By Paul Coughlin, Oregon author
As the son of Irish immigrants, I was warned since childhood about “Loud Americans.” In our home the besetting sin was to be “one of them,” brash, opinionated, and pushy. If my parents were alive today, I’m confident they’d say, but never yell, “Don’t be a Trump.”
Yet like many Americans I like his filter-lite pronouncements and his indignation toward political correctness. He expresses the exasperation many Americans feel, including mine.
If his radioactive persona ended there, he would still be a “Loud American,” which can be refreshing but also grating over time. But The Donald doesn’t end there. It’s his hubris — often mistaken for confidence — and his disdain and contempt toward others that make him Exhibit A for bullying, a character trait that is tearing America apart.
I lead The Protectors, which fights bullying in America and across the globe. I testify in court cases regarding the damage bullies do to innocent children. I help numerous public schools, private schools and workplaces combat it as well.
I’ve put ballast into the souls of children and their families who succumb to what Martin Luther King described as the “fatigue of despair.”
Their spirits are fragmented when others spew “loser,” “stupid,” “worthless,” “fat,” “weak,” and “slob,” the same exact words Trump throws at those he deems inferior to him. Making matters worse for our schools and political system is how bullies tend not to learn from their mistakes as we see in Trump, who within a short period of time has mocked POWs, insulted moderator Megyn Kelly in such a way as to insult all women, and even criticized the face of fellow candidate Carly Fiorina. “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?” he said during one interview. What’s next, criticizing another candidate’s weight or need to wear glasses? Possible.
He recently accused Kelly of lying about the details of her vacation, and retweeted a tweet calling her a “bimbo.”
Bullies carry within themselves the seed of their own downfall — narcissistic and blinding hubris that creates extensive collateral damage. It compels bullies to create needless conflict, burn bridges, and overreach — even in victory – rubbing needless salt into wounds of foes that waters seeds of resentment and revenge.
They refuse to acknowledge their weaknesses, which are often revealed by the messengers of bad news. This is a reality a long-time secretary experienced, according to John Fund of National Review: “A Trump business associate told me that his long-time secretary once confessed that she couldn’t possibly bring him a piece of bad news. ‘I’ve kept my job this long by knowing I must never bring him bad news,’ she reportedly said. That’s a clue to extreme narcissism.”
Such a person should not dictate America’s foreign policy not because of his political views but because of how he views others as inferior to him.Trump doesn’t just disagree. He sears his opponent’s psychological flesh through insults designed to humiliate, isolate and withdraw — exactly what schoolyard bullies do. And to our shame, our children are watching this bully grow in esteem among adults.
Compare his shameful behavior to fellow candidate Carly Fiorina, especially during the famous interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews where he challenged her statements questioning Hillary Clinton’s honesty. Fiorina is also clear in her convictions and critical of political correctness. But in her we behold the power of magnanimity, and we are inspired. The issue remains the issue with Fiorina, not the person who asked it who must be humiliated, and her demeanor is presidential and powerful. Our children need to witness more of this, please.
Still, I like the businessman. It’s as if America has discovered a new political animal, and we are awed by its predatory movements.
So if had a magic wand, I would create a Donald who still electrifies our nation with a stimulating blend of candor and indignation. We need more of this as well. I’d keep his shock-wire voltage but dump his name-calling, insults and needless provocations that win battles but lose wars because everyone hates bullies and many will plot their demise and the demise of the nation they represent. And I’d add a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor, the kind Reagan wielded and made him beloved by many.
But I know a bully’s personality isn’t this accommodating. Or good. Donald John Trump isn’t who our nation and especially our children need to see exalted during this age of rising narcissism, which as David Brooks writes about in The Road to Character has increased 30 percent in the last two decades, leading to increased aggression and infidelity, among other social ills.
Trump is the Gordon Ramsey of politics, who is also gifted, a charming entertainer when he needs to be—and malicious. He may be a “wonderful chef,” as food critic A.A. Gill stated, but he’s also a “second-rate human being.”
More Americans will come to the same conclusion about Trump since studies show that bullies make a marvelous first impression, which may explain part of Trump’s popularity. But the same studies tell us that it plummets, sometimes quickly. This dynamic fueled in part by revulsion may already be in motion. A recent poll shows considerate and soft-spoken candidate Dr. Ben Carson in a near-tie with Trump.
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