Category Archives: myth

The Perversion of Myth in America Part 5

Dealing with the Myth of Trumpism

In past articles of this series, we have considered the meaning of myth, constructive myths, destructive myths and a perverse myth- Trumpism. In this article, we will consider how to respond to Trumpism before it destroys our democracy. We are already close to another civil war at least in our minds. In the Republican party, a faction of people including legislators have accepted the myth of Trumpism as their “guiding fiction.” Many other Republicans including legislators at all levels tolerate Trumpism whether they subscribe to it or not.

The psychiatrist Alfred Adler coined the term guiding fiction. This is a way of thinking about life which guides a person’s actions. This fiction can be constructive and helpful in making decisions and managing the course of one’s life. It can also be destructive and complicate your life to say the least.

For some people, the Trumpian myth we discussed in the last post has created a path which requires that they sell their souls to Trump and allow him to become the central focus of their lives. We talked before of the implications of the Trumpian myth including:

  1. White supremacy and associated racism.
  2. Belief that Trump really won the 2020 presidential election despite all evidence being to the contrary.
  3. Acceptance of Trump as the only person who can lead us to the promised land, despite the destruction of democracy implied in his approach
  4. Accepting Trumpism as the only truth and Trump as the Chosen One as he has described himself.

For those of us who do not ascribe to the Trumpian myth, it is time to consider how to save our country from the self-serving path Trump would like us to follow. First let us consider approaches which are unlikely to succeed.

  1. Rational debate- Have you ever tried having a debate with a Trump devotee about politics? Based on my experience and that of others I know who have tried, such a debate leads nowhere. A constructive debate is based on facts and rational conversation about related topics. Most Trumpian beliefs turn out to be based on fantasy or outright lies like those Trump has been pedaling for years.  Arguing about them is fruitless.
  2. Attacking the Trumpian guiding fiction.- Their principle is that Trump is always right and knows what is best for everyone. He will lead them out of darkness and chaos into the society he will create for our country. This fiction is not open for debate.
  3. Invitation to partnership- Compromise in the form of political bipartisanship or individual meeting of the minds is not an option for those devoted to the Trumpian myth. Trump is right and that is all there is to it.

The bluster of the Wizard of Oz and the intellectual nakedness of the Emperor’s New Clothes are stories that give us some insight into what we face in Trump and his devotees. As for answers and alternatives to Trumpism there are several possibilities which might well make a difference. Here are the ones which came to my mind:

  1. Allowing Trump devotees to see that their needs can be met by paths other than adhering to his empty promises. This is already taking place on several fronts. We are in the midst of a coordinated effort to manage the COVID pandemic which is showing good results. Bailout through cash payments has started our society on the path to recovery. Some Republican legislators are even taking credit for the benefits to their constituents which they voted against. Current proposals before Congress also include taking responsibility for protection of the environment, our home. In addition, police reform is also a legislative proposal leading us toward more protection and less brutality.
  2. Recognizing the lack of practical proposals. In Trump’s quest for the presidency in both elections, he had no concrete proposals other than the New Order he promised. Details of this plan never appeared, not to mention getting anything done- only the overthrow of the status quo which was well underway during Trump’s tenure as president.
  3. Realizing that the only stated goal of the Republicans is to defeat Democrats and block anything they propose. Other than that, the Republicans have nothing concrete to offer even in light of the many needs of our country and citizens.
  4. Recognition that unreformed police tactics are a danger to all of our citizens.  
  5. Recognition of the benefits of the rule of law other than operating on the whims of leaders such as Trump and retribution for not supporting him unconditionally in their attempt to build a society around their own needs rather than those of society as a whole.
  6. Recognition of the contributions of immigrants over the lifespan of our society as opposed to societal inbreeding.
  7. Recognition that all individuals, despite their political leanings, can make a contribution to rebuilding our society together.
  8. Recognition that healthcare, education and job opportunities will create a safer society by greatly reducing the number of citizens angry and frustrated by their lack of progress.
  9. Learning to recognize the contributions of new cultures toward enriching the American experience as we have done with past immigrant groups throughout American history.
  10. Welcoming Republicans who are willing to compromise as partners in working toward our national progress.

In my opinion, none of these possibilities will result in resolution of our difficulties and disagreements. Yet together and with other possible factors  beyond our current awareness, they can help us build a society in which we can all prosper and where we can all live together in peace. 

The Perversion of Myth in America- Part 4 The Trumpian Myth

So far we have explored the nature of myth in a positive sense, a number of useful myths and some destructive myths in America. Now we turn to the myth which some see as creating an American crisis but which others see as the key to our salvation as a nation. We are taking about the Trumpian Myth. Let’s look at what Trump brings to the table.

Greek mythology contains the myth of Narcissus among many others. According to the legend, Narcissus was known for his beauty. A long life was predicted for him as long as he never recognized himself. He rejected the love of a nymph and fell in love with his own reflection in the water and eventually died either of frustration or possibly by killing himself.

There have been many theories about what is going on with Trump. One is that he has narcissistic personality disorder. Another is that he has antisocial personality disorder. Both are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM 5). A third option is that he has a combination of the two. 

A person diagnosed as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder must show at least five of the following symptoms:

      1. A grand sense of self importance.

      2. Preoccupation with dreams of unlimited power, success,

          physical attractiveness and love.

      3. Belief that he or she (usually he) is of special or high status.

      4. A need for excessive admiration.  

      5. A sense of entitlement and expectation of favorable treatment or


      6. Exploitation of other people to achieve personal goals.

      7. Lack of empathy regarding the needs and feelings of other people.

      8. Envy of other people or thinking that other people envy them.

      9. Arrogant behaviors and attitudes.

A person diagnosed as having Antisocial Personality Disorder must show  

at least three of the following symptoms:

  1. Repeated failure to follow social norms resulting in grounds for arrest.
  2. Engaging in deceitfulness.
  3. Impulsivity and not planning ahead.
  4. Irritability and aggressiveness.
  5. Reckless disregard or concern for the safety of other people.
  6. Chronic irresponsibility.
  7. Lack of remorse about hurting others.

I had no difficulty finding all of these symptoms in both groups as being present in Trump. Does that mean it is necessary to choose one diagnosis or another? He clearly shows patterns consistent with both diagnoses.

Although there is no combined diagnosis in the DSM-5,  Arlin Cuncic at discusses the idea of a narcissistic sociopath with  features of both the personality disorders we just reviewed. Here each of the two diagnoses intensify and make each other worse. As with each of the separate diagnoses, the combined pattern first shows itself during adolescence and most likely is due to both genetic and environmental factors. Cuncic describes a person with both as “on a quest for power and control, who uses the love and admiration of others as a tool to dominate and manipulate. There will be no guilt, no apologies, and no remorse coming from the narcissistic sociopath.”  This also appears to me to be a very apt description of Trump.

All of this brings us to the Trumpian Myth. Wikipedia describes A Big Lie as “a propaganda device by a politician used for political purposes- a great distortion or misrepresentation of the facts.”  It goes on to describe the term as one coined by Hitler in Mein Kampf as “a lie so colossal that no one would believe that someone could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”

As I see it there are currently three parts to the Trumpian Myth:

1. The first is MAGA. Paul Blumenthal describes the part of the myth as “foretelling a great and cataclysmic future event where deliverance will arrive through the exertion and sacrifice of believers. The present order will be swept away.” This is the promise on which Trump ran and which he promised to continue if reelected through the slogan “Keep America Great”

as if he had accomplished his goal during his administration of making America great.

In my assessment, he made a good start on sweeping away our democracy by diluting and crippling many of the federal agencies which support democracy. He did this mostly by restrictive policies and installation of agency directors who either had no idea how to run their agencies or who had ideas of how to cripple them. Yet he does deserve credit for supporting the COVID vaccines although he did undermine other aspects of containing the pandemic. Other than supporting the vaccine development, I had trouble finding anything positive unless you were super-rich and wanted a tax cut.

2. The second part of the myth is that the January 6 attack on the Capitol was not an attack but a “love fest” and that Trump did not incite it. In addition, any Republican who does blame Trump for any part in the insurrection (or lack of insurrection) needs to be purged from the ranks. 

3. The third part is that Trump actually won the 2020 election. Phony votes were supposedly introduced by Democrats or by others acting in their interest. Seemingly endless recounts and sham recounts have been the order of the day in order to expose the “Big Steal” with more planned across the country.

Under the pretense of voter fraud which must have taken place in their view,

Republicans are hard at work in many states to reintroduce restrictive laws to limit voting by undesirable individuals who might vote against Trump such as Blacks, and other people of color as well as poor and younger voters.

These aspects of the Trump myth are touted by the loudest voices in the Republican Party with practically total support or at least lack of objection on the part of Republican House and Senate members of Congress.

The final post in this series will focus on what to do about all of this.

Myth, Religion and the Human Experience

looking out to sea

 A myth is essentially a guide; it tells us what we must do to live more richly.

 ~Karen Armstrong~

As early as people could communicate, they developed stories to explain their relationship with the world and cosmos beyond what they could see. They wondered at the divine mysteries in their surroundings, venerating them in their daily lives. From the beginning, people seemed to appreciate that there was something more beyond their experience of daily life.

With the development of communication, cultures developed stories which gave life and meaning to the mysteries which surrounded them. These are myths which date back in one form or another to the earliest civilizations. These days, we tend to think of myths as stories which are untrue. The original meaning was stories which put into words the larger context for human, animal and plant lives, indeed the lives of the earth and the universe. They were not meant as literal facts but as a reverent way to speak of our home and beyond.

The Koran and the Bible were both initially handed down through oral tradition and eventually published. This makes it difficult to know what was revealed as editions have changed over the years. Just one brief example. In current versions of the bible, the Angel Gabriel is said to have greeted Mary with the words, “Ave Maria”, or in English, “Hail Mary”. The Greek version which predated the Latin presents the angel’s greeting as “Kaire, kekaritomene” or “Rejoice, you have found favor.” Before that was the oral tradition in Aramaic.

Versions of religious stories appear to have changed over the centuries to reflect the civilization in which the great religions were practiced. We now take for granted, at least in the United States, separation of church and state which until several centuries ago was not even a consideration.

Since the industrial revolution, we have moved toward scientific explanation of everything in our world and away from a mythical explanation which took into account our values, emotions and personal experience of the world. Many religions have also taken the position that they are the one true religion and the others are of no account. God has not ruled on this debate, at least not yet.

The major religions have also suffered distortions of their teachings to justify inhuman treatment of each other. The crusades and inquisition are historical examples. The jihad which is geared toward killing random civilians is a more recent example.

When we return to the core teaching of all religions as originally intended to be followed, we find that the common denominator is to treat others as we would wish them to treat us. The challenge now is to return to the basics of our various religions or commonsense beliefs among people of no particular religion. We can treat each other with compassion although this requires us to release our hatreds, rivalries and competition with each other on a human level.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Decide how you would like to be treated by others.
  • Try treating others that way.
  • Be open to how others would like you to treat them.
  • Try acting in a way they would like you to act.
  • Be aware of the brotherhood and sisterhood of your fellow human beings.

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