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Friday, June 15, 2018

Reign Of The Madmen

Visiting the Reagan Presidential Library over a year ago impressed upon me the Gipper’s charm and cordiality toward Gorbachev.  Yet Reagan was also fiercely resolute in his conviction that people desire to forge their own destinies.  It was the two Cold War leaders riding horses together as much as it was Reagan’s defiance at the Brandenburg Gate that ended the threat of communism in Europe.

It was a fine example of the “neo-noblesse oblige” that had been the template since World War II.  Countless perished in that conflict due in no small amount to the failure of “gentleman diplomacy” on the part of the upper crust.  But for its time, that was sanity.  And then a new sanity dawned with the rising of a false sun over Hiroshima.

Yet Ronald Reagan… was insane.  Or so we were told by pundits and academics.

Speaking of peace while drastically building up the American nuclear arsenal. An unprecedented military re-investment.  Strategic Defense Initiative.  The latter especially indicated Reagan’s “lack of sound mind.” “Men of peace” do not behave this way, insisted the experts.  “Good feelings” and nice words would prevail.  Drawing-down strategic assets and ultimately freezing nuclear weapons: that was sanity.

Except that very same “sanity” had locked the superpowers into a torturous drawn-out wait for inescapable Armageddon.

Reagan’s insanity is now regarded by all but the most stiff-hearted as superior genius.  He knew the Soviet Union was damned to fail… and so Reagan expedited its collapse by giving Moscow no choice but to spend itself into imploding.  More than a generation of Americans and Russians have now appreciated life without nuclear nightmare.

Somehow, since Reagan departed office, the world has gone un-sane.  The “sane ones” have taken over the asylum.  And we are all the worse for it.

Then came what to many was the night of June the Eleventh.  The gravitas of the flags of the United States and North Korea, arrayed together in official capacity, cannot be understated.  There was the handshake between President Trump and Kim Jong Un before the two retreated into private discussions followed by lunch.  Shortly afterward it was revealed that Kim had already agreed in April to commit toward de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

And then came Dennis Rodman, live from Singapore, in what must go down as among the most surreal moments in the annals of global diplomacy.

The former pro basketball star -- festooned in facial metal, a “Make America Great Again” cap and a marijuana cryptocurrency shirt -- broke down in tears during a bizarre interview on CNN.  There is no reason not to take Rodman at his word when he described attempting his best to communicate overtures from Kim to then-President Obama, only to be roundly rebuffed (read as: “ignored”) by Obama.  It appears that for all of Rodman’s antics in Pyongyang, he was more driven and sincere than most of us gave him credit for.  CNN’s Chris Cuomo looked as hapless as Robb Stark at the Red Wedding.

Cast pity upon the future generations of high school teachers.

Within hours “The Worm” was being hailed as Nobel-worthy.  Almost as a garnish, Scott Adams put the circumstances into context better than journalists who have made lifelong careers of such commentary.  The creator of the comic strip Dilbert explained how Kim had been won over through his love of American cinematography and presented on a tablet screen.  Adams hailed it as perhaps “the best negotiation video in the history of man.”

This is not what statesmanship looks like.  Dennis Rodman is not the second coming of Henry Kissinger and the mind behind Dogbert doesn’t have a clue.  iPads are no substitute for champagne.  This kind of insanity is not supposed to prevail on a global stage.  At least not without being confronted with multilateral airstrikes and petty cliches.

That is what “sane” professionals have insisted, especially since the prospect of a Trump presidency first surfaced.  Oh yes, “beer summits” and gestures like giving Queen Elizabeth an iPod and unloading pallets of gold bullion onto the tarmac in Tehran… that is sanity, the experts have told us.  That is what “legitimate international negotiation” is meant to look like.

Lest it be said this was peculiar to Obama, his immediate predecessors worked with sanity also.  George W. Bush was known for hosting barbecues honoring dignitaries at his Potemkin ranch, and Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeline Albright hoisted flutes with Kim Jong Il in the heart of Pyongyang.  Three administrations have exemplified a quarter century of global sanity and the success of those minds has proven dismal at best.  Among other things Obama’s sanity almost certainly helped to fund Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

A few days before the Singapore summit, CNBC correspondent John Harwood questioned the mental health of President Trump.  “I'll be honest as a citizen, I'm concerned about the president's state of mind,” Harwood said.  “He did not look well to me in that press conference.  He was not speaking logically or rationally.”

It was far from the first time that mainstream journalists and his political nemeses have diagnosed Trump with having psychiatric issues.  Disregard that very few possess medical credentials and those who might have not accompanied Mr. Trump through the protocols necessary to render such a verdict.   Curiously, many of those same observers applauded Robert De Niro dropping F-bombs on live television less than twenty-four hours before the summit as “sane” behavior.  But, I digress.

As someone who has lived with bipolar disorder and especially severe depression for most of his adult life, I would offer an alternative assessment of the current President of the United States:

I know what having a mental illness is about.  I have lost track of the different medications, the therapists and psychiatrists, and the hospitalizations that have transpired toward reining in a mind turned against itself.  So let me cut to the chase: I do not see any indicators whatsoever of mental illness in Donald J. Trump.

I do however see within the man a rare acceptance of his own sense of identity and understanding of why he holds to his beliefs.  Somehow that has become construed by some to be “arrogance”, “belligerence”, and that bugaboo “narcissism”.

For a number of reasons, I could not support or vote for Trump when he was campaigning for President (and Hillary Clinton would never under any circumstance get my vote).  At times Trump behaves in ways that are confounding and frustrating, mostly in regard to the decorum of office.  Case in point: his poor choice of words at last summer’s National Boy Scout Jamboree.

That being said, Trump has otherwise not only not displayed any mental incapacity whatsoever, he has demonstrated an enviable grasp and willingness to confront reality.  “Narcissism”?  That is a condition of someone so uncomfortable with their own existence that he or she justifies it at the expense of all others.  Per that measure, Trump is the least narcissistic President or any contender in a generation.  He is proving to be not unlike in leadership as Winston Churchill: someone who did have bipolar disorder, incidentally.

It’s too easy to associate deviation with madness.  Often they who do so err in assuming that every person is neurobiology and organic chemistry and nothing more.  They ignore that we also are mind and soul.  That we are not creatures of instinct but are meant for thought and all of responsibilities that come with it.

Scripture teaches that man’s wisdom is foolishness to God.  We have certainly seen the “wisdom” of leadership in recent decades.  It has been weighed and found wanting in the scales.  “Insanity”, as Einstein famously observed, is repeating the same mistake and expecting a different result every time.

We have tried diplomatic sanity.  It has failed and no amount of protesting from the Obamas or the Clintons or the Bushes or their supporters can alter that.  Yet in the space of a few hours, Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un accomplished more than seventy years of their predecessors and professional negotiators achieved combined.

Maybe it’s time we try with little more than faith and hope and heart, enjoined with thought.  Perhaps now we should give real sanity a chance to prove its qualities.

There sits that sanity personified, at the site of the most historic and successful summit meeting of the modern era, in the form of Dennis Rodman.

If this be madness, may we suffer more of it.


JeffY said...

I don't think this is your original article Chris. Why? Because it hasn't a single italics or bold text!

Chris Knight said...

I'm practicing self-restraint :-P