by Selvam Canagaratna
“You can fool too many of the people too much of the time.” – James Thurber, The Owl Who Was God, 1963
Too Much and Never Enough, the book by Mary Trump, Donald’s niece, is a devastating indictment of how the Trump family created, as her subtitle characterizes him, “the world’s most dangerous man” hits bookstores last week.
Dahlia Lithwick writing in Slate magazine, notes that what is new and surprising is also that Mary Trump, who has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, has given us a granular portrait of Trump’s profound impairment.
Mary says that her uncle has all nine clinical criteria for narcissism, although she insists that this diagnosis is only the tip of the psychological iceberg — he may also suffer from antisocial personality disorder, sociopathy, and/or dependent personality disorder, along with an undiagnosed learning disability that likely interferes with his ability to process information.
Too Much and Never Enough may be the first book that stipulates, in its first pages, that the President is irreparably damaged, and then turns a clinician’s lens on the rest of us – the voters, the enablers, the flatterers, the hangers-on, and the worshipers.
So, what Mary Trump wants to know is this: What the hell is wrong with everyone around him? The book is thus actually styled as an indictment not of Donald Trump but of Trump’s enablers. The epigraph is from Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, and it’s emphatically not about Donald John Trump at all: “If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness.”
Mary Trump blames Fred Trump, his father, for Donald’s pathology, although she doesn’t claim that her uncle is a tragic victim of abuse. She blames his family that propped him up (also her family, it should be noted), and then in concentric and expanding circles, the media that failed to scrutinize him, the banks that pretended he was the financial genius he was not, the Republican Party, and the “claque of loyalists” in the White House who continue to lie for him and to him in order to feed his insatiable ego and self-delusion.
Even the phrase “too much and never enough” is perhaps deliberately borrowed from the language of addiction, and what Mary Trump describes here is not just her uncle’s addiction to adulation, fame, money, and success, but a nation’s — or some part of a nation’s — unfathomable addiction to him.
Donald Trump, Freddy’s younger brother, not only helped push Freddy down but also stepped on his sinking shoulders on his way into the empty, Freddy-shaped space to become his father’s successor. And as Freddy’s parents and three other siblings altered their lives and priorities in order to orbit around Donald, Mary and her brother were eventually written out of the wills, the empire, and the family story, as payback for their father’s perceived weakness and failures.
This is all tragic in its own right, but it also makes Mary perfectly positioned to explain and translate what happens to otherwise high-functioning adults — her aunt Maryanne, a competent federal judge; the lawyers and accountants tasked with fulfilling Donald’s whims and hiding his failings; the sycophants and Republicans and evangelical Christians who support his campaign unquestioningly; and the officials who now populate the Senate, the Cabinet, and the Oval Office.
All of them appear to be reasonably mentally sound. Yet they all cover for Donald, at the expense of real suffering and genuine human loss, just as the Trump clan ignored Freddy’s disintegration and death. Mary Trump’s childhood trauma has become America’s trauma, and she really wants to know how that came to be. Again.
The section of the book that has garnered the most attention is likely Mary’s claim that Trump cannot be evaluated for pathologies because he is “in the West Wing, essentially institutionalized” and that he has in fact “been institutionalized” for most of his adult life.
Her ultimate point is that even a shattered psyche, buffered from the real world, can still do irreparable damage to it. But the most interesting assessments she offers are reserved for those inside the “institutions,” the people who might have saved us and certainly have not, from the nuclear family, to the Trump businesses, to New York’s bankers and powerful elites, to Bill Barr, Mike Pompeo, and Jared Kushner. They all knew and know that the emperor has no clothes, even as they devote their last shreds of dignity to effusive praise of his ermine trim and jaunty crown.
Mary Trump seems to answer the question of why they do this in a section late in the book about Donald Trump’s father, Fred Trump. In describing Fred’s growing realization that his fair-haired boy, Donald, was a fraud, Mary explains that, yes, Fred himself was a master at fattening his wallet with taxpayer funds, committing tax fraud to benefit his children. (Mary admits she was the one who leaked the family tax information to the New York Times in 2018 for its blockbuster story.)
But as it became clear that Donald had no real business acumen — as his Atlantic City casinos cratered and his father unlawfully poured secret funds into saving them — Mary realized that Fred also depended on the glittery tabloid success at which Donald excelled. Fred continued to prop up his son’s smoke-and-mirrors empire because, as Mary writes, “Fred had become so invested in the fantasy of Donald’s success that he and Donald were inextricably linked. Facing reality would have required acknowledging his own responsibility, which he would never do. He had gone all in, and although any rational person would have folded, Fred was determined to double down.”
Mary Trump’s words there could just as easily be true for John Kelly, Kellyanne Conway, John Bolton, Mitch McConnell, Susan Collins, or Melania Trump. And as Mary Trump is quick to observe, the sheer stuck-ness of his enablers means that Trump never, ever learns his lesson. Being cosseted, lied to, defended, and puffed up means that Donald Trump knows that, “no matter what happens, no matter how much damage he leaves in his wake, he will be OK.”
He fails up, in other words, because everyone around him, psychologically normal beings all, ends up so enmeshed with his delusions that they must do anything necessary to protect them. Trump’s superpower isn’t great vision or great leadership but rather that he is so tiny. Taking him on for transactional purposes may seem like not that big a deal at first, but the moment you put him in your pocket, you become his slave. It is impossible to escape his orbit without having to admit a spectacular failure in moral and strategic judgment, which almost no one can stomach.
Donald Trump’s emptiness is simply a mirror of the emptiness of everyone who propped him up. It’s that reflection that becomes unendurable.
Mary Trump is, among other things, a brisk and gifted writer, and she is a fact witness to, and also a victim of, a family that elevated a mediocre and vicious man, at the expense of justice, fairness, and truth. The perspective of this book is made possible exactly because Mary Trump was one of the first children to be written out of the will, cast out of the family, and denied the support and love that should have been hers, as a result of her father’s perceived failures. It is this — because she was ousted rather than being forced to remove herself — that allows her to see clearly why everyone else stuck around.
They do it because they can’t admit the payoff is never coming, and to save themselves from the embarrassment of having to admit they were catastrophically wrong, concludes Dahlia Lithwick.
Development after the elections
By Jehan Perera
Many years ago, former Government Agent of Jaffna, Dr Devanesan Nesiah, explained the northern sentiment when elections were taking place. He said there was apprehension about the possible turn of events over which they had no control. The minority status of the Tamil people would invariably mean that their future would be determined by the outcome of the power struggle in the south of the country. I was reminded of these words of Dr Nesiah during discussions organised by the Civil Society Platform in the northern towns of Vavuniya and Jaffna on the democratic challenges arising from the forthcoming elections.
The main theme, at the present elections in the south, and most of the country, has been the need to elect a strong government and to give it a 2/3 majority to change the constitution, accordingly. The response in Vavuniya and Jaffna, by the members of civil society, was that a strong government would not heed the wishes of the people. Like people in other parts of the country, they felt let down by the political leaders and said they did not know for whom to vote. The issues that they highlighted as being their concerns were economic ones, such as the lack of jobs for youth and the harm to families caused by an unregulated micro credit scheme that made them vulnerable to the predatory actions of money lenders.
The civil society members, in the towns of Vavuniya and Jaffna, did not take up the issue of the 19th Amendment and the possible threat to civil society space that the speakers from the south put before them. This indicated a longer term need to have educational programmes on the importance of the rule of law and judicial independence, in particular, to ensure justice and non-discrimination. But they also did not comment or discuss the manifesto put out by the main Tamil political party, the TNA, which addressed longstanding issues of the Tamil polity, including self-determination, federalism, the merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces or the newer post-war issues of missing persons and accountability for war crimes.
The absence of public debate, at the civil society meetings in the north on the political dimension at the forthcoming elections, may reflect a wariness about speaking publicly on politically controversial matters. Civil society groups throughout the country have been reporting there is more police surveillance of their work. The fear of falling into trouble and being seen as anti-government may have restrained the participants at the civil society meeting in the north from expressing their true feelings. On the other hand, there is also the reality that existential issues of jobs, loans and incomes are of immediate concern especially in the context of the Covid-induced economic downturn. The short term concerns of people are invariably with economic issues.
One of the salient features of the present elections has been the general unwillingness of even the main political parties to address any of the issues posed by the TNA. This would be due to their apprehension of the adverse fallout from the electorate. It could also be due to their lack of ideas regarding the way forward. Apart from the 19th Amendment, another impediment to a strong government, that is identified by its proponents is the 13th Amendment. In the run up to the elections, there have been calls for the abolition of the 13th Amendment, which created the devolved system of provincial councils, along with the 19th Amendment that directly reduced the power of the presidency and increased the independence of state institutions. The provincial councils have been emasculated by denying them of both resources and decision making power and are condemned for being white elephants.
It has been noted, by the political commentator D B S Jeyaraj, that the TNA’s choice of focusing on issues of transitional justice, in dealing with war time violations of human rights, led to the TNA aligning itself with Western powers. This did not yield the anticipated benefits as the previous government failed to implement many of its commitments in regard to transitional justice. It would have been better to have focused instead on getting the provincial councils in the north and east to engage in more development-oriented work which would have met the existential needs of the people.
Jeyaraj has also surmised that if the TNA had chosen the path of utilising the provincial council system for development work, it could have obtained support from India, which had been the co-architects of the provincial council system, in 1987, along with the then Sri Lankan government. India has a moral obligation to contribute to developing the north and east of the country where the war raged in full fury and led to immense destruction. India’s role in destabilising Sri Lanka and enhancing the military capacity of the Tamil armed groups, including the LTTE, is a bitter and abiding memory which the journalist Shamindra Ferdinando has written extensively about.
A creative suggestion made during the civil society discussion in Jaffna was for the provincial councils to implement what governments have promised to implement but have failed to do. An example given was that of reparations to war victims. The previous government pledged to set up a system of reparations in terms of the UNHRC resolution in 2015. But, although an Office for Reparations was established, very little was done. The question was whether the provincial councils in the north and east could not have utilised their resources for the purposes of instituting schemes of reparations as it would be clearly within the policy framework of the government.
While the issues in the TNA’s manifesto will remain perennial ones to the Tamil polity, the people are looking for political leaders who will deliver them the economic benefits in the same way as in the rest of the country. The civil society meetings in the north suggests that the northern people are not showing priority interest in political issues as they believe these are non-deliverable at the present time. Instead of using its majority status in parliament and seeking to abolish the 13th Amendment, and the provincial council system, and creating a crisis with the Tamil polity and India, the new government would do better to work through them to meet the material needs of the people. They need to also realize limits of the constitution, and focus on social, economic and political pluralism and promote values of tolerance, pragmatism, cooperation and compromise, and consent of the governed.
A blazing story!
The local showbiz scene is ablaze with a story about the members of a particular band, who indicated that they are undergoing a tough time, abroad, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
It was a video, showing the members pouring forth their difficulties, and earnestly requesting the authorities concerned to bring them back home, that got others to move into action…and the truth has come out.
After having looked into their situation, extensively, knowledgeable sources say that the video contained a load of lies and, according to reports coming our way, the band has now been blacklisted by the authorities for lying about their situation.
These guys have, apparently, gone on Holiday Visas and have, thereby, contravened the Visa conditions.
The story going around is that they have had problems, within the band, as well.
The authorities, in Sri Lanka, are aware of the situation, in that part of the world, but there are many others who are waiting to get back home and, they say, musicians can’t get into the priority list.
So, it’s likely to be a long wait for these guys before they can check out their hometown again!
Top local stars to light up ARISE SRI LANKA
Richard de Zoysa’s brainchild, ARISE SRI LANKA, is going to create an awesome atmosphere, not only locally, but abroad, as well.
This telethon event will feature the cream of Sri Lankan talent, said Richard, who is the Chairman of Elite Promotions & Entertainment (Pvt) Ltd.
Put together as a fund-raiser for those, in the frontline, tackling the coronavirus pandemic, in Sri Lanka, ARISE SRI LANKA will bring into the spotlight a galaxy of local stars, including Noeline Honter, Damian, Mahindakumar, Rukshan, Melantha, Jacky, Ranil Amirthiah, Mariazelle, Trishelle, Corinne, Sohan, Samista, Shean, Rajitha, Umara, April, Shafie, Dr. Nilanka Anjalee Wickramasinghe, Kevin, Ishini, and Donald.
Mirage is scheduled to open this live streaming fun-raiser, and they will back the artistes, assigned to do the first half of the show.
Sohan & The X-Periments will make their appearance, after the intermission, and they, too, will be backing a set of artistes, scheduled to do the second half.
The new look Aquarius group, led by bassist Benjy Ranabahu, will also be featured, and they will perform a very special song, originally done by The Eagles, titled ‘There’s A Whole In The World.’
The lyrics are very meaningful, especially in today’s context where the coronavirus pandemic has literally created holes, in every way, and in every part of the world.
Aquarius will be seen in a new setting, doing this particular song – no stage gimmicks, etc.
The finale, I’m told, will be a song composed by Noeline, with Melantha doing the musical arrangements, and titled ‘Arise Sri Lanka.’
The programme will include songs in Sinhala, and Tamil, as well, and will be streamed to many parts of the world, via TV and social media.
Richard says that this show, scheduled for August 29th, is in appreciation of the work done by the frontliners, to keep the pandemic, under control, in Sri Lanka.
“We, in Sri Lanka, can be proud of the fact that we were able to tackle the Covid-19 situation, to a great extent,” said Richard, adding that even the World Health Organisation (WHO) has acknowledged the fact that we have handled the coronavirus pandemic, in an exceptional way.
The team, helping Richard put together ARISE SRI LANKA, include Noeline Honter, Sohan Weerasinghe, Donald Pieries, from the group Mirage, Benjy Ranabahu, and the guy from The Island ‘Star Track.’
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