me twice as much tomorrow or else you will get something worse,” we do not praise the bully for not beating up his victim. And when the bully beats up the kid the next day, breaking some of the kid’s bones in punishment, we would not accept the bully’s excuses that the kid had it coming. Why, then, do we accept Trump’s pretend benevolence? We should not respond to Trump’s so-called moderation by feeling relief and doing what he wants us to do by thanking him for his mercy and stop resisting him. He gains more power that way. So long as we respond like an abuse victim, he will have power over us. If we say “he did good by stopping the attack on Iran,” an attack he was involved in initiating, we have fallen for his gaslighting. He created the crisis in the first place. Let us not follow him into madness.
 It is a story as old as time itself, and is repeated in many forms, from the school bully who tells their victim to “stop hitting themselves,” as they take hold of their victims’ arms and force them to hit themselves, to the husband who beats up his wife because the coffee is cold. There is always an excuse, sometimes superficial, which is used to explain the abuse.
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