Ugly Americans

I happened to be in Hungary when the 41st President George H. W. Bush was in office. I remember people stopping me in the streets asking if I was an American. Why? I would ask. They wanted to congratulate me for a president who was so astute in his diplomacy so caring and sensitive to people all over Europe. It was a humbling experience.

I was not an ugly American. My President was a prominent world leader who was widely respected. I was in a Gett taxi about a year ago. The driver asked me if I was American. Before I could answer he began to rail against the 45th president, Trump. “Moving the American embassy to Jerusalem was nice but an impractical move,” he said. “Trump is not trustworthy” he continued, “just look at what he did with the Kurds. He’s pulling US troops out of Syria and his backing out of the Iran deal had little or no impact. They are still building a bomb. He’s not an honorable man.” I remained silent. I was embarrassed.

The party of Trump, as there is no longer a functioning Republican Party in the United States, is a party of dishonesty. If there is anything that solidifies that label it is so much more than the obvious odiousness of Trump’s demeaning personal style, his surrounding himself with cheaters, liars and sycophants, firing those committed to lawfulness and not beholden to his self-aggrandizing whims.

It is the fact that there are no rules and no one in the party will call him to task for breaking the rules of decency and honor. He has groomed them into following in lockstep. They seem to enjoy his man-child bluster, impulsivity and tactlessness. His supporters and enablers continue to certify Trump, allowing him to sue and cheat his way at the top. Trump did it in business, he was never honest with contractors. He repeatedly declared bankruptcy to avoid responsibility and claimed that he was in fact the keyholder to the art of the deal all the while hiring others to be his foil and then blaming them for his own mistakes. He has done that and continues to do so in his waning days in the White House. He has no concern if the US is bankrupted and destroyed if he believes he is victorious.

Has there ever been a president who refused to concede the loss of an election, as a lame-duck fired his Secretary of Defense, had an Attorney General who is his own personal pit bull lawyer breaking all norms and standards of the Department of Justice?

Divisiveness is thick in the air. This ugly disunity became an overt and now festering problem with the birtherism charges from racists who could not accept the fact that America had elected a president with a different skin tone. Trump and his party played into it. Trump himself saw this as a way to promote his own sociopathic goals. Rile people up as he did on his reality television show. It worked there for a while so why not continue in government. And he groomed them to believe that he had the power to make things happen for them and to them.

It does not take much insight or research to see that those who still support Trump are in it for the money. Fox News, Breitbart and the even more extreme right-wing media outlets love that their ad revenues are higher than ever. It does not seem to impact the Murdoch’s that their fealty to Trump may yet irrevocably alter the world’s oldest democracy if their flagship media is making billions broadcasting conspiracy theories.

Senator Mitch McConnell too has a bit of answering for. The erecting of a Russian funded aluminum manufacturing plant in his state allegedly netted him several million. Mike Pompeo would like to run for president in the not too distant future. His coffers are also growing. The fact that Russian propaganda has been confirmed to be a threat to democracy in the US seems to have little impact on those who pledged fealty to the party of Trump. They follow the leader who appears to be in Putin’s back pocket.

The greater concern is that what we are seeing is the same pattern that abusers use to intimidate their victims, often turning them into enablers. The abuser is a noxious individual who will groom victims with promises of goodies. He allegedly cares for them. Once in their clutches, however, the abuser will turn on the victim, threaten them, terrorize them and thereby turn them into willing participants. Trump’s promises of a wealthier, safer life have not materialized for the vast majority. But his followers are so intimidated by his threats, of not being supported by him, of the fears that he has reinforced in them that they knowingly advocate on his behalf.

For victims to break from abusers, to overcome the fear of ever-increasing harm from their abuser and have that cathartic moment of insight and calm they must be prepared to stand up to the abuser. We are not at that point yet. To get there we must return to respectability. And we may never get to that point if the ugly threats continue.

About the Author
Dr Michael Salamon ,a fellow of the American Psychological Association, is a 2018 APA Presidential Citation Awardee for his 'transformative work in raising awareness of the prevention and treatment of childhood sexual abuse". He is the founder and director of ADC Psychological Services in New York and the author of numerous articles, several psychological tests and books including "The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures" (Urim Publications) and "Every Pot Has a Cover" (University Press of America). His newest book is called "Abuse in the Jewish Community: Religious and Communal Factors that Undermine the Apprehension of Offenders and the Treatment of Victims."
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