Donald Trump is not the only president to disappoint, given the hindsight history offers. A wrecking ball swings to demolish while a calculation provides an estimate or appreciation. Both concepts describe the latest uplifting book from Trump’s niece, Mary L. Trump, Ph.D. Judgment: the trauma of our nation and finding a way to heal not what you might expect, but it does offer a lot.1
Trump’s Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Made the World’s Most Dangerous Man became an instant bestseller.2 He gave an unflinching account of family dysfunction that explained why such a figure could soar to high office, amass such an audience, and plunge the executive branch into uproar. I explained psychological concepts and how treating family functioning (or lack thereof) could inspire a look at any gene pool.
Where we landed
This book takes a step back to address bad behavior, mistakes and what the author calls our collective trauma as a nation. She starts with hers. After election night 2016, she wrote a “humiliated, diminished and degraded” journal, to reflect her own disbelief and possibly that of others. Only, it hit her harder, knowing that the President-elect was capable and incapable of so many things, and having witnessed how others put him at their peril.
Mary L. Trump, Ph.D., the former president’s only niece, does use two degrees in her latest book.
Source: St. Martin’s Press / Used with permission
Uncle Donald was what mental health professionals consider “a presentation problem”. The account helps readers confront, not bury, the wounds of the Golden Escalator through years of self-centered fabricating to acts of betrayal. As Dr Trump reminds us, the United States of America, far from being united, had already been there.
“Failure to hold accountable those in whom we have placed a lot of trust and power overturns the whole notion that ‘with great power comes great responsibility,'” she writes. “In America this is hardly ever true, and more therefore, it is almost diametrically opposed to the truth about how things really work. The more power you have, the less you face the consequences.
Bitter facts we shouldn’t forget
The book puts forward a concise and traumatic version of American history with events that textbooks often overlook, die-hard revelers push back from memory, and her uncle continually turned on. To only cite a few :
- Seventeen of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention and 12 of the first 18 presidents enslaved others. The revered image of Thomas Jefferson escapes entirely what might help us revise our assessment of him. “There is no sliding scale when it comes to the crime against humanity of slavery,” she writes.
- Andrew Jackson’s Trail of Tears forcibly abducted the Cherokee Nation with hunger, disease, and a grueling Mandate March. Almost a third perished.
- Richard Nixon brought us the Watergate but also tried to sabotage President Johnson’s peace talks during the Vietnam War.
- Robert E. Lee, Gerard Ford and Jimmy Carter are called in for revisionist acts. Mary Trump calls Lee a traitor for crimes against humanity, perpetuating the lost cause (the myth that the South seceded because of federal government excesses, not slavery). Ford signed a House resolution to restore his citizenship, and Carter returned the same to Jefferson Davis, President of Confederation.
- During Donald Trump’s presidency, racism, misogyny, homophobia, ignorance of civics / grassroots governance metastasized. Add the abductions of children forced into camps and separated from their families. Dr Trump compares the comments of Jeff Sessions, his uncle’s attorney general, to the language used by attackers when exploring this issue.
- Likewise, Donald Trump has manipulated, admitting it to Lesley Stahl, who asked about the attacks on the press in 2018. “I’m doing it to put you down and discredit you, so no one will believe you.” Journalists who refused to water down alternative facts were labeled “fake news”, “the enemy of the people”. We had taken this route decades ago.
- Mitch McConnell earned his nickname “Grim Reaper” for his compulsive pursuit of power, his betrayal of governance and his attempt to “bring us down from within.” Simply put: we pay them to work for us… and then they refuse. Where else would this be allowed?
“Failure to require a tally of atrocities, even in retrospect, creates a situation in which we ensure that such atrocities, crimes or transgressions recur. Not to call them is to tolerate them, ”writes Mary Trump.
Quote from The Reckoning by Mary L. Trump, Ph.D.
Source: Canva / Loriann Oberlin
Take away to learn
“Fragile systems lean toward the dysfunction of the most psychologically disturbed member of the system, especially if that person is disproportionately powerful,” the book details. Failure to master the individual and the facilitators allows those who control the resources to pervert an institution until it illustrates the worst. As we read The account, think of the Senate, the representatives, those blinded by “the grassroots” and the cabinet secretaries, many of whom had no relevant experience with the agencies they were called upon to lead.
In my search for Overcoming Passive Aggression: How To Stop Hidden Anger From Ruining Your Relationships, Career, And Happiness, a takeaway designed in this text is the mixed message.3 We pay more attention to actions than empty words. True character is built on a congruent message where language and deed match – not the case in the Trump administration, citizens have seen firsthand, and despite Goldwater’s rule, experts have also noted.
A third point to remember – disbelief – should not need to be elucidated. “You can debate religion or economic policy,” writes Mary Trump. “But debating climate change and COVID-19 is like debating the severity or the evolution. Both continue to ravage our planet and our people. Therefore, if something seems too complicated, when there are indicators to the contrary, be careful.
Uncle Donald shared with Chris Wallace in July 2020 his take on wearing the mask, which was co-opted into becoming a political affiliation. “No,” says Dr. Trump, calling out just one of his uncle’s classic narcissistic traits, “because giving credit to a piece of cloth would take something away from him.”
Beyond mixed and misguided messages, take a close look at emotional intelligence and then the motive.
“When your motivation is not just to win at all costs, but to complain and get revenge,” says the author, “you are more dangerous than a simple sociopath. Donald is much worse than that, he’s someone with a gaping wound where his soul should be.
Dr Trump once again proved his talent by placing the words clearly on the page, drawing on his degrees in literature and psychology as well as his unrivaled experience as a family member. Some will undoubtedly dismiss the book based solely on the author, but all can learn pivotal points in our collective history that should not be repeated. As they say, doing the same thing, expecting a better result is the definition of insanity.
Copyright @ 2021 by Loriann Oberlin, MS
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