Egocentric Facts and “Morality”

Donald Trump’s initial reaction to the questions raised by federal appellate judges about his Executive Order establishing a travel ban clearly establishes his viewpoint – again. Anything he believes is right is indeed right, and it doesn’t matter what judges, history, or the Constitution say, because he is right. Even after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the stay on the travel ban, Trump insisted that the Court was wrong and that the Supreme Court will see it his way.

Since the Ninth Circuit merely ruled on the issue of not allowing the ban to take effect until it is fully reviewed by the judicial system, it’s certainly possible that some version of the ban will be approved. In time, in fact, that’s very likely to occur, but it most likely won’t be the ban that Trump initially proposed.

The ban issue also is merely one facet of an unfortunately larger issue. The man who outsourced the production of all of the consumer products bearing his name (but who champions verbally U.S. production while avoiding it) is “right.” The man who stiffed scores of contractors is “right.” The man who insisted for years that President Obama was not a U.S. citizen is “right.” The man who promised a clean sweep of corruption and business as usual in Washington and who started his administration by appointing the wealthiest and most “business as usual” types as his cabinet picks is “right.”

This is a man who refuses to accept proven and verifiable facts that contradict him and who attacks personally the people who cite such facts to oppose him.

I’m not sure which appalls me more, the fact that Trump is so arrogantly sure about what is clearly not so, while being blatantly hypocritical, or the fact that some 48% of U.S. citizens apparently believe him, and more than 55% approve of the travel ban.

We truly live in a polarized country, so polarized that what is accepted as fact depends more on ideological beliefs than concrete and provable evidence. Polls show fairly clearly that more and more people are rejecting provable facts that don’t agree with what they wish to believe, and Trump is not only playing to this weakness but doing so in a way that attempts to destroy the credibility of anyone and any institution that disagrees with him… and his supporters and 90% of Republicans are lapping it up, according to a recent poll by Emerson College.

This sort of attack on the media isn’t new. A then-little-known German politician started the same way in the late 1920s, with blistering attacks on those who opposed him, with deceptive statements and outright falsifications, and by the early 1930s had complete control of Germany.

In 1935, the novelist Sinclair Lewis wrote a novel entitled It Can’t Happen Here about a U.S. politician taking power in the same way. But it can happen here, particularly if Trump and his supporters are allowed to flout the laws and tell blatant falsehoods without being challenged. All it takes is 51% of the voters to vote for such behavior on a continuing basis.

Political disagreements are endemic and necessary in our system of government, but vicious personal attacks by the President and his staff, blatant lies and falsehoods, and, in particular, personal attacks on other branches of government that disagree with the President are neither necessary nor desirable. Nor are attacks on a free press anything but a disservice to us all.

6 thoughts on “Egocentric Facts and “Morality””

  1. Jeff says:

    I don’t know if you have read Frankfurt’s essay, “On Bullshit” but I waited all through the primaries and the general election for someone to cite it in the way that Trump handles “truth” and someone finally has:

    Another book I recently read that I wish some of the “religious right” would read is David I. Kertzer’s “The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe.” It’s actually a page turner, but should be a warning to all in the church as to what you might get if you make a deal with the government to do your work.

    1. I’d agree at least largely with Frankfurt’s essay, but not totally. Trump does want to believe what he says is the “truth”; that’s why he gets so angry when people contradict him. He seems to be a man who’s feelings are far more important than reality, especially a reality that doesn’t agree with what he feels.

  2. Tom says:

    We have voted for a leader who indicated and now is gathering together a kleptocracy, supported with a kakistocracy, dependent upon sophist communication. Welcome to the concept of a nation that is “Great again” by becoming a soundbite for the world. Will we really deserve what we will get?

  3. Devildog says:

    You don’t agree with my “facts”. I don’t agree with your “facts”. You don’t believe in the laws of supply and demand and I believe the laws of supply and demand explain everything. You can’t past Trump’s behavior and I cannot get past his results and what he is trying to do (what he said in in his campaign. People make comments about his business who have no understanding about real estate development and I cannot get beyond the trillions of dollars in debt that that has been run up in the last 16 years and the stagnant growth of the middle class. We are just not speaking the same language of what is important so there is no room for understanding. I am sorry for this.

    1. A man is his behavior. You can’t separate the man from what he has done… or what he has said. The same is true of the American Congress. Both Trump and the Congress say one thing and do another. I very well understand supply and demand. Trump is supplying the rhetoric demanded by slightly less than half the the public [and in some areas, slightly more than half]. As for real estate development, tell me again how a man who’s been through bankruptcy after bankruptcy and stiffed his contractors is suited to dealing with and undoing the fiscal idiocies enacted by Congress.

      1. Devildog says:

        I have some experience in commercial real estate development as I once worked as a construction superintendent for a small one in my town. Suffice to say, everything is a big gamble. Investors (including banks) gamble on a developers vision. Developers have a belief that contractors are also gambling on a developers vision. Commercial developers stiff contractors all the time and projects “go sidewise fairly often.” It is one of the last vestiges of the wild, wild west. I would love to believe that Trump is an exception. He is not. he is exactly like every other commercial developer that I knew. I did not like it so I got out. It needs to be more heavily regulated. Too many working men/women get stiffed.
        On your point about separating a man from his words and personal actions: I have been trained by the politics of my life to ignore words and focus on political performance. I loved most of President Obama’s words, his actions and inactions were terrible. Trump’s words are sometimes poorly chosen. he actions and/or the intent of his actions are exactly what we need.
        I question your understanding of the laws of supply and demand because you keep confusing the concepts of cost and price. Congress is made up of two sides of the same coin in regards to a political class that is only interested in feathering their own nest. The true meaning of “service to others” is long since gone up there. Trump’s election is evidence that many Americans are tired of this political class. If they don’t get in line and make substantial changes in how they go about business, they all will be voted out next election … Dems and Reps alike. LM, you and I not that different. Your work with politicians has skewed your reality. For better or for worse, we have not seen a Trump type since maybe Andrew Jackson. It will be interesting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *