Razing Donald Trump
In 2009 and 2010, I wrote guest blogs for CharacterPlus, an initiative of the Cooperating School Districts, St. Louis, Missouri. The blogs were entitled Ending Bias Begins at Home and Raising Eddie Haskell respectively. I was asked to write these blogs because of the release of my first book, Culturally Considerate School Counseling: Helping Without Bias and my work with the consulting firm, Educating for Change, I spent several years training educators, clinicians, universities, communities and parents on the topics of educational equity, creating culturally considerate environments, and bullying prevention and intervention.
Lately, that work and those blogs have been on my mind. Though the themes continue throughout my work, those once “urgent” topics have been folded under the under the umbrella of Equity and Social Justice. When I reread those essays I wrote for CharacterPlus, I realized why they have been on my mind. Donald Trump.
The character Edward Clark Haskell, better known as “Eddie,” on the vintage television show Leave it to Beaver, once stated, “If you can make the other guy feel like a goon first, then you don’t feel like so much a goon.” I can’t help but wonder if this is Donald’s unofficial political slogan.
While we might be inclined to think of bullies as insecure and the brunt of ridicule or even abuse, research actually shows that characteristics of those who bully are generally positive. Self-confidence, high self-esteem, physical aptitudes and leadership qualities are not necessarily predictors of bullying, but are useful traits in exerting dominance (Anderson, 2010), Add impulsivity, quick temper, low tolerance for frustration and little or no empathic regard for others and the likelihood of bullying increases.
Some of the warning signs I pointed out in 2010 are:
Taunting and name calling
Starting rumors, objectifying language and sexual harassment
Lack of an emotional vocabulary
Disrespectful attitudes toward peers
Verbalization of aggressive fantasies
Bragging about unkind or hurtful behaviors toward others
Lack of respect for authority
I went on to suggest that the following factors (among others) be considered in the increased prevalence of bullying:
Media violence, ease of access to cable television and internet
Reality television and shock jock radio
Decrease in adult supervision and increase in psychosocial and conduct disorders
In discussing Donald Trump’s behavior, political commentators and pundits have bandied the word “bully” about, but as stated in 2010, the word itself diminishes the seriousness of the problem:
“Bullying is NOT about conflict. There is nothing to ‘work out’ between the victim and victimizer. Bullying is an aggressive behavior inflicted upon one person by another for reason other than a perceived power differential. Conflict resolution and mediation may send inadvertent messages that there is equal responsibility between (those) involved or worse, may further victimize . . . the target of bullying.”
Then I was talking about children and adolescents. Today, sadly, I am addressing the behavior and attitude of the potential president of the United States. Think about the backlash against Megyn Kelly after Donald Trump questioned her professionalism, the objectifying of Carly Fiorina, the disrespect of former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton and the ridicule of Senator Marco Rubio and the reporter, Serge Kovaleski. People of Mexican heritage, Muslim faith, and the Native American lineage of Senator Elizabeth Warren have all been the brunt of Othering.
As I’ve talked about this with family, friends and colleagues, I realize that while Donald Trump’s behavior and is personally repulsive, what I am given to think most about are the children and adolescents who are watching him. I, along with many others in education and the helping professions who strive to create culturally considerate climates for our nation’s youth, have devoted much of our careers to teaching students and clients NOT to behave like Donald Trump. We provide individual, group and community interventions to stabilize environments born of biased based beliefs. In a 30 second soundbite, Donald Trump dismantles our efforts and reinforces all of the negative attitudes and behaviors we have struggled to eliminate.
In the 2010 CharacterPlus blog, I suggested strategies for parents, teachers and communities to counteract bullying. They included:
Be clear in your disapproval of aggression, both in words and actions. Children learn by example.
Discuss adults who demonstrate bullying behavior and express your concerns. Give examples of how the situation could be handled better.
Help build emotional vocabularies. Encourage words beyond “fine” and “okay” (“huge” and “very, very good”).
Pay attention to negative or objectifying language and insist on explanations. Discuss alternative ways to speak about individuals who are different.
Take immediate action when an incident of bullying is brought to your attention. Be quick, clear and consistent in responding.
Follow through with consequences.
Insist on verbal acknowledgment, sincere apologies, and making amends to those who have been harmed by behavior or words. Model how this may be done.
In another CharacterPlus blog (Ending Bias Begins at Home, 2009), I offered unbiased life lessons to teach and remember:
Difference makes the world more interesting.
Everyone deserves respect.
Always speak out of kindness.
Never speak out of hate.
I also wrote, “The backlash of bias in the world today gives us an opportunity to help our children maneuver through this challenging time by teaching skills beyond tolerance.” Perhaps this challenging time of Donald Trump allows us a chance to once again revisit our own skills and use this as a teachable moment. Perhaps I should heed my own caution and be more empathic, more respectful, less intolerant of the man who would be king – if he could. (Wow, what a tall task.)