The Obama Legacy

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I have had a lifetime of sitting in a comfortable chair, walking safe streets, and observing the struggles of our neighbour to the south. Beneath their constant boasting I witnessed their progress, through Kennedy, desegregation, Johnson, Alabama, Martin Luther King, until finally they elected a black president. Which meant, I thought, that at least half of the population of the United States had worked through their demons of oppression and slavery, of segregation, of racism. Their future looked bright. And if the future of the USA looks bright so does that of the rest of the world.

But when I listen to Donald Trump, to Steve Bannon, to Harvey Weinstein for that matter, and many other white male Americans of age, I realize how much their terrible history is still in play. For beneath all of their bluster, their provocations, their aggression, there lies a deep pool of fear and guilt. Or guilt and then fear, which would be the correct order. Guilt to fear and then to aggression.

It is embodied by Donald Trump. It is being played out by Donald Trump on the world stage. His narcissism is astounding, as is his ability to lie, but he embodies another dynamic that must be addressed if the USA is not going to implode. And that is Donald’s fixation on Barack Obama.

With much of what Trump says he leaves unspoken a final sentence that is beginning to ring loudly in my ears. And that is the removal of the “stain” of Barack Obama; the castration and lynching of Obama, expunging him from history.

The dynamic is guilt (guilt from deeds and thoughts and a denied history) which leads to a fear of retaliation, which is quickly turned into aggression.

It is risky applying individual psychology to the behaviour of groups and nations but over the past 50 years I think I have been watching Cognitive Behavioural Therapy being applied to America’s history of slavery, violence, segregation and racism. Superficially much progress has been made. “We shall overcome.” But I think they need Desmond Tutu. Some truth and reconciliation. A full catharsis if we are not to see this cycle repeated again and again.

That is (and perhaps it will be possible in the backlash choice of president after Donald Trump), they need to really face their history, the truth of slavery, the remnants of the civil war, their guilt and fear. It could start with a loud and public discussion about all those civil war monuments and what to do with them.

After that they could look at the guilt they must feel for the destruction they unleashed on Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Perhaps if that is ever faced we will no longer read that 50% of Republicans are in favour of a pre-emptive strike on North Korea.

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5 thoughts on “The Obama Legacy

  1. The pieces that will need picking up after this awful Trump Presidency are mind boggling. This dangerous man has bedazzled people who one would have thought knew better.

    I would like to go dormant till this era is over. Bannon is disgusting . More republicans need to protest NOW.

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  2. Wise words, David. What you haven’t mentioned is that what passes for American history is largely a falsified record presenting very dark policies and actions as the triumphant progress of democracy. How will the US ever be able to come to terms with that? The British Empire framed its ruthless campaigns as “the white man’s burden”. Only now, and in a very subdued way, is the reality of British imperialism being acknowledged. So I’m pessimistic about the USA. The biggest lies that they tell are to themselves.

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  3. Yes but neither Trump nor his wife or ex-wife could qualify for membershio into the sons and daughters of the American Revolution organisations..
    He is only a second generation American. Make America great again sounds a lot like “Deutschland uber alles ” to me…!

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  4. Is narcissism a treatable condition? How is it handled by medical professionals? Unfortunately, as with many mental disorders, having it does not endear the patient to people. It makes people actively dislike the disordered person. I don’t much like mr Trump either, but feel that if in fact he has a disorder, that allows for a certain amount of mitigation when judging him. (Just to add another point of view. I have a loved one with a severe mental illness so I am sensitive to how he gets treated by others.)

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    1. But to say that Donald Trump has a mental illness, does not help others who have a mental illness. To say that he is mentally ill increases discrimination against people with mental illness. Trump’s behaviour is an outrage to decency. How did he get elected? Perhaps we should focus upon the system that got him elected and look at ways to give voice to those who are too often not heard like women, indigenous people, people who are not white, immigrants, and those with disabilities. Having witnessed the Civil Rights era and lived through the Vietnam era, it is unbelievable to see all those old white men in the White House! And that their views are given credence! It is the system that is mentally ill.

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