Thursday, August 25, 2016

We see evil in our enemies, never in us


The religious right has come down strongly in favor of Donald Trump, but on this matter the Bible is not unambiguous.  Proverbs 16:28 it tells us that “A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends.”  Titus 3:2 tells us “to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.”
By George Templeton
Gazette Columnist


Joseph Campbell described the process of becoming a hero when he wrote, “… we have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us.  The labyrinth is thoroughly known.  We have only to follow the thread of the hero path, and where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god.  And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves.  Where we had thought to travel outward, we will come to the center of our existence.  And where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all the world.” 

A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.  Was Martin L. King a hero?  In the segregated sixties, the office cadre, wanting law and order, viewed him as a Communist, who was deliberately and unjustifiably inflaming black people.  We wonder if those, who would shoot the messenger so they could avoid the message, are angry when his holiday comes around.
Is life about winning or enjoying and appreciating?  Is what we are seeking the experience of being alive or the meaning of life?  What makes a leader is not winning an election.  It is the role that he is going to play.
The Peter Principle claimed that people rise to the level of their intellectual incompetence.  Instead, people rise only to the level permitted by their character.  Personalities have to fit the requirements of the job.  We think they can know a person’s intent from their actions, but some people just march to the beat of a different drummer.   
The Artist
Artists and craftsmen are highly independent.  Their satisfaction in life comes from creative expression.  They interpret our archetypal dream into future reality.  They don’t like to compete.  They believe in hard work, quality, and respect for others, but they hold their cards close to their vest. 
The Party Man
He identifies with the GOP or DNC.  He is a submissive bureaucrat, rigid, and ideological.  His desk is lined by three ring binders filled with management’s procedures for every possible situation.  He is driven by fear of failure and takes solace only with the support of others.  He molds himself into what he feels people want him to be.
The Gamesman
He wants to be boss and does not like taking orders from others.  He breaks the rules in order to win.  He enjoys competition and risks.  The gamesman can be highly effective at promoting team work because he is flexible and aggressive, but he expects everyone else to see life as a game.  When he wins too much, the thrill and meaning of life goes away.
The Jungle Fighter
He sees life as a battle where enemies must be destroyed.  This type of person is effective in trimming out losers and reducing bureaucracy.  He often fails when others become sick of his intimidating, self-serving conduct.
Selecting Mr. Right
Heroes don’t necessarily fit within any of the previously described boxes.  Differences in temperament compete with a desire to control.  It results in behaviors that are not aligned with organizational goals, but instead are skewed toward increasing personal power.  The ego-centric leader’s loyalty is to himself.  It causes those who work under him to be loyal to themselves because they want to keep their jobs.  They know they have to promote the self-image of their thin skinned leader.
The Madness of King George was a film describing the British King’s bizarre behavior and how the public tried to ignore it.  Their hope for the king was bigger than their pessimism.  Unfortunately, neurosis augments a disconnection between temperament and ideals.  Fortunately, the king became a force for stability by reigning rather than ruling.
Personality theorists view traits as determined by both genetics and experiences.  They remain constant over a person’s lifetime within situations like working with other people, reacting to weakness, and reacting to barriers that prevent goal attainment.  The strong aggressive leader tends to be bossy, likes to dominate, wants to win, and reacts to frustration with anger and hostility.
Is “winning” by destroying rivals Donald’s motivation?  On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he threatened to fund revenge super packs that would attack Ohio Governor John Kasich, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and others.
Alan Greenspan, in his book, The Age of Turbulence, wrote that Nixon and Clinton were by far the smartest presidents he had worked with.  Nixon had a dark side that communicated possibly hidden motivations, a cynical paranoia that justified winning and getting even.  Who would have ever dreamed that such a great and popular president could fall because of the senseless stupidity of Watergate?
When Nixon set forth his ideas, he did so in perfectly turned sentences and paragraphs, but not Trump.  His double meaning speaks clearly but twists common usage.  To hit adversaries so hard their heads would spin is not an example of Platonic debate.
Could it be that Trump is simply trying to maintain attention by abruptly changing direction and saying something outrageous?  Perhaps Trump is just easily distracted.
We remember from high school English that language follows rules.  Artificial intelligence researchers try to represent those using mathematical symbols, theorems, and axioms.  Everyone who writes original computer programs quickly discovers that computers do only what they are told, not what any perceptive person would know that you want.  Intelligence has its threads like all computer programs, but it is different because it branches massively and breaks the rules.  Trump’s third grade language breaks the rules, suggesting that he is smart.  By insinuating things Trump forges an argument.  He can say ridiculous things without being held responsible or accountable.  This is his “style”.  Trump tweeted, “I love watching these poor pathetic people (pundits) on television working so hard to try to figure me out.  They can’t!”  Can you trust a man who “derails” from his tracks in the middle of a sentence?
Constructive Criticism
Constructive criticism exists within the shadows that lie between right and wrong.  It is not an “attack” when it is politely and humbly offered.  The hero welcomes critique.  He will not demonstrate an inflated sense of his own importance and correctness.  He will adjust his position when he considers the facts. 
The weak man demonstrates his fragility by assailing the person who questions his judgment.  The validity of an opponent’s argument is not weakened by calling the person who offers it “little”.
The pageant of history can be viewed as the consequence of powerful individuals, scheming with evil intent, or it can be the outcome of complex social forces.  How one views the world influences their actions.  They can see “good guys and secretly scheming, powerful bad guys” instead of complex events.  They blame others and the rigged system instead of accepting personal responsibility.
Many groups compete to win favors.  Thomas Dye and L. Zeigler’s 1970 book, The Irony of Democracy described the “rigged system” that existed then and still exists now.  It is a system where the key political, economic, and social decisions are made by elites.  Elites are not necessarily greedy, sinister individuals conspiring to take advantage of an unsuspecting, disenfranchised public.  Anyone who has wealth, power, is educated, experienced, professional, and competent is an elite.  Most have a high regard for the public good.
Tea Party anti-intellectualism has countered elitism by electing inexperienced people, but that will not be enough to change things.  When everything changes on the first day, nothing is a priority.  Would you like a leader who makes promises that he knows are impossible but you want to believe in?  He might think, if you make the lady pregnant, she will not want to give up the baby.  
Trump supporters feel that this election is not a choice between Republicans and Democrats.  It is about “losers” voting against their government.  They should consider that Trump views losers as inferior “bad guys” who get what they deserve and “good guys” as winners who are competitive.  Weakness taints losers in the same way that race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation have done in the past.
Civics Teachers
Pity the poor high school civics teacher.  The future will be about phone-side tweets instead of fireside chats.  Politics becomes intrinsically self-destructive when it insists on going where the sun does not shine.  Reality is not a choice between true and false, or Republican and Democrat.  We have to choose whether we will join with or fight against the “unfacts” people.  We have to choose between civility and revolution.
In November of 2015, at a campaign event in Birmingham, Trump approved of a Black Lives Matter protester being roughed up.  At a campaign stop in Sioux City, Iowa, Trump said, “Where  I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay?  By February of 2016, Trump was urging supporters to “knock the crap out of” protestors and in Cedar Rapids, Iowa Trump said, “So, if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them.”  In a Las Vegas speech Donald indicated that he would like to punch a protester in the face and claimed demonstrators should go out in a stretcher.
In his North Carolina speech Donald said, “By the way, and if she gets to pick -Lower electric – lower electric bills, folks.  Hillary wants to abolish – essentially abolish the Second Amendment.  By the way, and if she gets to pick --- (Crowd Booing) If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks.  Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is.  I don’t know.  But – but I’ll tell you what.  That will be a horrible day.  If Hillary gets to put her judges – right now, we’re tied.”
Trump has made statements supporting torture and the execution of the families of terrorists.  We all want law, order, and security, but isn’t it more important to be pro justice and equal opportunity?  Our leaders should be about reconciling a divided people instead of suppressing dissent.  Sacrifice is not about winning, working hard, or creating jobs as Donald seems to think.  It is about the surrender to a heroic good regardless of personal loss.
Hijacking God
The religious right has come down strongly in favor of Donald Trump, but on this matter the Bible is not unambiguous.  Proverbs 16:28 it tells us that “A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends.”  Titus 3:2 tells us “to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.”
We blame it on the other party.  We make the mistake of seeing evil only in our enemies, never in us.  It can be found in different presidents and their administrations, in decades of history, in materialism, no amnesty, pre-emptive war, irresponsible tax cuts, and unfettered investment banking.  
Lincoln’s second inaugural address captured a similar situation.  He explained that both the North and the South had collaborated, profited, and participated in slavery.  Then and now, we are one people united by our altruism and crimes.
Culture War
We are at the still point of turning.  Dye and Zeigler captured this when they wrote; Heroes “… must govern wisely if government by the people is to survive.  If the survival of the American system depended upon an active, informed, and enlightened citizenry, then democracy in America would have disappeared long ago…”

It is not that the “makers and takers” are dissatisfied with the status quo, that everything should be destroyed just for change, but rather that we should search for heroes that will build on the roots of our human agency.

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