Donald Trump vs. the Kobayashi Maru

Donald Trump vs. the Kobayashi Maru November 24, 2020

Star Trek fans will get the Kobayashi Maru reference immediately. Starfleet Academy prepared its cadets for no-win situations, which they will inevitably face as captains of starships, by using a simulation of a situation with no good options. Capt. Kirk became the first to successfully rescue the other ship that had drifted into the neutral zone, and he did so by cheating: he reprogrammed the computer to allow him to win. I think we’ll all agree that this isn’t a real victory. I suspect that many of us may also question the wisdom of Starfleet in allowing Kirk to graduate and advance to command of a ship when he has such an aversion to losing.

The analogy with Donald Trump’s behavior is hopefully clear. Kirk was not the sore loser Trump is, just to be clear. The point remains: someone should not be in command who cannot handle the realities of life, which includes situations in which the outcome may be less terrible than alternatives but is not at all perfect.

The latest news about the election, of course, is that the transition between administrations is set to go ahead. Trump’s approval of this process while nonetheless maintaining he won is much like Kirk insisting he beat the unbeatable simulation, when in fact he did nothing of the sort. If you have to try to rewrite the rules in order to emerge as the winner, you are cheating rather than playing fairly. That isn’t winning. That Starfleet oversight of their computer system and the entire democratic electoral process in the United States do not declare one the winner when one doesn’t play by the rulers os testament to these systems work effectively, if not infallibly.

Kirk says in The Wrath of Khan that he doesn’t like to lose. Trump said something similar about losing. Each in their own way, both missed an opportunity to develop in maturity. In both cases, however, those around these individuals learned something important about them. To be clear, Donald Trump is no Captain Kirk. I would happily swap Trump (or anyone else like him) and put in his place any of the starship captains from Star Trek. The point is that both failed when tested, not because they didn’t win, but because they didn’t understand that winning was not the point. Defeating the training simulation wasn’t the point of the Kobayashi Maru exercise, it was learning about no-win situations and one’s own priorities. Elections are not unwinnable in that sense, but they are a practice fundamental to democracy of any type. To make winning the aim, going so far as to pursue unwinnable court challenges in the hope of undermining confidence in the electoral process and of the administration that beat you in the race, shows oneself to be an inappropriate choice to lead a free nation, because winning at all costs is the essence of dictatorship and totalitarianism, while accepting that in a democracy you may be outvoted is part of the essence of preserving freedom and government of the people by the people for the people.

In a similar fashion, when those who claim to be Christians embrace unconditional support for Trump it is inherently self-defeating. If you claim to follow the servant king and align with a bully, if you claim to have taken up the cross to follow the crucified messiah while supporting a politician for whom winning in worldly terms is everything, if you claim to offer truth while gullibly believing and spreading lies, you undermine your own credibility and that of the religion associated with you. Jesus calls his followers to take the last place to discover the power of humility. Those who take the places of honor betray the one who said the first will be last.

However much political power and influence might be won through this Faustian bargain, Christians who go this route have already lost from the outset: lost their God, their Christ, their gospel, and their personal credibility.

Of related interest:

Christian News Site: “It’s Highly Possible” Trump Won the Election He Just Lost

The court evangelicals are now linked to yet another “national embarrassment”

Politicians’ Lies No Longer Matter in a Post-Truth World

A Critic of Brazil’s President Was Repeatedly Sued By Pastors Over a Joke Tweet

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