August 23, 2016

What we’re Failing to See in Trump.

trump peace smile


Louis C.K., in his recent letter undressing Donald Trump, said a few things that I think struck at the heart of the whole Trump debacle: “Trump is a messed up guy with a hole in his heart that he tries to fill with money and attention. He can never ever have enough of either and he’ll never stop trying… He’s a sad man.”

Or, as my brother put it the other day: “That guy must not have a lot of love for himself if he’s putting out so much hate onto other people.”

Sure, Trump irks a lot of folks, me included—but it’s more that I think he would make a disastrous president, not that I hate his guts as a human being.

When people are violent, it’s mostly because they have experienced a lot of brutality in their own life. And if it’s not coming from others, we inflict violence upon ourselves, by being out of touch with our needs.

While we all possess the same basic physical (food, shelter, water) and emotional (respect, identity, love) needs, our own specific combination of needs is unique to each of us. Introverts need more time alone than extroverts. Some people need more information (scientists) while others need more creativity (artists). The intensity of the need ranges depending upon our unique blueprint as a human being.

But if we’re unaware of what our personal needs are—and, goddamnit, I wish they taught this type of personal development in school—and spend our life engaging things and people that don’t get our needs met, then we are inflicting violence upon ourselves. This might sound trite, but carried out over years and years, this can do quite a bit of damage. And more often than not, we—as wonderfully flawed and messy creatures—project that violence outward onto others.

Back to this Trump character.

Trump scares a lot of people because they don’t want to believe that this could possibly be part of their reality. More specifically, they don’t want to believe that they themselves could ever be like Trump. That they could think thoughts like his, let alone speak them aloud—many Americans are scared (and many just as proud) to admit that they’ve got a little Trump in them.

Honestly, we’re all pretty messed up. It doesn’t matter if we were born into a billionaire family or into poverty—we all have habits and patterns and belief systems, most of which we developed before ever employing a fully functioning rational thought process. We all suffer; if not on the outside, then on the inside.

No wonder we make so many mistakes. No wonder we have mood swings and phobias and tell ourselves stories and rationalize things to no end to get our way (“ahem”… guilty). And that’s the crazy and infuriating and beautiful part about being human.

And we all have terrible, f*cked up thoughts at some point. Some of us act on them, some don’t. Trump happens to only think the thoughts we don’t want to admit we’ve had, but also acts on them. Regularly. He flaunts it, really.

Trump is the subconscious nightmare that we all don’t want to admit that we, as a nation, have birthed. Will things detonate? Certainly—they already have. Could things get even uglier? Without a doubt.

Yet what I’ve noticed is that many people really don’t like Trump. They don’t just find him inconsistent, or comical or bigoted and xenophobic—some people really hate Donald Trump. Therein lies a sense of spiritual superiority that belies liberal ideology, and that addles both parties to the core—nose upturned, we’re better than them, goes the prevailing bipartisan ethos.

Fair enough.

The question is—what does putting out such negativity do for us? What does it do to us? I find it especially valuable to treat Trump as a mirror—when you look into the “Big Orange” (sorry—had to), what do you see in yourself? In how you react?

I think we should take a long, hard look, and lean into that discomfort, should it arise. It’s inevitably worth unpacking.

For me, at first I felt rather self-righteous about how little I was reacting compared to other people; ahh yes, I’m highly evolved and don’t need to play these little games. When I dug a little deeper, I recognized that it was simply apathy—I found his actions disgraceful, but I didn’t really care about the whole ordeal. It was easier to dismiss it, and check out. That wasn’t fun to look at, and there are still things there to unpack.

Ultimately, this presents an unfathomable test to our humanity—to see Donald J. Trump not merely as a demagogue, but as a human being. We forget that we know only a fraction of the whole story. Yet we’re content extrapolating, assuming, and speculating the rest. It’s easier that way. Somehow safer.

I wonder what Donald’s relationship with his father and mother was like when he was a small boy? I wonder whose love he craved, and who he had to be in order to receive that love?

I’m not defending Trump’s actions by any means, rather I hope we can exert the extra effort in seeking to understand, which is the very foundation of love. We should make an effort to understand all human beings, not just the ones that make us feel comfortable. We can do the hard work, take the long-cut. To look at what’s being triggered in our own story first, and see it as an opportunity for growth, rather than another reason to point the finger outside ourselves.

If we choose to see it as such, Trump can become a crucial linchpin in our healing process—both collectively, and individually.

Because it’s not just about who we choose to put in the Presidential office, it’s about all of the little moments up until then, and forever after—all the moments where we are constantly voting for our way of being in the world. For the quality of lives we want to lead. For the world we want to live in.

Are we simply reacting? Or are we responding? It’s a simple, empowering truth: you choose.


Author: Kevin Hermann

Image: flickr/Gage Skidmore

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

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