This is a dark day for parents, teachers, and children across America.
As one president and his family, worthy of emulation, exit the White House, a man enters office about whom the best we can hope is that through his example he exerts as little influence as possible.
Of this much we can be reasonably sure: anyone who cites Donald Trump as the justification for their behavior most likely just did something that common decency could not otherwise justify.
In a recent interview Trump was asked whether he had any heroes and he responded by saying, “I don’t like the concept of heroes, the concept of heroes is never great,” and it makes sense that this would be the view of a man who never tires of telling everyone about his own greatness.
How could Trump express admiration for another person without implicitly calling into question his own capacities? How could he admit he looked up to anyone without placing himself in a position of inferiority?
Although on the question of heroes, Trump initially directs a nod of respect towards his father — “I’ve learnt a lot from my father … I learnt a lot about negotiation” — he immediately goes on to cast doubt on the foundation of learning.
What makes someone a great negotiator, or great salesman, or great politician is their “natural ability.” This, according to Trump, is “much more important” than experience.
Now apply this philosophy to an education system. Schools would less be places of learning than warehouses for scouting talent. Pick out the few with natural ability and discard the rest.
Apply this to a country and the job of government becomes to brush away all unnecessary obstacles to success (regulations) so that those with natural ability are given free rein to shape our world as they see fit.
And in order to disguise the worst form of elitism as somehow serving the common good, repeatedly and loudly declare that all is done in the service of the nation.
The fact that Donald Trump was sworn in as a president with lower approval ratings than any other in modern history might seem to indicate that even though he can now claim that title, “most powerful man in the world,” he does not in fact represent America — that he has arrived in Washington as an impostor. Indeed, the roles played by Russia and the FBI make it clear that Trump didn’t win the election by virtue of his natural ability.
Yet Trump’s candidacy was not a fabrication — it was a product of his own ambition and unrestrained grandiosity. And much as many Americans may now wish to disavow this president, he does in fact represent America by representing this country and its culture of confused values at its worst — through its celebration of celebrity; through its admiration of wealth; through its devaluation of decency; and through its lack of appreciation for the virtue of learning and the cultivation of wisdom.