Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Dumb as a Rock

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Having lost the centrality and privilege of childhood and now struggling with their own insecurities there is a moment some teens decide, and announce to me, that ALL their peers are stupid, dumb as rocks, and lying. Usually for teens trapped in this moment of narcissistic injury they make one exception. For boys it may be an online friend supporting his complaints in a gaming forum, for girls it is a best friend who goes to a different school.

Usually they grow past this period of developmental disappointment: A combination of time, some success at something, some judicious counselling, the love of a parent, finding a boyfriend or girlfriend, and sometimes taking the right medication for excess anxiety.

The analogy with Donald J. Trump is imperfect. For the teenagers their “dumb as rocks” peers comprise a classroom of 30 or a school of 1000. It is the limit of their experience at this age. New acceptable friends are hard to find.

But Donald, for every friend, associate and peer he decides is “dumb as a rock” there are two new friends waiting in the wings for a role in the play, and a chance to be best of buddies.

But the language he uses is the same:the playground accusations, the remarkable hyperbole, the name calling, the self reference, the projections, and the underlying insecurities.

I suspect the only reason Donald’s tweets sometimes sound more sophisticated than a 15 year old complaining to me is that he is quoting some words and numbers from Fox & Friends, as in “the 245 times James Comey told the investigators he didn’t know.”.

As this drama unfolds over the next few months I hope the adults in the room remember we are dealing with a very narcissistic 14 year old with the moral compass of a peanut.

Perhaps we can resurrect Donald’s parents and have Mueller and Congress hand the whole thing off to family court.

 

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A Cornered Narcissist is not a Pretty Sight

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Here is what to expect:

Increasing displays of petulance, irrational accusations, self-pity, rage, and depression, while he continues to seek out adoring crowds and fawning world leaders wherever he can find them.

This depression will take the form of blunt affect, self-imposed isolation, and paranoia.

I was struck by Trump’s demeanour right after the midterms. The news channels referred to it as upbeat, positive. His words (the actual words) started out upbeat, declaring the midterms a Republican “victory”, calling it “great”, before taking pot shots at all his favourite enemies and hinting at a democratic/deep state conspiracy against him, but his affect throughout this was flat, his pronunciation dull, his face blunted. even when using the words “great” and “victory” – at least until his petulant rage at Jim Acosta.

With the democrats now having the majority in the House, the republicans weakened in many State legislatures, the firing of Jeff Sessions, we are now into the endgame.

I don’t profess to feel any certainty how this will unfold. The possibilities include everything from impeachment to endless investigations to a thin gruel of feigned bipartisanship to more unrest, polarization, and violence.

But Donald Trump’s responses are predictable, and highly visible in his five tweets today attacking the press and the Mueller Investigation with even more recklessness and less attention to reality than we have seen before.

There was a time when a mad king could be isolated and the kingdom protected from his madness. Unfortunately we now have twitter and more than a few sycophants surrounding this president. And many more commentators still trying to shine a kind light on his outrageous words and notions.

Perhaps the world’s frightening march back to 1913 with the rise of nationalism, the erection of fences, the dissolution of agreements, and the rebirth of oligarchs will proceed without Trump. Or, or, or America might return to an improved version of itself as the beacon of successful liberal democracy, perhaps even with universal health care, gun control, less racism and a major role to play addressing climate change. I hope they try. Whatever poison flows below the 49th parallel tends to seep into Canada.

So, my American friends, it is now time for damage control and careful planning. If only you could promise him a statue bigger than Lincoln’s and the rating of “best president ever” in the history books in return for his retirement to Mar-a-Lago, quietly and permanently.

Trump Trashes the Veneer of Civilization.

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Just as we humans always overestimate our memories and find ourselves regretting we didn’t commit to paper or snapshot yesterday or last week, we also overestimate the extent to which our actions are guided by thoughtful consideration and choice.

We are easily influenced, especially if the influence is playing to our rat brain, to centuries of old survival coding.

The crowd of ordinary people chant in unison, “Lock her up. Lock her up.” It is, of course, entirely irrational, a bit nasty, and quite contrary to all due processes of judgment and punishment that have developed within western civilization over the past 100 years. I scan the part of the crowd shown on my monitor and I can’t find one person who has chosen not to chant.

But then we already know this about humans within crowds and mobs and humans under the influence of a charismatic authority, even when that authority is self-proclaimed. It is a small percent that can resist at that moment, that can buck the trend, be contrary, who can ask themselves, “Is this right?”

We know this from history. We know this from the Nuremberg Trials, from human behaviour in times of armed conflict and occupation. And we know this from some simple experiments in social psychology.

And we also know that among us are a few who respond eagerly to license and sanction, the go ahead to unleash the beast within, to act on a simmering hatred. Again we know this from history and contemporary observation.

Though the assumption of free will and personal responsibility is a cornerstone of human society, it does not negate the reality of what is written above.

We know these things about human behaviour. All our leaders should know these things.

So, yes, when Donald Trump’s crowds chant “Lock her up.” and “CNN sucks.” and when he tells his people they should fear the caravan of “invaders”, and when he fails to condemn the Alt-right extremists or other tyrants, he is culpable.

The Culpability of a President

By Dr David Laing Dawson

There are always men around, men from age 18 to 70, who are capable of committing hate crimes. These are boys and men who always blame others for their failures, infirmities, losses, inadequacies, and perceived slights. They harbour resentments. Their thinking is delusional or just this side of delusional. They may fantasize revenge, the settling of scores, the righting of wrongs. This particular disorder of personality will usually preclude successful intimate relationships, long term employment and even good friends – the very antidotes to distorted and paranoid thinking.

Isolated it festers, grows and deepens. “They are to blame.”

But usually such men don’t act on their convictions, their fantasies. At least they don’t act on them without some kind of encouragement, support, and sanction.

Unfortunately such encouragement is now readily available on internet sites. This was probably the source of encouragement that set the man off to driving his van into pedestrians (women) on Yonge street.

But for the man who sent pipe bombs in the mail last week, his move from anger, conspiracy theory and threats to action, the encouragement undoubtedly came from the President of the United States. In fact the word “sanction” fits in this case because the encouragement came from authority.

The call has been to “tone down the rhetoric”. That is too weak. Men and women in power need to know their words can foster peace and cooperation or they can incite violence. There are always some men who are waiting for just such encouragement, just such permission.

Donald Trump is not personally and specifically responsible for those pipe bombs, but he is culpable.

He needn’t “tone down the rhetoric”, he needs to “stop inciting violence”.

As I was writing this another delusional man committed multiple murders in a synagogue. His encouragement to act on his antisemitic delusion seems to have come from a social media site called Gab and alt-right conspiracy theorists, but the caravan of “invaders” moving through Mexico may have been the final trigger, and we all know how much Trump has hyped that fear, and, for that matter, threatened to send in a platoon of men with guns. “Screw the optics,” wrote this killer, “I’m going in.”

Trump’s remedy for this was more guns, armed security within houses of worship, before he was distracted by a baseball game and tweeting out a criticism of the manager for pulling the successful pitcher in the last innings of the game.

Nero came to mind.

 

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.

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.