In 1987, Joseph Kony, a self-styled spokesperson for God, founded the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, obstensibly to create a multi-party democracy across Uganda and the neighbouring countries of South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Central Africa Republic. In reality, Kony used a mix of apocalyptic Christianity, mysticism and traditional African black magic as an excuse to mutilate, murder, rape and loot his way throughout these countries and, to assist him in these deeds, he abducted young boys to become soldiers and young girls to become sex slaves. Kony taught his boy soldiers that drawing a cross of shea nut oil on their chests would protect them from bullets and thus they could become fearsome and fearless in battle. The young boys believed Kony; the bullets proved him wrong.
The ancient Greeks, pre-Pythagoras, Plato and Aristotle, together with other ancient cultures firmly believed that the Earth was flat, either a plane or a disc, and that if you kept on walking in a straight line, you would eventually fall off the edge. Even today, the Flat Earth Society exists to further the premise that the Earth is a flat disc centred at the North Pole and bounded by a wall of ice (Antarctica) despite vast amounts of irrefutable scientific evidence that the Earth is a sphere. Eugenie Scott, an American physical anthropologist, has described the Flat Earth Society as a group that interprets the content of the Bible literally and commented that their belief that the earth is flat is, ‘because the Bible says it is flat, regardless of what science tells us’.
And it is the ability to believe things that are blatantly untrue that led to the insurrection on the Capitol building in Washington D.C. yesterday. Since 20 November 2020, Trump has persistently and without providing evidence declared that the 2020 US presidential election was a fraud with massive vote-rigging and other poll indiscretions and, unfortunately, some people believe him without question. Now, I uphold the right in any democracy for someone to question the validity and transparency of elections but if the evidence of malfeasance is not forthcoming and if there is no proof of any form of conspiracy to defraud, I question why the perpetrators continue to contest the results. What were the true motives of the people who entered the Capitol yesterday? Did they truly believe that Trump has had the election stolen from him or are they using his ‘I’ll never concede’ incitement-to-mutiny speech outside the White House to further some private agenda or just because they enjoy violence? I don’t know the answer. I am more concerned with Trump’s ability to cause such things to happen and, particularly, why he has not conceded to Biden.
There are many books about Trump and his personality characteristics. I’ve not read them but I have watched him in action; in rally speeches, press meetings, in Twitter feeds, in his policies, and in the way he hires and fires based only on one thing – loyalty to Donald Trump. He feeds voraciously on publicity and power. I watched recently a PBS Frontline documentary about the background to the two presidential contenders in the US 2016 election – Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Called The Choice 2016,* the documentary traces the major early influencers on the morals, ethics and other behavioural characteristics of the two contenders. Trump’s background is fascinating. Three people, at least, have played a major role in determining his business and political modus operandi: his father, Fred Trump; a Reformed Church pastor, Norman Vincent Peal; and a lawyer, Roy Cohn. In summary:
Fred Trump, a New York real estate developer, believed there were only two types of people in business – killers and losers – and he instilled the killer instinct and behavioural patterns in his son, Donald Trump: do what it takes to close the deal; never accept defeat. Trump has followed this philosophy all his life including his four years as the President of the USA.
Norman Vincent Peale, the pastor, was best known as the author of the 1952 bestseller, The Power of Positive Thinking, a book which even today courts controversy. As a youth, Trump attended Peale’s United Reform church in New York and was subjected to Peale’s approach to self-improvement via positive thinking, much of which has since been branded as unsubstantiated, fraudulent and conman-like.
Roy Cohn, a lawyer involved with the US McCarthy witch hunts in the ‘50s, had a reputation for ruthlessness and became part of Trump’s team when Trump moved to Manhattan and initiated the construction of large apartment blocks. The US Justice Department accused Trump of discriminating against African Americans in terms of rental agreements, and in other ways, and Cohn launched a countersuit on behalf of Trump – the always defend by attacking philosophy. Cohn, and hence Trump, lost the countersuit and Trump was forced to pay an undisclosed fine but Cohn’s philosophy was, ‘Never apologise; always declare victory even if you lose. If you declare something untruthful to be truthful enough times, people will believe it to be true.’ Trump bought into this philosophy 100%.
You see these traits in Trump today. They are a toxic mix. He has not conceded defeat in the election. In fact, he’s gone the other way, constantly declaring victory and constantly stating what is now known to be an obvious untruth – that the election result is a fraud. His deep conviction is that if he says this enough time, people will believe him. We saw the evidence of this yesterday on Capitol Hill.
Note also, that Trump never apologises for anything. If he had any shred of decency, humility, respect and responsibility, by now he would have gone on national television and apologised for leading his country into anarchy; apologised for inciting people bent on violence to attack the very heart of American democracy; apologised for his ruthless requirement that anyone who reports to him will always be loyal to him even if that means compromising their own beliefs, morals and ethics; apologised for not upholding the American constitution as per his inauguration oath; apologised for the damage he has done to the worldwide reputation of the American way of life, the American people, and the American government; apologised for causing a major split in America’s Grand Old Party (the origin of today’s Republican party), a political body that dates back to Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America; and apologised for his ruthless, bullying and megalomaniacal behaviour as President of the United States.
But, what we know with certainty is that he will do none of this. He will forever complain about how his second term of office was stolen from him. My fervent hope is that nobody will listen to him, now and forever.
* The PBS Frontline documentary, The Choice 2016, is not available for viewing in the UK but can be streamed via a Virtual Private Network, VPN. Note: It is not illegal to install a VPN app and use it for this purpose.