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Is Trump flying too high?

Or is America?

Lately I’ve been playing with the “slo-mo” app on my iPhone. But ever since Trump's election, the process of change in Washington DC as been anything but slow. What became slow was the speed with which the GOP-led Congress investigated questions of Russian interference in the 2016 election. The Mueller investigation was similarly slow, and not completed until late March, 2019. Some speeding up occurred after the Democrats won the House and were installed in January 2019.

But the main speeding up of America's social and political life began with President Trump's relentless attempts to destroy the social order. Building new structures takes time, but it turns out that tearing them down can happen quickly. Early on, Trump attacked our perceptual apparatus, getting his press secretary to tell us not to believe our eyes when we saw how small his inaugural crowd was compared with Obama's. He then began to distrust the CIA and the FBI, after they found that Russians really had interfered in 2016.
As I wrote in Trump on the Couch, published by Avery Press in late fall 2018, Trump turns out to be more of a destroyer than a builder: he squandered money inherited from his father and required rescuing from several bankruptcies. His campaign slogan, Make America Great Again, was not genuine; he proceeded to divide America in ways reflecting his fundamental binary thought process - we are either on his side or totally against him.
His approach, after having been elected without any government or military experience, seemed almost miraculous - surprising virtually every pundit and
poll. He was flying high - and continued to do so when he issued executive order after executive order as he started to dismantle American traditions and institutions. His unconscious destructiveness was there for many to see. Its relentless quality reminded me of the ancient Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus, in which Daedalus made wings so he and his son Icarus could fly. The wings were made of wax, so flying too low might freeze them, while flying too close to the sun would melt them. An elated Icarus flew too high and his wings melted before he crashed to the ground. America's once strong institutions now resemble wings of wax.
It's not clear at this point who played Daedalus to Trump's Icarus - was it Putin? Was it the late Roy Cohen? Was it his father Fred? Was it our electoral college system that saw George W Bush was "elected" president in 2000? Was it the American system of winners and losers, not recognizing the idea of loyal opposition?

Or are America’s founding fathers Daedalus, giving us a Constitution whose wings are the basis for a patriotic fantasy of boundless greatness? Are we as a nation already flying too high to recognize that our freedoms are also made of wax, even though we withstood a civil war, the Great Depression, and Hitler?
 
Are we flying so close to the sun that we are now melting Arctic ice caps while we heat up the entire world so that everyone will crash and burn? Trump seems to be the latest player in a long line of Icarus types, following in the dangerous flights of leaders ranging from demagogues such as Father Coughlin, Joe McCarthy, George Wallace, and Rush Limbaugh to more legitmate, but still arrogant, leaders like Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. The arrogance of those three led to Watergate, to dismantling the EPA, and to removing benefits from poor people while outsourcing jobs overseas.
 
Myths happen fast when one reads Bullfinch or Edith Hamilton. But they unfold at different paces in real life – whether lives of individuals or of nations. And although I like the slow motion app on my iPhone, it doesn't work so well anymore. Congress presses for Trump's taxes, demands to interview Donald Trump Jr., and insists on reading the full Mueller report. Trump is stonewalling everything coming his way, swatting Congressional demands as if they are annoying fleas. It is America - not Trump - that is becoming Icarus writ large. And we are flying closer and closer to the sun, with the would-be "Sun-King" as our pilot.

 

Or are America’s founding fathers Daedalus, giving us a Constitution whose wings are the basis for a patriotic fantasy of boundless greatness? Are we as a nation already flying too high to recognize that our freedoms are also made of wax, even though we withstood a civil war, the Great Depression, and Hitler?
 
Are we flying so close to the sun that we are now melting Arctic ice caps while we heat up the entire world so that everyone will crash and burn? Trump seems to be the latest player in a long line of Icarus types, following in the dangerous flights of leaders ranging from demagogues such as Father Coughlin, Joe McCarthy, George Wallace, and Rush Limbaugh to more legitmate, but still arrogant, leaders like Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. The arrogance of those three led to Watergate, to dismantling the EPA, and to removing benefits from poor people while outsourcing jobs overseas.
 
Myths happen fast when one reads Bullfinch or Edith Hamilton. But they unfold at different paces in real life – whether lives of individuals or of nations. And although I like the slow motion app on my iPhone, it doesn't work so well anymore. Congress presses for Trump's taxes, demands to interview Donald Trump Jr., and insists on reading the full Mueller report. Trump is stonewalling everything coming his way, swatting Congressional demands as if they are annoying fleas. It is America - not Trump - that is becoming Icarus writ large. And we are flying closer and closer to the sun, with the would-be "Sun-King" as our pilot.

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