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Trump and Collective National Traumatic Stress Disorder

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Each week throughout the year as I make my pleasant two-mile walk to my local supermarket with four-wheeled cart in tow, I pass a house with a large white pole and a United States flag in the front yard flowing in the breeze. Recently in my western Massachusetts neighborhood, we experienced very heavy sustained winds with even stronger gusts.

Subsequently, this week as I traveled my customary jaunt, I noticed that the wind somehow noticeably tilted the pole and tore and battered the flag. Seemingly one of the holes hooked up and over the pole causing the flag to knot up onto itself. Metaphorically, this torn, battered, and knotted flag incapable of flying unfurled symbolizes the current political climate ravaging our country.

While strong political winds have forever blown through this land even before revolution detached us from the British empire, our most recent election cycle into the first 100 days of the new presidency has ripped and tattered our politics by reaching unprecedented proportions.

Donald J. Trump has whipped up destructive Category 5 hurricane force winds, and he has left a collective national (possibly worldwide) traumatic stress disorder in its wake with his rhetoric, behavior, and policies. (This could not now be referred to as a collective national post-traumatic stress disorder – PTSD – since it remains ongoing.)

Throughout the primaries and transition and into his taking over the White House, Trump has used the bodies of entire groups of people as stepping stone in his ascension to power: Muslims, Jews, Latinx and specifically Mexicans, undocumented residents, trans and lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, people with disabilities, women and their reproductive rights, journalists and mainstream media outlets, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the United Nations, the presidents of Mexico and Australia, people dependent on government entitlements to survive, and many others. (Trauma)

He picked for national security advisor a retired military Army Lt. General who was convicted of having “inappropriately shared” classified information with foreign governments, and who was charged with breaking protocol and lying by negotiating with Russian government officials a possible sanctions relief before Trump took office.

He nominated a highly controversial billionaire to head the Department of Education who has in the past advocated for a voucher system that would divert funding from public school to private and parochial schools.

He chose to lead the Department of Energy a former Texas Governor who admitted he was unaware of the function of the department he was to administer, and who, in his infamous “oops” moment in his run for the presidency in 2012, actually forgot that this was one of the three federal agencies he intended to eliminate.

In addition, Trump’s Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development admitted having no experience for the job, a Secretary of Health and Human Services who has been accused of having close financial ties to pharmaceutical and health insurance companies, a Secretary of State with close links to Russian and other foreign government officials, a Secretary of the Department of Justice with a controversial track record at best in the area of civil rights and voting rights and who has been charged by some Democrats with lying during his confirmation hearings about his talks with the Russian government during the election, and an Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency who has sued that very agency in the past for imposing regulations he believed were detrimental to business. (Trauma)

Trump has declared war on the environment by proposing a substantial budgetary reduction of an estimated 24% and a staff cut of 20% to the Environmental Protection Agency, consideration of lower automobile emission and fuel efficiency standards, relaxation of prohibitions against dumping toxins like coal ash into streams and rivers, reinstatement of the potentially environmentally damaging Dakota Access and Keystone oil pipelines, and increased coal mining, natural gas, crude and scale oil drilling. (Trauma)

He has increased the risk of war by attempting to slash the budget for the Department of State by an estimated 30% while increasing the military budget by around $54 million. (Trauma)

He is pushing for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act to be replaced by a Republican plan, which, if enacted, would make it less affordable for middle and lower income people to purchase health insurance and eliminate an estimated 10 million people currently on the ACA while simultaneously lowering taxes for the super-rich. It would also reduce the number of people eligible for Medicaid, and potentially eliminate federal reimbursements to Planned Parenthood. (Trauma)

Trump’s travel ban specifically targets people from Muslim-majority countries, and his reversal of Obama’s order to permit trans students to use school facilities most closely aligning with their gender identities places trans students at increased risk for marginalization and bullying. (Trauma)

We have witnessed a new wave of anti-Semitic incidents throughout the country in the form of Jewish gravesite desecrations and bomb threats at over 100 Jewish community centers and at a Jewish children’s museum. Homophobic, racist, and Islamophobic incidents are on the rise, and someone torched and destroyed a mosque in Texas, as the white supremacist ultra-right solutes the new Commander in Chief. (Trauma)

And overarching the entire Trump presidency leers a scandal of unparalleled proportions involving the Russian government’s invasion of our electoral process with possible collusion by members of Trump’s campaign and administration.

Without any shred of evidence, he arrogantly accused former president Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower, attacked the reliability and independence of our intelligence agencies, seriously called into question the credibility of a U.S.-born federal judge of Mexican heritage, cynically mocked a reporter with disabilities, labeled the media “the opposition party,” and reportedly admitted to grabbing women by their genitals.

Though he talks like a populist, he behaves like an authoritarian oligarch. He promised to “drain the swamp” of Washington while stocking that very swamp with Wall Street insiders. And he has lied through his teeth on a regular basis.

Donald Trump has clearly demonstrated that he does not have the requisite character, temperament, and background for the most important job in the United States, and he certainly lacks the willingness to learn.

Resiliency is one thing, but just how much more trauma and whiplash can we as individuals and as a society take?

What this would-be dictator has accomplished, however, on the other side of the equation, is to invigorate the political left-of-center in coming together in coalition to resist the rightward course set by Trump and his Republican congressional cronies.

Like the regressive tactics of Anita Bryant in her so-called “Save Our Children” campaign to reverse “Gay Rights” ordinances in Dade Country, Florida and other locales throughout the country during the late 1970s, and the widespread governmental and larger societal inaction in the opening years of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which reenergized the progressive LGBT movement, and the brutality directed against black and brown people by some “law enforcement” officials, which sparked the “Black Lives Matter” movement, Trump in his perverse way has inspired (forced) people of many varied social identities to connect in direct action for mutual protection and survival, some for the first time.

Ironically, Trump has also revitalized our appreciation of and dependence on the media for the information we need to make sense of the times and on which we can better make informed decisions.

We cannot predict how much longer the continual stream of traumatic events will last and how much longer our tattered flag will remain knotted on the pole, but one thing is certain. As the old saying goes, “What does not kill us will make us stronger.”

Warren J. Blumenfeld is associate professor in the School of Education at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. He is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

March 9th, 2017 at 6:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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