Trump As Symptom

Food for Thought

Trump is a beacon of hope in that he makes you feel like everything would be fine if he disappeared. It reminds me of the book I read some years ago: “The Family Crucible: The Intense Experience of Family Therapy” by Augustus Y. Napier and Carl A. Whitaker. As you read about different family dynamics, some patterns emerge, one of which is that the family member (usually a child) that everyone thinks is causing all the problems is actually just a symptom caused by others. This black sheep allows others to conceal and perpetuate their problems. Eventually, his departure destabilizes this unhealthy dynamic and reveals the true cause.

Trump too is just a symptom, not a cause. The more you obsess over him, the more you deceive yourself. He is a distraction. In fact, all politicians are distractions. Their primary function is to translate political issues in an emotional language, like typing a paper using emojis. But some issues, like financial regulations, are so dry that it’s not translatable—so you ignore. Identity politics feels a lot more interesting.

Although it may look as though social media is filled with political debates, most of them are just venting. Since you live in a bubble, you don’t actually have anyone to debate with. And, if a rare opportunity to have a real debate arises, it quickly devolves into a screaming fest, because real debates require too much thinking.

You scan the headlines to find the ones that make you angry, not realizing that anger is also a form of pleasure like complaining is. Because you read so many articles, you think you are thinking, but news articles today are not written to make you think but feel.

Because so much of our lives have moved online, the way to prove to others that you care is to do something physical, like joining a protest, but that too is just a way to avoid thinking. When you do something physical, you feel you have achieved something tangible. Everything you do revolves around how it makes you feel. Meanwhile, you can’t even sit still because it makes you think, because painful thoughts flood your brain, so you pick up your smartphone and scan the headlines again.