We are Trump and Trump is Us

Justin D. Henderson, PhD
12 min readOct 16, 2020

Trump is the outcome of an unexamined life in an unexamined culture.

Image by Tibor Janosi Mozes from Pixabay

“Man is the cruelest animal.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

Sitting crossed-legged on a meditation cushion, I conjure up three distinctly different people. The point of the practice is to extend compassion to others, and the challenge, quite frankly, is to see how I resist such efforts to certain others. It’s a three-part process where you first focus on a loved one that you care about, then a neutral other, and wraps up with a difficult person.

For each of these folks that enter my mind, the practice instructed me to connect with their wish to be happy and contemplate their capacity to experience suffering. It is usually easier to offer someone you care about compassion than offer it so freely to someone you find difficult.

The point of the practice is to settle into a place where you can appreciate the common humanity of these three people with which we have different relationships. Then you extend your vision to the whole world and offer compassion to all people. It’s quite a powerful practice.

Compassion for Trump?…yikes

When attempting this meditation, my mind wanted to fixate on Trump as a difficult person. It makes a great deal of sense to me. First, I’m not too fond of Trump. My mind puts him into a category perhaps more intensely defined than “difficult” most of the time! Before he was president, I found him to be a tacky, desperate man. As president, I see him as shallow, cruel, and predatory.

But Trump is still a human being.

Trump, like all of us, wants to be happy. Trump, like all of us, knows pain.

Trump’s cruelty, selfishness, and hunger for fame did not happen by accident. His complete disregard of other people and his obsession with being adored did not occur in a vacuum. It happened to a human raised in a particular culture that, at worst, admires people with delusions of grandeur and, at best, tolerates such traits.

Sitting on a meditation cushion, contemplating a person I would rather not have in such a mental space, did afford me some newfound perspective. Trump has become, in many respects, a parable for which we all collectively need to…

Justin D. Henderson, PhD

Dr. Justin D. Henderson is a psychologist, professor of counseling, and organizational consultant. He’s a Medium Top Writer in Leadership and Business.