Sam Smith – The rise of someone as evil and dishonest as Donald Trump reflects decades of change in the moral culture of our land. As in a mob controlled society truth has become just one more device to distort or destroy not as a rare presumed necessity but as a repeated aspect of life. This is why Trump does not trouble so many Americans; he reflects values that as a culture we have increasingly come to accept.
There are many factors behind this rise of deceit. Movies, television and, later, the Internet all played a role aided in no small part by the manipulation of advertising and public relations. Forget about politicians and think how many distortions you see each day on your own TV.
The decline of church membership and an increasing school emphasis on personal success with indifference to moral community behavior also contributed significantly, as did a media that increasingly became a part of the establishment it was meant to accurately describe.
In many ways the Reagan era – with its emphasis on corporatism and achievement without moral consideration – gave our present mobster style culture an important boost. Then we had Richard Nixon who resigned to avoid impeachment, Bill Clinton who was impeached and Donald Trump who was impeached twice. Only one other president – Andrew Johnson – had ever been impeached before.
What is fascinating about both Clinton and Trump is how little interest the media showed in the details of their seamy sides. For example, Clinton was born in Hot Springs Arkansas. As Paul Bosson, a prosecutor in this town put it
In Hot Springs, growing up here, you were living a lie. You lived a lie because you knew that all of these activities were illegal. I mean, as soon as you got old enough to be able to read a newspaper, you knew that gambling in Arkansas was illegal, prostitution was illegal. And so you lived this lie, so you have to find some way to justify that to yourself and, you know, you justify it by saying, “Well,” you know, “it’s okay here.“
When Clinton served as governor, he supervised one of the country’s very top states for the importation of illegal drugs. And there were ties to the BCCI scandal and other matters ignored by the media in favor of just covering Monica Lewinsky.
Hillary Clinton got the same treatment, the media ignoring, for example, the number of key associates -including a business partner, law partner and financial middle man who ended up in jail.
As for Trump, like Clinton, the press has concentrated on the easiest things to cover. Think of how little attention has been given to his alleged sexual misbehavior or to the reality of his business behavior, illustrated by a Wikipedia excerpt:
Four of Trump’s businesses have declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy….’
Over the course of his career, Trump has initiated and been the target of “hundreds” of civil lawsuits, which his lawyer Alan Garten said in 2015 was “a natural part of doing business in this country”….
In 2009, Trump was sued by investors who had put down deposits, typically $200,000-$300,000 per person, for condos in the failed Trump Ocean Resort Baja Mexico. …
In 2013, a lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman accused Trump of defrauding more than 5,000 people of $40 million for the opportunity to learn Trump’s real estate investment techniques in a for-profit training program, Trump University, which operated from 2005 to 2011…
And that’s just the tip of it. The fact is that we live in a mobbed up community called America.
What can we do about? At the national level not much. Because this is a cultural – even more than just a political – change any reform will probably have to come from the bottom. Our politicians, major media, corporations, and national institutions may not be direct players in the mud but they live in it and assume it to be natural.
I believe it can be changed. For the past decade I have lived in a small town in Maine where the major players – from town councilor to police chief and business owner – are fair and honest. We have a community service agency that provides all sorts of help to those in need supported in part by a thrift shop filled with goods donated by fellow town folk.
Among the things we can do is to change the curricula of our schools so that decency is as important as algebra and that success includes learning how to cooperate with others. Churches could make the practice of good faith as important as belief in it. We could use more business cooperatives and institutions that addressed the real problems of our citizens. And the young could lead us in the right direction as they did in the 1960s.
And remember, there were hundreds of new environmemtal laws passed by states and towns before Washington ever got around to it. We can do the same thing with decency.