Trump and His Simple Minded Critics
The New York Times, Chief Justice Earl Warren, and Allen Dulles all asserted – before the Warren Commission had even met – that Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone in assassinating JFK. And, of course, their assertions were comforting because it reinforced the simple-minded belief that, basically, all was well with the American political order. After all, it is impossible to prevent random, isolated acts of violence, even impossible to prevent the assassinations of our presidents. As one writer put it:
“This [assertion about Oswald] was not just a psychologically motivated denial. What was at stake here was a definition of the supreme power in the land. The universally taught doctrine is that the United States functions under a rule of law, and that that rule, however imperfect, is the highest power there is. If Oswald was the assassin, acted alone, and was apprehended, then the hypothesis (or fiction) of a rule of law has been affirmed.” [Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, p. 296]
So some, even most cling to the simple-minded notion that JFK’s murder tells us nothing about the character of the American political order where “the rule of law” is supreme and where it is simply, that is, simple-mindedly assumed that JFK could not have been assassinated by a conspiracy of political forces that exist and have substantial power within the established political order. A foreign power or foreign “other” had to be responsible for JFK’s death.
What is the relevance of this today? Well, it seems to me that the response of many to Trump and his presidency is just as simple-minded. Trump, it is said, must be an aberration; he cannot be a reflection of a defective political order. Hence, many simple-mindedly insist, over and over, that Trump is the worst president, even the worst president ever, and totally unlike his immediate predecessors. And they go on to insist that Trump must be mentally defective, probably illiterate, and psychologically unstable.
This is, actually, comforting because it means we don’t have to change anything significant in how our government works or in how we govern ourselves. Rather, we just have to get rid of Trump. So, yes, the simple-minded assert, “Impeach Trump! Impeach him!” In other words, once we are rid of Trump all will be well again in the land. And this is a comforting way of “thinking.”
But what if JFK was assassinated by conspiratorial political forces that exist and wield power within the established political order? That is a very different story than the fairy tale most Americans believe about JFK’s murder. And what if Trump is a reflection of our defective political order? That too is a very different story than the fairy tales we are being told about Trump. It would be good to get this straight.
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