Why God Gave Us Donald Trump

Many thousands of points of light as viewed from NASA's Earth Orbiting Satellite
Many thousands of points of light as viewed from NASA's Earth Orbiting Satellite

As I contemplated this year’s Day of Atonement on the walk to shul with my beloved, and as I sat in the privacy of my masked and socially distanced outdoor seat, I realized a) that there was a reason to come to shul on Yom Kippur in spite of the lengthy shmei and drei; and b) the reason was entirely and most perfectly personified in none other than the current POTUS himself, Donald J. Trump. Yes, you heard me right. He’s all that and a bag of poker chips. Let me backup a few paces, to that lovely walk in the neighborhood as my beloved and I tried to suss out the whole point of Yom Kippur. We two have lofty goals. The thing is, the Jewish people has arguably the biggest and most highly ramified system of rules and regs of any spiritual discipline on the face of the planet. First you got your originalist 613 mitzvot, then the written version of the oral law(go figure that one out), then the early commentaries on both the aforementioned tomes, then the alternative commentaries, later versions and a couple thousand years of rabbinic opinion to boot. Nobody’s gettin’ outa this library alive, see? Anyway, with all those rules, including how to fix things when you mess up, and of course our modern notion of personal responsibility, why do we need the get out of jail free card of Yom Kippur? That sounds decidedly un-Jewish.

“But no!” I exclaim in retrospect. It’s precisely for times like these, times when the very structure of reality appears so completely hefker, i.e. gone to hell in a handbasket, that we need this once in a year’s time opportunity. We need the collective focused intention of our nation of priests to rev up the divine engines of redemption and get us the hell out of this fine mess that we’ve gotten ourselves into. And by us I mean we. Yes, that’s right, the finger points directly back at each and every one of us blessed innocents that who believe that they haven’t contributed a lick to the trouble we see before our eyes. Nu. That includes y’all who read ‘Ashamnu’ etc in the Viddui, the confessional, who profoundly disidentify with all the terrible acts admitted therein: betrayal, robbery, slander, perversion, extortion, false accusation, scorn, evil counsel, rebellion, wantonness, persecution, wickedness, corruption and generally abominable behavior. This is where Donald J. Trump saves the day. There never was a better living example of all the ills the flesh is heir to than that bloviating windbag of an excuse for a human being. There I said it. And I dare most anyone to deny it. Even POTUS’ most ardent admirers admit he likes to shoot off his mouth more than a tad. And the Fifth Estate, our much maligned independent press, while we still have it, have provided us with ample descriptions of Trump’s enactment of all the other forms of execrable behavior. In fact the man himself is a shameless party to his own moral indictment. He’s a HUGE target, hard to miss. 

The Yom Kippur liturgy really starts to rock and roll with the brilliantly detailed recitation “Al cheit”, “For the sin”. This year, as we sat outside under semi-permanent tents about to confess to the most excruciatingly detailed laundry list of human failings, you could actually hear loud sirens wailing past us on the nearby street, no doubt on their way to nab some dastardly evil-doer. I can only imagine the generosity of the president as he agrees to lead us in our confessions:

For the sin of the utterance of the lips…
For the sin that we have sinned before you through immorality in public AND in private…
For the sin…with deceit…through harsh words…
For the sin we have sinned before you in a session of vice…
For showing contempt to parents and teachers…
Through impure lips…through foolish speech…
Through denial and false promises…through bribery…
Through interest and extortion…through haughtiness…
With idle chatter…prying eyes…with brazenness…
Through a begrudging eye…through lightheadedness…obstinacy…
With legs that run to do evil…by gossip-mongering…
Through vain oath-taking…through baseless hatred…

And so much more. Just ask John McCain’s family, the Khan Goldstar military family, Barack Obama, all the contractors that Trump stiffed, the ethnic groups he’s defamed. For God’s sake just ask Stormy Daniels! And the Russians. And his buddy Jeffrey Epstein, may God rest his evil little soul. Trump’s stock in trade is corruption. And humiliation. And that’s where the rest of us come in.

But first of all thank you Mr. President, though I want to clean my mouth when I use that title to address you, for providing the American public and the world at large with the best possible illustration of how someone can fool so many of us and yet openly display the most poignant examples of the beastly  behavioral attributes we all strive to abjure. Or do we? Well for the last three decades I would submit that American culture, which has an undue influence on the rest of the unsuspecting world, has devolved in the very direction that would produce a Donald J. Trump presidency. The devil you say? Music,  television and commerce, the three horsemen of our cultural apocalypse. Music may be the most innocent, but I gotta say when my kids came home listening to tunes about “bitches an’ ho’s” I was aghast. The vaunted ‘gangsta’ ethos was rapidly adopted regardless of race, color or greed. Yes, greed. After all, it’s “bidness”. Murder, misogyny and moolah, to use the old lingo. OK, a lot of this was present in rock and roll and country music of old, outlaws being the ever-attractive social set, but Gangsta cranked it up to 11. And everybody was buying. And before you say it, yes I am a cranky old white guy, but this has nothing to do with race. I know as well as the next dude that the rules were set by the majority culture long before rap took the ball and ran with it. So let’s skip television for a minute and move straight to door number three, commerce.

I’ll cut to the chase: Citizen’s United, the Supremes decision in 2009 that corporations are people too. In addition to opening the door to the completely unfettered grip of corporate money on the American body politic, it was also the obvious devolution of a system that was initially designed to prevent undue corporate influence. Our founding fathers, white male slaveholders for the most part, did have the foresight, based on their experience with the British East India Company, to explicitly limit the scope and duration of corporate charters. A corporation could be indemnified as such if and only if it a)served the public interest; b)was limited to a specific commercial activity; and c)was of limited duration in time, until the job was done. None of these limitations currently obtain. We have reached the point where a corporate officer can with no pangs of conscience say, “Well, our only obligation is to our shareholders. The bottom line. Blah, blah, blah.” And most of the American public buys that bit of sophistry too, particularly since the guys selling the Kool Aid have drunk most of it themselves. Gangsta me that! And that brings us to America’s Billionaire, our very own Gangsta President, Donald J. Trump. The man owes his very existence, at least his financial viability, to reality TV. Before “The Apprentice” Trump’s fortunes had dwindled low enough that the New York bankers could have strangled him and drowned him in the bathtub, albeit with gold faucets. Reality TV, that cringe-inducing format in which contestants are invited to perform humiliating feats before the camera, or be subject to the withering humiliation of a blowhard like the TV character known as Donald Trump. Those were and are painful bits of orchestrated theater to watch. They, and professional football and NASCAR, serve as our current alternatives to Rome’s gladiatorial amusements. The elevation of Schadenfreude to a national past-time. Let the maiming begin! 

I cried at Yizkor, addressing my parents in a language they never really knew, from this world that would have horrified them both. So after all the praying is done, I look to the skies whence cometh my help. Actually this year, another bonus of our outdoor plague-proof services, just as we reached the first recitation of the eternally repeated phrase “Baruch kavod Adonai mim’komo,” “Blessed is the weightiness of the Lord in His Place,” I heard the loud rumbling of a jet soaring overhead, no doubt taking our collective messages to the place where all the heavyweights hang out. Just maybe, if we step back and own this debasement of our cultural norms and moral values, if we acknowledge that we collectively have created this Frankenstein, maybe we’ll have half a chance of turning this thing around. Maybe we’ll be able to demonstrate that we care enough to help all of our fellow humans, not just the ones that vote like us, to avert the plague that is running amok in our world. And I don’t just mean COVID, though that’s a good stand-in. It’s the plague of jingo-ism, fascism, nationalism and just plain mean-spiritedness that threatens to prevent human beings from saving them from themselves. It’s an infection, it’s an ideology, it’s the living planet upon which we dwell. So yes, fix what you can. But also see that we are a single consciousness capable of rising in partnership to all that is sacred through our conjoined efforts, see that we are each creating this nightmare from which we must awaken or perish. Then we can acknowledge together, “Adonai Hu HaElohim,” “The Unutterable Reality, It is God.”

 

PS: A couple of very kind and wise friends have pointed out that I forgot to mention the very potent and ubiquitous Fourth Horseman of the current apocalypse—social media. There is no doubt that the satanic algorithms that intentionally drive consumers to more extreme versions of themselves have been the very accelerant of the fire now burning its way through our social fabric.

About the Author
Michael Diamond is a writer based in the Washington, DC area. He practices psychiatry there and is a doctor of medical qigong. He has published verse, fiction and translation in Andrei Codrescu’s journal, The Exquisite Corpse; in the journal Shirim courtesy of Dryad Press; in the online journal for Akashic Press; in New Mexico Review and in The Journal of the American Medical Association. He lives in the suburbs with his wife, an artist and illuminator of Hebrew manuscripts, their dog, two cats, a cockatiel named Peaches and a tank of hyperactive fish. He has had a strong interest in Torah since first exposed to traditional stories as a child. Over the course of his life he has run the gamut of spiritual exploration of many world traditions of meditation and mythology. For the last several decades he has landed squarely in the traditional Jewish world. His writing is informed by all of this experience, by his curiosity about today's world and by his desire to mine the Jewish experience for its hidden and revealed wisdom. Torah Obscura, a glimpse of an otherwise invisible world afforded by a small aperture for light. All materials herein copyright © 2018 Michael S. Diamond. All rights reserved.
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