Tag Archives: Barrack Obama

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.


Donald J Trump and the Speech Patterns of 14 Year Olds

By Dr David Laing Dawson

When I was 16 I bought an LP of my favourite band with money earned at a Saturday job in a Sporting Goods store. I’m sure this purchase did not have a great impact on the music industry.

Today though, the taste and preferences of the 12 to 16 year old demographic does have impact on this industry, much to my chagrin.

George W. Bush tried to speak like an adult. He tried to use big words at times, and reasonable sentence structure. He tried even though he often made a mess of it, combining two words and inventing a third, missing the negative qualifiers and thus saying the opposite of what he meant, turning verbs into nouns, nouns into verbs.

Obama speaks as an adult, his considered words and good syntax presumably reflecting the manner in which he thinks.

The latter clause is an assumption but one we make of everyone with the exception of a liar: how we speak extemporaneously, off-the-cuff, is a pretty good indication of how we think. Not necessarily the content but at least the form, the logic or lack thereof, the coherence or lack there of, the consideration or lack thereof.

I am of course getting around to Donald J Trump. And there is a connection with my music industry comments at the beginning of this essay.

When he is speaking off-the-cuff (not reading from the tele-prompter) Mr. Trump speaks with the syntax, the semantics, the grammar, the choice of words, of a 14 year old. Actually when he is being positive he sounds like a 14 year old girl (randomly repeated superlatives, in random grammatical form), when negative, like a 14 year old boy (sputtered inconsiderate name calling and accusations).

The fact he speaks like this and therefore probably thinks like this is not the most puzzling fact. What is very puzzling to me is that a large American demographic now finds this acceptable, is not troubled by it, takes it in stride, even echoes it.

How did this happen? I’m sure they expected more from their presidential candidates through the last 100 years. Now, they can’t all be Winston Churchill or Pierre Elliot Trudeau, able to quote scholars and parse clever phrases on the run, but at least all presidential candidates spoke an adult form of English.

This leads to the depressing thought that the 12 to 16 year old demographic is influencing our speech, and how we hear ourselves, as well as our popular music. Suddenly they are, with our new technologies, dominating, by sheer volume, our written and spoken discourse. Their careless use of language (reflecting a careless way of thinking) may be influencing the older demographic to the extent that they find nothing unsettling in the thinking and speech of Donald J Trump.

They should. I know many 14 year olds. I do not want any one of them making decisions about anything beyond which instrument to play in the school band. No matter how many adult advisors Mr. Trump gathers around him, there will come a time he is on his own. In the job of president an inconsiderate, impulsive remark, or action, can have grave consequences for us all.

I bought that LP on my lunch hour and took it back to the Sporting Goods Store. The owner asked about it. I then told him, with the enthusiasm of a teenager, that this LP featured the best band that ever recorded music. I don’t remember exactly what I said. I may have used some Trump superlatives: “Big, Amazing, Wonderful”. But I do remember what my adult boss said. He said, “In your… very… limited… experience.”

Editor’s Note: Dr Dawson is a child and adolescent psychiatrist so has a great deal of experience with 14 year olds. He is also the author of The Adolescent Owner’s Manual.