The Future of the U.S. and World Will Depend on Our Choices: Part 1
There will be a great deal of commentary about 2020, the election, and the aftermath. I would like to offer my perspective. For more than 50 years, I have been helping men live fully, love deeply, and make a positive difference in the world. On my website MenAlive.com, I discuss my ideas, write regular articles, and share the books I have written. Last week, I wrote “Authoritarian-Minded Males Storm The Capitol,” with initial reactions to the events on January 6, 2021. Here, I want to expand upon my perspective to address underlying causes and solutions.
Although everyone knows the name Donald Trump, everyone may not understand the words Trumpism, Partnerism, Strongmen, and Goodmen, or the choices we face in the future. I believe that Strongmen are the most immediate and present danger to men, women, children, and society. We need more good men who are willing to stand in opposition to the Strongmen mentality that is so prevalent in the world today.
Trumpism: More Than a Political Ideology
According to Wikipedia, Trumpism is a style of governance, political movement, and political ideology associated with United States President Donald Trump. It is an American version of the right-wing conservative and national populist sentiment seen in multiple nations worldwide.
But we get a more nuanced understanding in an article by Derek Thompson in The Atlantic magazine, “The Deep Story of Trumpism.”. Thompson says, “To some, Trumpism marks the beginning of a new Republican Party.” In this view, the Republican Party will choose new leaders, and their tie to Donald Trump will fade away. Thompson goes on to quote UC Berkeley sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild, who offers a different vision. Hochschild told Thomson:
“If there’s one thing I think the mainstream press still gets wrong about Trump, it’s that they are comfortable talking about economics and personality, but they don’t give primacy to feelings. To understand the future of the Republican Party, we have to act like political psychiatrists.”
In her 2016 book Strangers in Their Own Land, Hochschild went to the Deep South to study an emerging conservative identity and came away with something like a Rosetta Stone for the rise of Donald Trump. She offered a psychological allegory for the right-wing worldview, which she called the “deep story.”
The deep story went like this: You are an older white man without a college degree standing in the middle of a line with hundreds of millions of Americans. The queue leads up a hill, toward a haven just over the ridge, which is the American dream. Behind you in line, you can see a train of woeful souls—many poor, mostly nonwhite, born in America and abroad, young and old. “It’s scary to look back,” Hochschild writes. “There are so many behind you, and in principle, you wish them well. Still, you’ve waited a long time.”
Now you’re stuck in line because the economy isn’t working. And worse than stuck, you’re stigmatized; liberals in the media say every traditional thing you believe is racist and sexist. And what’s this? People are cutting in line in front of you! Something is wrong. The old line wasn’t perfect, but at least it was a promise. There is order in the fact of a line. And if that order is coming apart, then so is America.
While we can rightly condemn the attacks on our country that occurred on January 6, 2021, we can’t heal the underlying causes without understanding the feelings and fears of the deeper story that impacts the lives of men and their families. Trumpism, like McCarthyism in the 1950s, is based on fear and a desire of privileged white men to hold onto their power. It is based on separation and a belief that there is a limited supply of the “good things in life” and that those at the top of the hierarchy must protect what is theirs from those who would take it from them.
Partnerism: A New Understanding of An Ancient Way of Life
Partnerism is the latest focus of Riane Eisler, author of a number of groundbreaking books, including The Chalice & The Blade, Tomorrow’s Children, The Real Wealth of Nations, and her most recent book with Douglas P. Fry, Nurturing Our Humanity: How Domination and Partnership Shape Our Brains, Lives, and Future. She is President of the Center for Partnership Studies.
Eisler recognizes that our people and planet are in crisis. On her site, Partnerism.com, she says, “We can’t safely build a 21st-century world on an 18th-century operating system. The economic and social systems of the world are failing humanity and our planet. We are experiencing serious breakdowns:
- Environmental crises
- Health and wellness crises
- Immense wealth gap
- Systemic racial, gender, and religious biases
- Child abuse and mental health crises
- Political systems that can’t solve these problems.”
She says we must move from domination to Partnerism:
“The argument of capitalism versus socialism fails to recognize that both are rooted in domination. This system has caused 6,000+ years of suffering and injustice. There is another way — a socio-economic system that supports mutual respect, non-violence, equality, empowerment, and caring.”
Partnerism is inclusive. It is a system that can work for all—rich and poor, men and women, left and right. It’s not a perfect system, but it is based on our 2 million-year-old heritage of partnership before we got off track 6,000 years ago (See my article, “Living in the Liminal World: How to Navigate the Transition Between Domination and Partnership.”)
Strongmen Are Not Strong. They Are Wounded Men
Who Gain Power and Cause Great Harm
As a psychotherapist who specializes in men’s health issues, I have worked with and counseled thousands of men who appear strong on the outside but have experienced significant trauma and wounding as children. Their outer façade of strength masks a great deal of insecurity and anger. In May 2016, six months before the presidential election, I wrote an article, “The Real Reason Donald Trump Will Be the Next President,” and warned of the consequences should he be elected.
In the article, I said in part, “Donald Trump seems to have suffered abuse, neglect, and abandonment as a child. Many in the country, particularly white males, resonate with his rage.” My perceptions were validated by Mary L. Trump, PhD, Donald Trump’s niece, and a trained psychologist. In her book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, she says, “Donald’s father, Fred Trump Sr., destroyed Donald by interfering in his ability to develop and experience the entire spectrum of human emotion.” She goes on to say, “By limiting Donald’s access to his own feelings and rendering many of them unacceptable, Fred perverted his son’s perception of the world and damaged his ability to live in it.”
Donald Trump is not the only abused boy who grew up to become an abusive man and rise to power. In her recent book, Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present, internationally acclaimed historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat describes other world leaders including those from the past, such as Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler, as well as those living today, including Jair Bolsonaro, Brazilian president, Victor Orbán, Hungarian prime minister, Vladamir Putin, president of Russia, as well as Donald Trump.
In Strongmen, she describes the blueprint these leaders have followed over the past 100 years and calls on us to recognize, resist, and prevent their disastrous rule in the future. Ben-Ghiat says,
“For ours is the age of authoritarian rulers: self-proclaimed saviors of the nation who evade accountability while robbing their people of truth, treasure, and the protections of democracy. They promise law and order, then legitimize law-breaking by financial, sexual, and other predators.”
Since Strongmen are not really strong and resistance to their rule increases, all Strongmen are eventually toppled. In the final chapter of her book, Ben-Ghiat says,
“The Authoritarian Playbook has no chapter on failure. It does not foresee the leader’s own people turning against him. It has no pages on how to deal with him when he becomes a national disgrace.”
Let us turn our attention now to Goodmen.
Goodmen Who Are Truly Strong, Though by No Means
Perfect, Have Confronted and Healed Many Wounds
from Their Past, and Offer Blessings to the World.
There are good men at every level of society. To begin, let us reflect on our presidents. For C-SPAN’s most recent Presidential Historians Survey, conducted in 2017, nearly 100 historians and biographers rated 43 US presidents. The survey is released after a sitting president’s term, so C-SPAN will likely include current President Donald Trump in its next round of the ranking after he leaves office.
The 2017 C-SPAN survey measured ten qualities of presidential leadership: public persuasion, crisis leadership, economic management, moral authority, international relations, administrative skills, relations with Congress, vision, pursued equal justice for all, and performance within the context of his times.
Before I reveal the top five presidents, you might pause and ask yourself: what qualities would you include for being a Goodman? Which five presidents would you put at the top of your own list?
According to historians, these are the five top-rated presidents.
5. Dwight D. Eisenhower (34th president) ranked highly for his moral authority.
4. Theodore Roosevelt (26th president) ranked highly for his public persuasion.
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt (32nd president) ranked highly for his public persuasion and handling of international relations.
2. George Washington (1st president) ranked highly for his economic management, moral authority, and performance within the context of his times.
1. Abraham Lincoln (16th president) ranked best for his crisis leadership, administrative skills, vision, and pursued equal justice for all.
Part 2 will highlight the 12 Rules for Good Men, a few of the leading men’s health organizations in the world, and causes of our world-wide breakdown, and how we can heal the divide in our country and the world. Stay tuned. Please visit me at www.MenAlive.com.