Our national conundrum

I remember my kids watching a Trump speech early-on in his run up to the presidency, and the expression on their faces as they listened to him.

In Trump, they saw all of the behaviors and attributes they were taught to fight against. He was awash in them — he was a brazen an unabashed example of what they were taught not to be — he was the embodiment of the worst human attributes and characteristics (mean, petty, vindictive, and intellectually lazy) and surprisingly, there was no attempt by Trump to obscure any of this, no subterfuge – he reveled in these negative attributes like a hog in the slop.

I remember my kids watching Trump on television, then looking over their shoulder at me with a confused expression, bracketed by nervous laughter. An expression that occurs when realizing somethings not quite right at an elemental level — an expression that bubbles up from your core when what you’re seeing doesn’t jibe with what you were taught. It was an expression that said “Is this guy for real? This can’t be real, right dad?”

“Right dad?”

And I think that’s why I detest Trump so much. Because his ascension to highest office in the land was a refutation of the values that I so strongly believed in and that I so vigorously instilled in my kids. Values like kindness, empathy, understanding, hard work, and strength of character.

After the 2016 presidential election, I had to come to terms with the fact that the person elected to the highest office in the land — the person representing America to the rest of the world, was unkind, apathetic, and totally dishonest.

For nearly four years, I had to deal with a buzzing dissonance deep inside the frontal and limbic lobes of my brain. Not only could I not make sense of a Trump presidency, but its very existence agitated the shit out of me (as evidenced by my social media posts over the last 4 years).

If I take a step back, my anger at Trump is misdirected. Sure, Trump is an intellectually lazy and vindictive narcissist. But he’s never tried to hide that from anyone, he’s totally transparent, never tries to be something he’s not, which normally is an admirable trait, if you’re not a raging asshole.

If I were on a psychiatrist’s couch, it would be a relatively short session to get to the true source of my anger.

“Mr. Reilly, you’re not angry at Trump at all, you’re angry that so many of your fellow citizens voted for him – TWICE!”

And, that would be an accurate diagnosis.

Which brings me to some questions:

Doesn’t every good parent teach their kids the basic values that I taught mine (work hard — be respectful — be honest — be a good sport – admit your mistakes — don’t bully — don’t brag)? And if they do, how do they square that with voting for a person who exemplifies the opposite of those values?

I have a theory.

My theory does not take into account the people who support Trump because they’re drawn to the President’s bigoted views and white supremist tendencies (fuck all of those people), in my view, these are not the majority of Trump supporters.

I’m pretty sure that the Trump supporters who I’m friends with, know the President is a deeply flawed and selfish man.

If they were to walk into a bar and see some schmuck spouting disparaging remarks about women or a handicapped person – or, if they saw an individual bragging about his intelligence and then, in the very next minute, demonstrating his ignorance, they’d think that person was a moron.

And yet, they turn a blind eye to the same behavior when it’s the president.


Because for some Americans, Trump’s flaws are insignificant and easily dismissed when balanced against the views they hold on abortion and religion.

For other Americans (though I suspect there’s a lot of cross-over with the first group) they believe in a wildly-weird conspiracy theory that pits President Trump against a cabal of global elites who are trafficking in human flesh. Like the first group, these folks are willing to dismiss the President’s intellectual ineptitude and moral decrepitude, because the alternative is a country being run by cannibalistic vampire sex traffickers.

These two groups (the religiously-fueled and the conspiracy-driven) are tightly spooning bedfellows when it comes to their support for the President. For both groups, the president’s casual relationship with truth and facts matter less than what they see as the alternative.

I’m still working on how we overcome this phenomenon.

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