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7/25/16

USA: Destiny Lost? Trump and a US Off Its Moorings - by Michael J. Brenner

Americans are struggling to draw into focus their exalted image of themselves and reality. They are not doing a very good job of it. The gap is wide and growing — and it is this very gap that Donald Trump seeks to exploit for his personal political gain.

Trump understands that Americans feel powerless in good measure because of what has been happening beyond the country’s shores, and over which the United States lacks the means to exercise decisive influence.

Our collective response has been one of avoidance and evasion. Why? Because We Americans seem to fear that if we stare at reality squarely, we will find reality staring back at us in a most discomforting way.

To a considerable extent, that is a consequence of our country’s foreign policy elites’ inclination to over-promise and under-deliver. Trump pinpoints that weakness most skillfully. The true irony of his act, however, is that he is bound to be the biggest over-promiser and under-deliverer ever.

Fading prowess is one of the most difficult things for humans to cope with – whether it be an individual or a nation. By nature, we prize our strength and competence. We dread decline and its intimations of extinction.

This is especially so in the United States where for many the individual and the collective are inseparable. Today, events are occurring that contradict the national narrative of a nation with a unique destiny. That creates cognitive dissonance.

Our thoughts and actions in response to that deeply unsettling reality conform to the classic behavioral pattern of those suffering from acute cognitive dissonance.

Denial is its cardinal feature. That is to say, denial of those things that cause stress and anxiety. Sublimation methods of various kinds are deployed to keep them below the threshold of conscious awareness.

We all do that, to some degree, on a personal level. Groups, even very large ones, can do it as well.

In the latter case, we are speaking of troublesome military actions, abusive state behavior like the conduct of torture, diplomatic deals that are permissive of unsavory actions by others, or studied misrepresentations by government and media which hide unpleasant truths from the populace.

At a more abstract level, we repress or minimize perceptions of us by other peoples, our relative well-being compared to other societies (medical care, maternity leave, pensions), or national competence as demonstrated by accomplishment in comparison with other societies (constructing mass transportation systems).

The crudest denial mechanism is literal avoidance. If you don’t travel abroad, you don’t see. You don’t inform yourself about any of the above mentioned matters by:

    abstaining from following the news,
    reading only reassuring reports,
    excluding all contradictory sources as “alien” or “subversive;”
    declaring the world as too complex to decipher;
    appraising serious issues of national policy as “above my pay grade,” while ignoring the core democratic precept that as the citizen of a republic, nothing is above your pay grade

Another avoidance mechanism is to stress systematically those features of other nations or situations that conform to the requirements of the American national narrative while neglecting or downplaying opposite features. 

Read more: Destiny Lost? Trump and a US Off Its Moorings - The Globalist

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