Am I a pathetic loser? Someone who trusts too much?
“In God We Trust.” You’ll find the words inscribed on a Lincoln penny.
Trust in God — is that what has caused America to survive and thrive for 240 years? Some folks would say yes. But I’d say that the key to America’s success — what we like to think of as its greatness — is not trust in God, which would be easy. After all, God, by definition, is infinitely trustable.
No, what makes America great is something as tough to achieve as it is fragile — trust in our fellow human beings, our fallible fellow citizens. One of the supreme accomplishments of the American experiment has been its citizens’ willingness to tolerate, listen to, compromise with, and trust each other.
And now there seems to be a movement afoot – I’m going to get political here — that is led by a man who, throughout his adult life, has routinely betrayed the trust of others. I’m thinking, of course, of Donald Trump.
Over the years, Trump has refused to pay countless suppliers and business associates. He has reneged on deals, violating his colleagues’ trust. He talks of sexually assaulting women and getting away with it, betraying women’s trust.
By his own words he has revealed that he places little stock in that most basic building block of civilization — trust. He writes books with titles like “Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life.” What’s more, he has figured out that if he messes with the fragile web of mutual trust that holds successful societies together, he can get the one thing he wants more than anything (I’m wondering, does he really want the presidency?). And what Donald most wants of all is attention. Lots of it.
A Pathetic Loser
Trump’s assaults on trust scare the heck out of people like me. My world view is predicated on mutual respect. My default position is to trust my fellow humans in general, and my fellow American citizens in particular. That makes me, I suspect, a person Trump would write off as a pathetic loser.
As a knee-jerk moderate, I wouldn’t dream of giving Donald Trump my vote. Yet he has finagled something else from me that is nearly as valuable — my time and mental energy, my chi. For months now, Trump has inhabited the front of my brain. His antics have been plastered to the inside of my forehead.
In June he claimed the U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel had “an absolute conflict” in presiding over Trump University litigation because Curiel was “of Mexican heritage.” In July Trump insulted the family of Humayun Khan, an American Muslim soldier who died in combat in Iraq. In September he was overheard boasting on an “Access Hollywood” videotape of grabbing women’s crotches and popping breath mints before imposing pouty-mouthed kisses on unsuspecting subordinates.
Trump Ups His Game
This past week, however, my fascination has turned to horror. Why? Because Trump has upped the ante. He’s playing an even more dangerous game. It’s one that seeks to undercut Americans’ (and the world’s) faith in American representative government by suggesting that its elections are rigged.
Donald Trump is shrewd. He knows how to get and hold people’s attention. He holds the attention of his supporters by playing on their outrage at being left out of the national conversation. He holds the attention of knee-jerk moderates like me by locating and tweaking my — usually quiescent — capacity for outrage.
What outrages me?
People who don’t play fair, that’s who. People like Trump who violate other people’s trust. Trump’s monumental disregard for fair play — for respectful give-and-take between competing interests and points of view — runs the risk of dismantling a fragile institution. And that institution would be the United States of America, which has survived for 240 years thanks largely to simple human – God-given? — trust.
Here’s a post I wrote when I still thought Trump was laughable: “Jesus Was a Loser. Does That Make Trump a Winner?” Here’s one from when I thought everybody could see how incompetent Trump was: “Donald Trump Outs the Elephant in the Pro-Life Room.” And, finally, here’s my Donald-Trump-Meets-Pope-Francis post — which gives me hope that humanity has not totally gone off the rails.