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  • Reverend James Squire

What I Don't Understand Is...


How many times have we heard that people don’t understand how Trump could be considered for the office of President by a great number of voters. I have felt this way myself. Trump is a full speed ahead lying machine. I couldn’t begin listing all his lies. Biden has had a couple lies recently where he indicated that inflation was at 9% when he took office. It was less than 2% under Trump. He also got into trouble when he said that one of his relatives was shot down and landed in an area filled with cannibals. The truth is that the plane crashed by some sort of engine failure and landed in an area that wasn’t filled with cannibals.


The above dilemma of Biden being neck to neck with Trump raises questions and alarms.

It was Bruno Bettelheim, psychologist, who studied how fairy tales represent the inner life of children’s fears that gave me an important insight. He also gave me a line that is one of my truths about life that I always shared with my ethics students. “You need to understand something that is bothering you (not agree with but understand it), in order to move forward in life.”


What Trump has done is to make lying a central part of his personhood. Sissela Bok, an authority on the dynamics of lying, has said that “the more you repeat a lie, the more it sticks and becomes truth.” Trump doesn’t just lie; he lies boldly to the point that most people will say that he must be telling the truth. No one would make up such an issue such as the small crowd of 3500 as the Trump camp who said that at 130,000 attended Trump’s recent Bronx rally. They forgot that a police helicopter was flying overhead counting the number of people present. Many left the rally during his address. That helps us to understand his lies, but it would be a fulltime job to ride around behind him and saying, “you are not telling the truth.” Fact checkers would have a fulltime job.


To understand why Trump is tied with Biden, we need to  a part of human nature that is in all of us, but it is usually to a small degree. There are times when we embellish an issue by expanding the truth is a form of lying. It is found in the cliché about people catching fish. There are times when that fish we caught that was 6 inches long somehow becomes 12 inches long when we arrive home and tell our story of the one that got away. It is easy to do because this category of lies makes for a better story that, in time, will improve the narrative of how we want to be seen.


This is why Trump is so obsessed with crowd size. Size matters as it is a direct reflection of his self-esteem or lack thereof. As recent as his hush money trial, he was complaining that officials weren’t letting in all his supporters to protest outside of the courthouse area. The reality was that there were not a large group of people present, but he insisted that they had to be there because he is being tried in an unfair way and he is popular. Kristi Noem had no trouble indicating that she had shot her dog, but she went on to tell everyone that she met with the leader of North Korea. No one believed her. So, she doubled down on the fact that she wasn’t going to tell the press what world leaders she has met.


This past week it was learned from The New York Times that there was an upside-down flag flown over Justice Alito’s home which was a symbol of “the election was stolen.” The Times had pictures. The neighbors who were interviewed said that it was up for days. Alito’s response was, “I had nothing to do with it! My wife put it up as a response to neighbors who were dishonoring Trump.” Give me a break! He throws his wife under the bus. His explanation made no sense. It added to the mistrust that the American people have in the right-wing Court. He also had another flag symbol of a stolen election on a flag flying at his shore home.


But there is another part of human nature that works against us telling the truth and understanding why Trump does what he does. When was the last time you or I made a mistake of some importance, and that mistake was pointed out to us? Was it easy for us to apologize or indicate that we were wrong? Probably it wasn’t easy to apologize but we would do it. We can understand Trump’s tight grip on his followers by the very fact that he has never responded to anything or anyone with an apology. Never! That tells us how low his self-esteem and sense of self-worth happens to be. The only thing that could change Trump’s narrative is what occurred with one of his acolytes, Jim Jordan, who was interviewed by Leslie Stahl on 60 minutes. She asked Jordan directly if he believed that the last election was stolen. He danced around his answer attempting to use words and descriptions that was his response.


Stahl wasn’t having any of it as he doubled and tripled down on his response. She was relentless. She was the embodiment of an expert journalist. He finally had to lie and say that he did think Biden was the duly elected President. I have seen him interviewed before, and he was always able to do his dance of lying. It didn’t work with Stahl.


My hope is that Biden can fact check Trump all night long during the debates. Biden is not faultless. He opposed busing to achieve integration in Boston. He was also someone who was not supportive of Anita Hill and look where that has got us. However, the debates should allow reason to reenter the presidential election conversation where passion now exists in full form.


What I don’t understand is…For understanding to help us move forward we must have a nation that values reason above all and not irrational irresponsible conclusions. Recall a theme in ethics. “When reason leaves, passion will flourish!” Reason is usually found away from the extremes and adheres to a standard sometimes referred to as “the reasonable person standard” in ethics. We need more of that!

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