Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Conrad Black and Donald Trump

By David Laing Dawson

I made the mistake of reading an article by Conrad Black. I usually avoid reading Lord Black of Crossharbour (“on leave”) for I find his over-use of penultimate, supercilious, pretentious, swank, grandiloquent, Miltonian, show-offy adjectives very annoying.

But I did read his paean to Donald Trump, and then went for a bicycle ride to clear my head. But what should one expect from a man who gave up his Canadian citizenship for a Peerage in the UK, and once flew across the Atlantic to attend a costume party dressed as Cardinal Richelieu?

He refers to all immigrants entering the US through the border with Mexico as illiterate peasants and he thinks Donald Trump is the leader America needs. He does find Trump “grating” and that he takes “liberties with the truth”, but he thinks that Trump can make America Great Again, and by that I think he is referring to a degree of respect we all must show for the man holding the true weapons of mass destruction in his hand. And by “respect” I think he means fear. Donald does seem to be on track for making America a country we soon will all fear.

Of course, Conrad Black, as a man barred from entering the United States, may simply be, like so many others, currying favour with the one man who could and might pardon him.

And then I read another by Lord Black along the same lines but more of a dissection of the geopolitical game afoot. And I was reminded of an experience from 1964. Bear with me for a moment.

Our first year medical school class went on a weekend retreat with faculty. This entailed a 90 minute bus ride to a resort north of Vancouver. By chance I sat next to our Professor of Physiology. The Vietnam war raged and was about to expand. My companion on that trip had fled McCarthy era USA rather than testify against his colleagues, who might or might not have attended a communist party meeting. So we talked Vietnam.

I was 24 at the time, but worldly and cynical. I argued geopolitics along the lines that it was better for the two major superpowers, the two competing ideologies, to be squaring off in the jungles of Vietnam rather than in the skies over Moscow and New York. He disagreed. It was simpler than that for my professor, who must have been in his 40’s or 50’s at the time. For him it was simply immoral. It was immoral for Americans to take their guns, their napalm, their warships and their helicopters to Vietnam and kill people. It was simply wrong.

By the end of that trip I had concluded that if he could remain idealistic in his 50’s, surely cynicism in my 20’s was, at least, premature. It wasn’t long after that I found myself in a placard carrying crowd in front of the American Consulate chanting: “Hey, Hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”

But why I was reminded of this was because Conrad Black was writing with his usual elegance and erudition about the geopolitics of recent years, the new balance of power, the symbolic chess game played by nation states, and prognosticating about the geopolitics of the future. And it is this examination of geopolitics that I can hear from other politicians, commentators, advisors, other writers. And it reminds me of my self, age 24, arguing, albeit more naively, about these world events and shifts and movements and power struggles as if they are being played on large chessboards by giants, with the pawns and rooks representing a few million to a billion people. And talking about it and playing the game as if they experience, think about, Joseph Stalin’s famous observation as advice, rather than the cynical observation of a sociopath. “One man’s death is a tragedy; the death of millions is a statistic”.

My medical school professor could see beyond the geopolitics and the million death statistic to the terrified little girl fleeing the sticky horror of napalm.

The Bannons, Boltons, Millers, Trumps and Conrad Blacks of this world do not, cannot.

I do not want them to have any influence over myself or the lives of my children and grandchildren. We need to stop listening to them and focus instead on the little girl fleeing the napalm and the kid from Honduras locked in an American cage.

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Trump, Dr Ford, and A Warning to Americans

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I wrote a blog before the 2016 election of Donald Trump titled “the mental and emotional age of Donald Trump”. I looked at a range of his behaviours and his speech patterns and considered the age at which such a behaviour would be typical for a boy or man, though not exemplary, not necessarily good, maybe even requiring some parental admonition, just typical. I arrived at an average of 14. Though some Trump statements required a pre-teen brain and some rose at least to 18 year-old jock talk.

A comment someone left on that blog was that I was being generous; it would have to be a particularly entitled and narcissistic 14 year-old.

More recently I listened to Trump mock the testimony of Dr. Ford and then go on about the threat the #MeToo movement poses for fine young men. He took on the voice of a boy talking to his mother about all the hard work he’s done, about being offered a great job, but all this is over because some woman he’s never even met is accusing him of things he’s never done. How terrible this is for men and boys.

I might run across a small group of 14 year old boys with one of them going on in this vein, and two might be laughing, though more at the outrageous display of disregard for propriety than the content itself; another two would be cringing, but unable to break the code of teenage boys to never be a “pussy”.

So the comment was fair. Only a nasty, narcissistic, and probably guilty 14 year-old could talk the way Trump so often talks.

Donald may be but a symptom of some other struggle in your country, my American friends, and I know you have some wide divides that need major bridgework, but he is doing damage to your country, more and more damage each day he has a voice.

They were laughing at him at the U.N. Much of the world is appalled by him and all he represents. He throws oil on your fires; he cozies up to nasty dictators; he is stripping the USA of any moral high ground it ever might have had; he is creating fizzures in your country it may take decades to repair. He has reduced political discourse to a schoolyard brawl and international relations to flea market bartering.

He represents you, my friends, and how we see him we will begin to view you. We don’t care how you see us, you may say, we are better than that. But there is a bit of psychology here you might not like. For gradually, whatever traits we assign to you, you will absorb, you will become.

This midterm you can show the world you are not all Trumpets; you can clip his wings and put him in a tail spin. Please do so.

Doug Ford, Donald Trump

By Dr David Laing Dawson and an addendum by Marvin Ross

I just heard Doug Ford proclaim that he was elected by 2.3 million people whereas the judge was appointed by one person.

This is perilously close to a Trumpism.

Our systems of governance are complicated and cumbersome. Our judiciary is independent and equally complicated and layered. They have evolved this way not so that one man or woman can easily get things done but to prevent one man or woman or a group of men and women from doing stupid harmful things. From the moment I became aware of governance and politics, as far as I can remember, Canadian and American politicians, presidents, premiers, prime ministers understood this – up until the last 2 years.

Donald J. Trump demonstrates every day that he does not understand this. He has had 72 plus two hundred years to learn. He didn’t. And it seems a portion of the American population have forgotten as well. And another portion of the American population has become inured.

And now this is creeping into Ontario. We seem to have a Premier with Donald Trump instincts, the instincts of a bully, of an anti-democratic strongman. And like Donald Trump, he is willing to trample on democratic principles to push through his own agenda, both, tellingly, the small, personal and petty as well as serious policy.

The number of Councilors representing parts of the biggest city in Canada is not an important issue. It can be adjusted with discussion, consultation, voting, over time as demographics and population densities change.

It is an historical pet grievance of one Doug Ford. To use the “not withstanding clause” of the charter to override a judicial decision about such an arbitrary unimportant issue is stupid, reckless, thoughtless. And this is not about good governance of Toronto or Ontario. It is about the fragile ego of one Douglas Ford.

Please let us not follow the Americans down that regressive path.

Addendum

David is of course quite correct in his comparison but there is one fundamental difference that I’ve been meaning to write about. That is the difference between the US Federal system where the president is an entity pretty much unto his own and the British Parliamentary system that we enjoy. In the parliamentary system, the prime minister or premier of a province is one of many elected to the legislature and then elected by his peers as the leader of the party.

The prime minister sits in the legislature and is subjected to a regular question period where any member can and does ask some very difficult questions. If Trump was compelled to sit in congress, take questions and answer them, things might be somewhat more transparent (or not).

In attempting to pass his unpopular legislation slashing Toronto City Council mid-election on Wednesday, Doug Ford was subjected to a barrage of questions from the opposition and a public gallery that became unruly. Security had to clear the gallery and some were removed in handcuffs including a 77 year old grandmother. Then, when the legislature resumed, the opposition loudly opposed and were removed by the Sgt at Arms.

OK, it looked like a kindergarten gone mad but the points were made. The sensible members on the government side must be giving their support for their leader Doug and his ideas a good second thought with visions of the next election outcome.  Doug must be wondering how he is going to get through his mandate if he continues to introduce stupid bills. Senior and respected members of his party oppose his actions like Bill Davis the former premier who was involved in negotiating the Charter and  Brian Mulroney the former prime minister (whose daughter is the current Ontario attorney general). His governing will be even more of a mockery if he keeps this up. At least I hope.

South of the border, Trump is isolated from direct confrontation surrounded by his yes people while denouncing the media opposition as fake while Doug must take the full brunt of an angry legislature.

Article 25 of the US Constitution

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Many pundits have referred to Trump as a Reality TV President, partly referring to the origins of his infamy, and partly to the way he operates as a politician and leader. But the description is increasingly apt. The whole scene – the White House, daily tweets, the books, the anonymous op ed, the daily coverage and panel discussions, the leaks – it has all taken on the tone of Reality TV. And as it takes on this tone – the vying for limelight, the petty competitions, grievances aired, boasting, lying, the focus entirely subjective, the absence of actual reality, the absence of awareness of a world beyond the bubble – we fall into watching it the same way. Each day we tune in to watch these conflicts unfold, and just as in Reality TV, we are far more concerned with the relationships of all involved than with the prize (in Realty TV) and the enacted policies (in governance). Our hunger for prurient detail, for the personality machinations, conflicts, buffoonery, stupidity and chicanery in and surrounding Trump overwhelm our concern for health care, international relations, and global conflict.

In Reality TV the conceits of drama are imposed in the editing room. Here they are imposed by the Media, the watchers, the Late Night Hosts, and Trump himself.

I am thinking of this as I wonder how the Trump presidency will end. Last night he told his supporters that if he is impeached he will hold them responsible for not voting in the midterms.

If the Democrats do regain control of Senate and Congress and start impeachment proceedings, what will happen? How will Trump behave?

We know he will not go quiet (or gentle) into that good night. We know, at least as far as I can see, that his profound narcissism never ever permits a breach in his defenses, an admission of failure or of being bested in some way. We know this is extreme. We know that he will take praise and support from anyone, including Kim Jong Un. We know he is capable of seeing what he wants to see, to a delusional degree. And we know, unfortunately, that he is not constrained by a conscience, by empathy for others. And we know that people who lie to others as easily as he does, also lie to themselves.

We also know he will rage and blame others and that he is capable of outrageous lies to support his position.

If this were Shakespeare we could leave him in the turret of his castle railing at the moon.

But will he sabotage the castle when he is cornered? Will he burn Paris as he retreats?

Unfortunately I think the answer to that question is YES.

So if the Democrats gain power and start impeachment proceedings I think they need to be prepared to invoke Article (Amendment) 25 before Donald J. Trump lights the match.

Madness Can Be Contagious

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Some years ago, working within psychiatric clinics and mental hospitals, I used to advise staff, students, counselors, therapists, psychiatrists, that the most important thing they should strive for at all times, was “to remain sane.” At all times, remain sane. Your job, as a mental health professional, is first and foremost, to remain sane.

Sane meant, of course, keeping calm, ethical, sensible, compassionate, and not reacting or over-reacting to the insanity that surrounded them. That insanity coming from both the patients and the human systems we all worked within.
Sane also meant not assuming responsibility for that which was not yours to assume, and not trying to change the unchangeable. It was also wise to bring perspectives of time and relative importance to all events.

Of course none of us were always able to achieve this.

But I am thinking of this as Maxime Bernier angrily leaves the Conservative party to start one of his own, presumably along even more conservative lines, and Doug Ford sets up a hotline for parents to rat on teachers if they step past 1950 in their sex ed teachings. And from James Cagney mouthing the words, “You dirty rat.” to the 15 year old boys I see who don’t “rat” on their friends, to Donald Trump calling John Dean a “rat” and then offering that maybe “flipping” should almost be illegal.

It is hard to remain sane.

It is hard to remain sane living next door to the USA as they fall into a deeply conflicted madness. But that is our Canadian task. Remain sane.

Americans are currently struggling over dichotomous extremes, polarizing issues that should have been settled long ago, now requiring mere tweaking with each new generation.

In Canada, all our systems can be improved, carefully, gradually. None of them need be abandoned, or drastically and dramatically changed. Our problems are not either/or. We do not need to choose capitalism or socialism, abortion or no abortion, accepting refugees or not accepting refugees, being multicultural or not multicultural, of having social programs, guaranteed income, health care for all, or not having these things.

We just need to tweak them and improve them from time to time, occasionally shifting the balance of private enterprise and government, reacting sanely and generously to crises, tweaking our laws and services to deal with the new realities, all the while pursuing the goal of a healthy, equitable, and happy society.

I am not downplaying the problems we face around housing, adequate income for all, employment and health care, not to mention saving the planet, but we must not fall into the contagion of vitriol south of our border.


On Youtube: A new play by Dawson premiered at the Artword Artbar, Hamilton.

 

The Tiff with Saudi Arabia

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Usually in our relations with nation states that have poor human rights records, Canada officially protests in polite fashion, the offending state responds in some grumbling way, and life goes on. Strategic, political alliances, and economic forces trump the rights of minority religions, journalists, little girls and women. Fair enough. Canada is not in a position to do much more than raise the issue anyway, and continuing to be engaged may be the most productive thing we can do in most cases.

Those fifteen thousand Saudi students in Canada just might take some civilized values back to the Middle East. Or not.

But we now have an opportunity to go beyond that. The over-the-top school-yard reaction by the Saudis, complete with a jpeg showing an airliner heading for the CN Tower, cancelling the scholarships of those 15,000 students, cancelling all future business deals, and sending our ambassador home, actually allows us now to be a little more direct and specific, without worrying about geopolitics and economics.

Saudi Arabia is a slave state. The girls and women of Saudi Arabia have only marginally more rights and dignity than a “house nigga” in 1840’s Georgia. In fact, researching this it seems the only real difference may be the amount of leisure time and purchasing power afforded the Saudi women by the  oil wealth of many households.

So, Chrystia and Justin. Opportunity knocks. Make it clear what you think of the enslavement of women, the absence of free speech, the control of the press, and their medieval system of justice.

As far as I can see, we need no longer be constrained by the strategic alliance between the USA and Saudi Arabia. In fact, it is Donald Trump who has emboldened the dictators and potentates of this world. He will no doubt say something like, “There are good people on both sides”, or even favor the Saudis over Canada in this dispute.

While we watch the craziness south of our border unfold, we must remain independent and give clear voice to our liberal democratic principals.

 

Trump-Speak explained

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Listening to Donald Trump at any time is not conducive to equanimity but I clicked on the link to his “take on Brexit”. He was asked about Brexit by a reporter as he stood behind a podium. At first, in a congenial way, he responded that he had been reading a lot about Brexit in anticipation of his upcoming visit to the UK. And then he elaborated in his usual style.

But I am writing about this because it was a clear demonstration of how Donald Trump’s mind works, and of the concept of “associations”.

When we listen to someone else, or to our own thoughts as we form sentences and speak words, each noun, verb, adverb and adjective can cause us to experience associations from other memories and experiences.

In a serious discussion about roses the word “pink” might be used, causing us to think of a “pink Cadillac” or the singer “Pink”, but being in the context of a serious discussion about horticulture we will not let our brains and mouths take us off the topic at hand.

Now people with Asperger’s or “on the ASD spectrum”, not being as keenly aware of the intent of the speaker as others usually are, will often go off on an extraneous tangent, caused by a word association. Often it is a metaphor or simile mistaken for a factual statement of equal or more importance than the original topic.

Someone in a state of disorganized psychosis may appear to go off on an irrelevant tangent linked to a single word, and in that tangent the unusual linkages can occur over and over and may cause a “word salad.”. “Word salad” being an extreme form of “loosened associations.” Of course some of the associations may be to unspoken thoughts and feelings, including delusions and hallucinations.

With the toxicity of drugs, alcohol, infections, chemicals, the fractured sentence structure can be further impaired by problems of working, immediate, and recent memory and the distractions of distorted perceptions.

In dementia, with impairment of recent memory, the brain may associate words spoken, not with the forgotten recent topic, but with other older memories.

And, of course, with some people, the assault on linear,  logical and cohesive sentence structure can come from word associations to an overwhelming theme, or trait, or need, or obsession. And here we have Donald Trump. Always, always to his own accomplishments, his self-aggrandizement, his prickly defensiveness, his greatness, his popularity, his wealth.

It is difficult to discern from his answer how much he actually knows about Brexit (probably very little). But the word “Ireland” took him to the properties he owns in Ireland, to how much they love him there, and on to the “magical” property he owns in Scotland, the birthplace of his mother, and the fact he owns properties “all over”, but the people voted to leave the EU, and there will be protests, there will always be protests, and the word protests took him to his own experience of protests during his election (actually switching to the American election without naming it) and how many electoral votes he got, and the words won and election, took him to Wisconsin which he won and Ronald Reagan didn’t win even when Reagan “swept the board”.

There was nothing new here, but a clear demonstration of how much Donald Trump’s narcissism intrudes and distracts from any cohesive linear thought about something other than himself.

In a similar vein, if one listens carefully to Trump’s semantics, his choice of references, his associative processes, when he talks about the upcoming meeting with Putin, his narcissism prevents him from seeing himself as anything but himself, not as a representative of a country. His mind loops within the small circle of how he personally will be perceived and received by Putin (compared to all the lesser presidents who came before him of course).

In a sane world this man would now be making decisions about nothing more than the hair and tanning products he applies each morning. And perhaps what club to use on the dogleg seventh.

 

Advice to the Donald on How to Keep Track of Seized Kids

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Dear Donald,

It has come to my attention that you are having trouble reuniting the 2000 to 3000 apprehended children with their parents. It seems you may have to resort to DNA testing to determine who belongs with whom. (By the way, if you are worried that some might have been brought to the USA by sex traffickers you could simply ask them.)

Meanwhile, should you institute another roundup of children in the future might I recommend that you use a highly successful method of keeping track of them once used in an earlier roundup:

Simply tattoo a unique number on the arm of each child. Enter this number in a ledger along with the name and age of the child and the name of his or her parent. The forearm is a logical body part for such tattoos because it could accommodate a long number without resorting to an alphanumeric system. I will include a photo as a visual aid.

Please do not hesitate to call for further advice.

Sincerely,

numbers

When is it Too Late? Or is it?

By Dr David Laing Dawson

When the steps are incremental and desensitizing, inuring, it is difficult to know when we have moved beyond the point of no return. Many of us thought the separation of children from their parents and the incarceration of over two thousand children in cages all over the country might be a step too far and too fast. But even this is being obscured and overwhelmed with rhetoric and confusion, with Orwellian language.

And speaking of Orwellian language I notice that Trump is not bothering to use a full phrase in his accusations, such as accusing any number of democrats of being “soft on crime” or wanting “weak immigration policies”. He has taken the next step in simplifying and labeling: The Democrats are “for crime”, they are “for gangs”, and they want “no borders.”

“Power corrupts” is not an empty phrase. It is an observation of all human behaviour. From studies of our history to the guard/prisoner experiments of the 1960’s. The gentlest person can find his or her inner tyrant when placed in the social context of supervising the weak and helpless. A few will wrestle with these unwanted impulses. Many will give into them.

I mention this because I detect a subtle shift in tone coming from the President of the United States. He is still prickly and defensive. He still manages to bring every issue back to himself and his greatness. He still denigrates Obama and all previous leaders to enhance his own reputation. (and to fuel the racism of his base)

But now his rallies and tweets have adopted a demagogic tone more directly and specifically. More and more his words place him above the law. More and more his words place him as the only important decision maker. More and more he ignores ethics and due process. More and more he aligns with tyrants and disparages the leaders of the democracies of this world with the worst derogatory word a mob boss can muster: “weak”.

His over-the-top rhetoric about the “Witch Hunt” is working. He is swaying public opinion. Most Republican politicians are falling in line. He may know little of history, compassion, governance, but he sure knows Goebbels (“If you tell a lie often enough…”) and the principles of modern marketing.

He once added qualifiers to his outrageous lies and hyperbole. “They are rapists and murderers – though some I suppose are good people.” He doesn’t bother now. Immigrants are “invaders” and “infections”.  One step away from vermin and cockroaches.

Increasingly he directly threatens individuals and corporations in his tweets.

If we are not at the tipping point, my American friends, we are close.

On Shoes and the United States Space Force

By Dr David Laing Dawson

He is so 14, our Donald. That is the 14 year old brain at work. He hears something, a story, and immediately propagates this as a truth that explains the world, or a part of it. Without judgement, context, history, accuracy, consideration.

Canadians have been smuggling shoes across the border. Clearly evidence of Canada’s unfair punishing tariffs.

This is the level of reasoning I see clinically between age 12 and 14. After 14, usually, some questions, context, history, some sense of scale creep in.

Next we have the “Space Force” (cue the theme music; design the Star Trek costumes). “Warp speed ahead, Mr. Spock”. The last time this made sense to anyone would be age 14. It is in late childhood and early teen years that we can emerge from a Sci Fi film and imagine what we have seen being a mere 10 years away.

I don’t mean the computers, the communication devices, some of the clever prognostications sci-fi writers slip into their stories – I mean the whole thing – zipping around the universe in million ton craft and little dune buggies at warp speed in sexy uniforms. That’s where the Donald’s head is. And he would be, of course, Supreme Commander of, cue the music, The United States of America Space Force.

And all the lying and exaggerations. That is age 14. I very seldom, in clinical practice, see a teen alone. I always include the parent(s).  I explain that, (exaggerating but a whit) without the parents in the room, it can take me a full hour to determine if the child in question is actually attending school. At 14 and 15 from the teen talk of “basically” and “pretty much” and “yeah, sure” to out-right avoidance and lying, I might, by the end of an hour, have his attendance nailed down to: 2 or 3 days per week does actually get to school by 8:30, vapes at the smoking pit, goes in the school but avoids classes, then leaves at noon.

We need responsible adults in the room. Both in my office and in the Oval office.