In the mythic world of Superman comic books, there was our planet--and then in a parallel universe, there was a parallel planet to ours called “Bizarro.” Bizzaro was a carbon copy of Earth--only illustrated in a darker, more fragmented style. And just as Earth had its Superman, so too did Bizarro.
But the Bizarro Superman is crude, ungainly, and erratic. And so, in trying to make things better, he only makes them worse. Before launching into action, he thinks and communicates in a truncated, though primitive style—much like a tweet. For in responding to a woman trapped in a burning building, the Bizarro Superman’s thoughts appear-- in the thought balloon above his illustrated head, and what he’s thinking is: “Me grab girl!”
But his flight toward her, though powerfully swift, is quite out of control. Like the right wing of a bird—or our government—that can’t collaborate with its other side. And so, rather than rescuing the woman, he veers off course and crashes into the building, demolishing it--further imperiling her, and everyone else in the vicinity.
In this way the Bizzaro Superman was a menace--and not only to women. super powers, yet no self-control. Who does that sound like? Hey--that’s our new President, Donald J. Trump in a nutshell! For in Trump we have a comic book-like, epic hero gone wrong; a Bizarro President trying to “make America great again.”
When appearing in the White House instead of a comic book, such a figure seems surreal to waking consciousness. In fact it’s hard to believe this is really happening. Like this must be some kind of dream--or nightmare.
If we could go back only a year or two in a time machine, while carrying today’s newspaper back with us, nobody would believe the news we are bearing. You couldn’t even pitch our current situation to a movie studio of two years ago. They’d yawn, and tell you that “1984” has already been made.
Yet almost everyone I know is experiencing this collective nightmare too--and the collective anxiety it is giving rise to. For even after we rub our eyes, and gulp down some morning coffee, the Bizarro President is still happening here-- tweeting, appearing in headlines, and attempting to leap tall buildings with a single bound—only to destroy the structures (and alliances) painstakingly built over decades, in launching his ill-conceived missions.
We seem to need “the real Superman” now—if not Jesus, Buddha, some mythic figure to suddenly appear, and come to our rescue. But longing for such an omnipotent, omniscient, or messianic figure to appear, is what I’ve come to call “The Long Wait.”
And the truth is: one else is coming to save us. All we have is our own true nature, true speech—and each other.
Each of these are also refuges, and more reliable ones than a 1960s bomb-shelter. Taking refuge in them may also be the dawning of maturity--whether spiritual, or political. And given the ecological frailty of our planet now, such an understanding may also be part of an evolutionary imperative.
For troubling, polarizing, and nightmarish days--days like these—are also cultural conditions that can give rise to what Gurdjieff termed an “increased necessity.” In this way they can also serve as collective, developmental catalysts--IF they are met by a deeper wakefulness, a deeper collective sanity, and a fierce allegiance to truth.
It seems we are being challenged now to throw our collective, political passivity to the frogs. For what else has become increasingly apparent, is that neither of our political parties can save us either. For the Democrats have become increasingly impotent, while the Republican Party has made a Faustian bargain with Trump.
The challenge thus seems to be that of activating this deeper sanity and truthfulness that dwells within us. And then--just as importantly--to unite this with the deeper sanity of others. This is something that was so beautifully, and powerfully manifested, by the hundreds of Women’s Marches—which occurred across our planet the day following Trump’s inauguration (and collectively, far outnumbering it—a true fact, that Trump must find hard to bare).
For like 9/11, on January 20, 2017, the world as we knew it had changed. Something truly mind-blowing had occurred. For in the White House now is someone like never before--neither truly Republican, nor even vaguely Democrat-- but something more alien, dark, and erratic than either. (Which in a dark way, is saying a lot).
The codes to our nuclear arsenal are already in his combative, erratic possession. And before the first week of his presidency had ended, his special advisor, Steve Bannon, declared our free press now is “the enemy.” For as Trump attempts to undo every achievement and policy goal of the previous administration, the Democrats are no longer powerful enough to even qualify for the term.
And so it’s the press, along with our former partners who won’t bend to kiss his ring—more so than Obama or Hilary now-- that will be belittled and taunted from Trump’s bully pulpit.
May God help us to help ourselves, and each other. For in the White House now there’s a figure a million times more powerful than the leaders of either al Qaeda or ISIS ever were, or could ever be--yet equally polarizing and bellicose. And it’s strange that since Trump’s election we see almost nothing about ISIS in the news any more, even though the important battle over Mosul continues daily. Why is this?
On the one hand it’s because the defeat of ISIS seems inevitable, a forgone conclusion (even though on Obama’s watch the U.S. abdicated in Iraq to the Iranians as the central power broker there, and in Syria to Putin and the tyrant he’s managed to prop up).
On the other hand, there’s the growing perception that Trump may be both The more immediate, as well as the long-term threat. And thus he seems more potentially dangerous to our Homeland and its security, and to the security of the allied nations to whom we were (formerly, at least) committed.
Trump may also be more dangerous to the health of our planet, which is certainly suggested when Trump’s appointee to head the Environmental Protection Agency is someone who doesn’t even believe in global warming (which Trump himself has told us, is but “Chinese propaganda”—and a case of the pot calling the kettle black).
This, like a number of his cabinet appointments, seems a case of putting the fox in charge of the hen house--or the most unsuitable inmates in a mental asylum being given keys to the very parts of the asylum where they could do the most damage. Trump, though misinformed, isn’t stupid. In fact, to stumble as spectacularly in his first week out of the chute, while alienating so many allies, takes a bull-headed and delusional form of genius.
For Trump’s administration seems not only committed to “alternative facts,” but truly, to an alternate reality. An alternative to reality. And never in our nation’s history have we had such a bully in “the bully pulpit.”
In fact, bullying has actually been a central strategy in his version of “the art of the deal.” He employed this strategy earlier in intramural skirmishes, and he’s trying it out now --at a varsity level-- on the global, political stage. And not surprisingly, none of our previous allies like being treated this way, even when overtly they display the diplomacy that he himself lacks.
Geo-politically, it’s not good diplomacy, or even good business sense (a peg upon which Trump would hang his hat) when Trump first says he’s going to build a costly 2,000 mile wide wall to protect us from “Mexican criminals and rapists,” and then tries to bully Mexico into paying for the wall. For this now threatens to turn into a tariff war with our southern neighbor--our 2nd largest export market and 3rd largest supplier of imported goods--- that would benefit neither.
And speaking of tariffs, a looming problem with them seems not only the case with our bilateral agreements, such as with Mexico, but with our multilateral agreements as well. For in the first days of his administration Trump has also thrown TPP into the dumpster.
TPP would have been the largest regional trade accord in history, and would have corrected the very “unfair” tariffs against American products that Trump has vowed to correct. Here we have the Bizarro Superman “coming to the rescue,” but in an un-necessary, if not disastrous way. For TPP would have opened Asian-Pacific markets to American products by eliminating 18,000 tariffs formerly in place.
These markets also represent 40% of the world’s economy, and comprise the countries that have the fastest growing economies in the world. TPP would have added an estimated increase of at least $130 billion to America’s GPD, and increased our exports to these countries by an estimated $350 billion a year.
Strategically, by abandoning TPP, Trump has also abandoned our former and potential trade partners, leaving them in the lurch. This has created a void in the region—not dissimilar to the power void that Obama help create in the Middle East. And just as Iran and Russia have come to fill that void in the Middle East, in East Asia this is a void that China has been only too willing to fill.
For China has created its own alternative to TPP, its “Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.” This new trade agreement already includes 16 countries, including India and Japan. Yet this Chinese-hatched agreement doesn’t improve the condition of workers and their rights, nor does it contain rules protecting the environment as TPP would have done. Nor does it mandate a free Internet.
Rather than challenging the Chinese model, trade in Asia will thus be increasingly conducted in the Chinese model, rather than the more progressive model that would have been operational had TPP been allowed its life. A result has been, that in just a few recent days, China inked hundreds of billions of dollars in trade deals. And this IS on Trump’s watch. We’re not “winning” in Asia now--we’re abandoning it—while also abdicating America’s former role as a world leader.
For Trump’s platform slogan of “America first” doesn’t offer a very appealing leadership banner for any other nation to want to follow. Yet for that very reason, such a nationalistic jingo-ism is not a very good banner for America to follow either.
On such a solitary course, a course heading of “America first,” our nation is further isolating itself. We are being steered toward a kind of Horse Latitudes--or what has been referred to as narcissism’s “splendid isolation.” For like the leadership style of Putin-- which he seems to like--Trump lacks the style of awareness that might lead our republic to find its rightful place in a global community. And that’s because the unstated subtext of “America first” is “fuck everybody else.”
And in terms of narcissism, consider this…Trump was already a flaming narcissist before he ever ran for office. Yet how much more wind has inflated his sails now that he’s been elected President of the United States, the alleged leader of the entire free world, and now thus the recipient of a limitless infusion of “narcissistic supplies.”
Yet no psychological trajectory seems harder to re-direct than a narcissism that has found some measure of success, and what could be a more ultimate measure than the presidency itself? From this view, the presidency has become what Trump always hoped it would be, his ultimate vindication-- narcissism’s honey pot. This sweet, new world is the one he’s always wanted, a world where everyone is thinking about, and talking about Donald!
As long as so much wind remains in his sails, we have a Captain Ahab at the wheel--obsessed, if not delusional and monomaniacal. For Trump considers himself now the leader of “a tremendous movement, the greatest in history”--as he steers the ship of state toward what seems a looming disaster, if not one after another, as his first days in office have already been.
For each day’s news cycle has orbited around the latest Trump infraction, through which he’s alienated one group after another. The most recent flurry has included several against the press, and more lately, bullying infractions against Mexico, followed by his new executive order banning all refugees for 4 months, Syrians indefinitely, and entry into the U.S. for citizens of six other primarily Muslim countries for the next 90 days. (Though strangely –and who can fathom why-- Saudi Arabia, the home country of bin Laden, and the majority of the 9/11 hijackers, was given a pass).
And so, the protests mount. In the first ten days of his presidency they’ve seemed to occur as daily as his tweets. While again and again, and also like Ahab, Trump is seen as a leader unfit for his post--with rumors of a mutiny to come, already appearing…
For his strongly etched character disorder is also leading 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to become an ever more isolated, delusional, alien (and alienating) address—the bullying disinformation hub of a Bizzaro President.