Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) is a term Trump supporters use to describe those who criticize Donald Trump. In reality, TDS is a condition afflicting Trump supporters. This condition is characterized by symptoms such as temporary blindness, selective amnesia, and atrophy of higher brain functions. TDS and the extraordinary events of January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC are the latest manifestations of a peculiar psyhcosis* that has plagued the United States since its inception.
The Founding Fathers were geniuses and progressive thinkers. They created a radical form of government based not on allegiance to a sovereign but on the rule of law and certain unalienable human rights that three co-equal governmental institutions were obligated to protect.
But the republic was born with a glaring and inherent contradiction that the Founding Fathers in all of their wisdom were incapable of resolving. The Declaration of Independence sets forth principles upon which the country was founded and states that it is self evident that “all men are created equal.” Yet slavery existed. That contradiction and the issues of race and the presumption of white supremacy created a psychosis in the psyche of the country that remains unresolved.
The United States holds itself out as a paragon of equal opportunity and justice. Much effort has gone into convincing the domestic population that is true. One example that comes to mind is the Pledge of Allegiance that I recited while facing the American flag each and every day in grade school before class. The Pledge ends…”with liberty and justice for all.” Say it enough times and you’ll believe it especially if you are in the group that determines liberty and justice.
When you consider our extensive history of state-mandated racial discrimination, public lynchings, race riots, unequal educational opportunities, employment discrimination, systematic disenfranchisement of minorities, and domestic racial terrorist organizations, belief that there is in fact equality and liberty and justice for all requires a lot of self-delusion.
Many in the majority view laws and policies designed to prevent discrimination as being unfair to the majority. What many in the majority regarded as protecting “their” way of life and privilege has been more important than the lofty ideals of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Or put another way, the Constitution and founding principles must be interpreted in a manner that protects “their” status and privilege.
Enter Trump and his TDS afflicted followers. History has conditioned them to self delusion, ignoring facts, and creating alternate realities. Trump can easily sell his lies to this group because they want to believe them. Trump famously (and I think correctly) said he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose support. Trump obtains power by dividing people and portraying his base and himself as victims. He is the leader of a cult not a political party.
That is the kind of loyalty Trump loves. It means he can act more like a sovereign rather than a politician constrained by the rule of law, co-equal branches of government, and respect for the Constitution and unalienable rights of all Americans.
Trump’s insistence without a shred of credible evidence that the election was stolen is just what his delusional die-hard supporters want to hear. It confirms their belief that their way of life and presumed position in society is being stolen. The culprits are elites, immigrants, progressives who they are told have a “radical socialist agenda,” and allegedly corrupt major cities in swing states that are run or overwhelmingly populated by Blacks.
It is easy for Trump supporters to believe that the system is rigged when the system no longer guarantees the results they’re used to. It is interesting that Trump’s campaign slogan for both elections was Make America Great Again. MAGA has is focused on making his supporters feel great again. I decode MAGA as Make America White Again.
These days when someone gets caught committing a moral offense, they often say “that’s not who I am.” It makes me think “well if that’s not you, it was someone who sure looks a hell of a lot like you.” Some claim that the people who stormed the Capitol is not who Americans are. I think it is exactly who we are.
We tend to give ourselves too much credit when we use phrases like “American exceptionalism.” Americans have done many exceptional things but it is not because we are an exceptional group of people. By definition, 330 million Americans must be quite average on the whole like any other large group. It is America’s institutions and adherence to our founding principles that make America capable of extraordinary efforts when we work together.
The final days of the disastrous Trump presidency reminds me of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. A deep space mission is under the control of HAL 9000, a supposedly infallible supercomputer. When HAL incorrectly predicts a mechanical fault, HAL blames human error. The astronauts decide HAL can no longer be trusted to handle the mission and must be disconnected. HAL gets wind of the plans and has a computer version of a mental breakdown. HAL kills the astronauts in suspended animation and one of the two astronauts who had flown the mission without being placed in hibernation. Astronaut David Bowman lobotomizes HAL by removing some of its circuit boards. HAL sings “Daisey Bell,” a song taught by one of its original instructors.
Perhaps Trump is having a similar experience as he watches members of his cabinet resign in protest, former cabinet and staff members denounce his actions and fitness to be president, power over the Republican party and the American people slip through his fingers, and the time when he must face a judicial reckoning drawing near.
Trump’s presidency is a sad chapter for America, but it is ending.
Thanks for indulging this departure from my typical travel-related posts. The events of January 6 provoked a great deal of thought off the top of my head. Please share your perspective on those events.
*Psychosis is a condition that affects the way the brain processes information. It causes people to lose touch with reality. They might see, hear, or believe things that aren’t real.