Truth Decay II: Ignoring a Journalist’s Murder and Climate Change

Thursday, November 29, 2018
On Amtrak Train En Route To San Luis Obispo

 

Truth Decay II:

Ignoring A Journalist’s Murder And Climate Change

Patients entering psychoanalysts’ offices face a basic challenge:

Can they handle the truth?

Regardless of what leads them to seek help, their clinicians ask them to honestly assess their lives. The abusive childhoods which triggered their depressions, their excessive use of alcohol or drugs, or their avoidance of conflicts—to name just a few common themes—require careful dissection.

Ideally, patients confront their life difficulties with honesty and courage.

Our own president, an individual who should be modeling such ideals, instead displays dishonesty and cowardice.

This last week remarkable offered two clear demonstrations of Trump’s moral flaws.

First, despite the CIA’s assessment that Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), directly ordered the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi on October 2nd, Trump refused to hold him responsible. Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen, was a journalist who legally resided in the US. He wrote opinion pieces, including for the Washington Post, critical of MBS.

According to The Economist, the exiled Saudi journalist was throttled, dismembered, and dissolved in acid by a fifteen-man team of Saudi security officials.

Asked about his belief that MBS ordered the hit, Trump said, on November 20th:

Maybe he did, and maybe he didn’t.

Just last weekend, Trump praised Saudi Arabia as:

A truly spectacular ally.

Second, within a few hours of praising Saudi Arabia and excusing MBS, Trump delegitimized the 1600-page report of the National Climate Assessment. It was based on input from 13 different federal agencies and 300 scientists. It paints a dire picture of the anticipated effects of global warming.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Trump said of the report:

One of the problems that a lot of people like myself — we have very high levels of intelligence, but we’re not necessarily believers. 

Believers?

What’s to believe in?

These two examples require no leaps of faith.

They do not call for evaluation or reflection.

MBS ordered the bold-faced murder of a journalist and critic who legally resided in the US.

And, the National Climate Assessment predicted future environmental and economic devastation if climate change is not averted.

Trump’s two overt lies could be compared to the following, equally-absurd utterances made by people in need of psychotherapy:

I know my father beat me daily but it had no adverse effect on my mental life; 

I drink daily, starting when I wake up, but my abstinence in the last 12 hours signals the beginning of my sobriety, or;

I hate conflict, and always avoid it, but today I’ll urge my manager to give me a long-overdue raise.

If these hypothetical persons consulted competent psychotherapists, they would hear, in a non-shaming and non-judgmental way, the absurdity of such declarations.

Their psychoanalysts would support the desire behind them, i.e. the wish to change, but they would confront the fantastic nature of their statements.

Governmental leaders are not psychoanalytic patients. They are not engaged in a deliberate process of self-evaluation. Further, they must, on occasion, mislead the general population.

But must they continuously spin fantastic, grandiose, and obviously self-serving lies?

Of course not.

The hypothetical patients I just described are mostly hurting themselves. They likely have a negative impact on the loved ones closest to them.

Trump risks hurting the entire planet—quite literally.

Eugene Robinson, an opinion writer for the Washington Post like his now deceased colleague, recently wrote of the president:

In Riyadh, they must be laughing at President Trump. In Pyongyang, too, and in Tehran. In Beijing and, of course, in Moscow, they must be laughing until it hurts. They look at Washington and they don’t see a champion of freedom and human rights. They see a preening, clueless clown. 

And an extremely dangerous one at that.

 

Equally awful, Trump models murderous behavior by other authoritarian leaders.

Robinson notes that dictators around the world know that, if you flatter Trump, feed him “some geopolitical mumbo-jumbo and make vague promises to perhaps buy some American-made goods in the future, he will literally let you get away with murder.”

Like psychoanalysts’ strive to keep their patients’ eyes on their lives, we American citizens have a duty to monitor our leaders. We have a responsibility to confront the Trump’s destructive behavior, and before it is too late.

Seconds before I posted this, the New York Times reports that the Russians are amassing tanks at the Ukrainian border. Can we trust Trump to respond appropriately?

 

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Alan Karbelnig, PhD, ABPP

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