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I’m glad Trump is feeling pain



It’s a great word, German in origin but reflecting a world tendency: feeling pleasure in the pain or embarrassment of others. Here’s a classic newspaper headline of schadenfreude:

Famous Vegan Writer Caught Shopping in Meat Department

Who wouldn’t derive a chuckle? The Japanese have a similar saying: “The misfortunes of others taste like honey.” My Hebrew ancestors—a tough crowd—said, “If you can’t say something nice, say it in Yiddish.” An aggrieved Jew might say to her tormentor, “I hope to see you on one leg and may you see me with one eye.”

It’s not nice to feel schadenfreude, but it’s only natural. And so I forgive myself for taking pleasure in the obvious pain and distress that Donald J. Trump is currently experiencing. With impeachment looming over his head, with his approval ratings plunging, with Republicans deserting him, with scandal after scandal biting him on his sizable butt, he is said by the Washington press corps (which knows about such things) to be increasingly isolated, frustrated and frightened. And, say I, good: it couldn’t happen to a more deserving man.

What is it about Donald J. Trump that we loathe? Let’s start with the reasons why we don’t loathe him. It’s not because he’s rich: most of us harbor no resentment against wealthy individuals. It’s not because he’s conservative. I don’t agree with most conservative positions (although I do with some), but most conservatives don’t make me nauseous. It’s not because he’s an adulterer—so were Presidents JFK and Clinton, and I liked and admired them both as presidents. So those are not the reasons I dislike Trump so intensely.

Beyond all those things, what I detest about Trump is his character, or lack of it. I don’t need to launch into an extensive inventory of his faults, because you know them as well as I do. But, just to keep things brief, I’ll mention his dishonesty and the apparent absence of a conscience.

Those are terrible, awful character flaws in any human being, but magnified by the power and influence of the presidency, they become absolute catastrophes for a country that has the misfortune to be ruled by an amoral, pathological liar. I’ve lived through 13 U.S. Presidents—everyone from Truman to Trump—and not until this current one have I seen anyone in that office so lowdown. I don’t like lowdown people. I’ve been educated from birth in such values as decency, morality, integrity, fairness and honesty. I believe in those values; without them, civilization itself would not have arisen and could not survive. It all comes down to the Golden Rule. Miss Manners—one of my favorite columnists—puts it crudely but accurately:

“Etiquette is important because we can’t stand the way that other people treat us. Although we want the right to be able to behave in any way we want. Somehow a compromise is in order, if you want to live in communities. If you live on a mountaintop by yourself, it’s not necessary”

In other words, as long as you and I have to live together—and we do—we’re mutually obligated to treat each other with respect, to be harmless unless defending ourselves, and to not say or do things that needlessly make others feel bad. That’s how I live, or try to; it’s how you try to live; it’s how most people try to live. Our distant proto-human ancestors realized this fundamental “art of the deal” of getting along: “I won’t hurt you, or steal from you, and you won’t hurt me, or steal from me.” And thus we can organize ourselves into societies that evolve cultures, and evolve the human race.

Donald J. Trump seems to be missing that elemental gene. One word routinely used to describe him is sociopath, which means Trump’s personality disorder manifests itself in antisocial attitudes and conscience-less behavior. Nobody likes antisocial people: the misanthrope, the grouch next door, the cursing loner isn’t someone we want in our neighborhoods, in our lives. The conscience-less person is someone we know we have to beware: he is capable of violence, of harming us and our loved ones, is in fact the solvent that dissolves the glue that holds human society together. Such people are to be shunned.

That’s why I experience schadenfreude at Donald J. Trump’s troubles. The man has brought all this upon himself. Nature didn’t make him conscience-less. Nature provided him with a conscience; he voluntarily threw it away, with the thought that only weaklings and suckers have consciences. We—the members of The Resistance, who constitute a majority of the American people—are now teaching Donald J. Trump that we’re not weaklings and we’re not suckers. He, in fact, is the sucker, because he believes he can get away with being indecent in a nation in which nearly everybody values decency. He’s now finding out how wrong he is.

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