People who are basically good sometimes cannot help doing evil. Conversely, an evil man cannot help doing some good.
We made a serious mistake when we elected Donald Trump. He has done great harm to the United States and does more every day he is in office. We must oppose him, and to do this effectively we must look at his actions objectively. When we do this, we can see that he has actually done some good, albeit unwittingly. Here are five reasons we should be grateful to him.
Trump has opened our eyes to election tampering.
With the assistance of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump has helped Americans to realize that our electoral system is more vulnerable than we thought. Hostile foreign governments can manipulate the process to help their favored candidate. The fact that Russia was so successful in doing this in 2016 has forced citizens to take the threat more seriously. We are now beginning to deal with these problems. By the time of the 2018 midterms, the US had made progress in dealing with cyber-attacks by foreign powers and will continue to defend against them in the crucial 2020 elections. We have the Putin/Trump team to thank for alerting us to this threat.
Trump has shown us the costs of polarization and hatred.
One of the reasons why Putin’s trolls were able to influence the 2016 Presidential election was that they were able to identify issues on which Americans were already polarized and exacerbate these conflicts. There seemed to be three main threads in Russia’s propaganda campaign: smearing the Black Lives Matter movement, exploiting anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment, and amplifying conflict over gun rights issues.
We admire the skill with which these insidious Russian operatives identified and exploited these issues. They have actually helped citizens who want to focus on America’s most divisive issues and find ways to reduce polarization. Before Trump’s election, we thought this country had made great progress in race relations. However, Trump and the white nationalist and racist groups who support him have shown us that we have a lot more work to do. By exploiting racial polarization and anti-immigrant sentiment, President Trump and Putin’s minions have helped us to wake up to reality.
Trump has energized opposition and thereby stimulated the democratic process.
Voter apathy has been criticized by many politicians but Trump has actually done something about it. He is partially responsible for the high turnout among voters in the 2018 midterm elections, as well as the election of a group of Democratic candidates with diverse ethnic backgrounds and impressive skills. His arrogance and disregard for democratic norms and ideals has helped to energize a great many political movements and give them focus. Trump also deserves some of the credit for the large number of Democratic candidates who have already declared that they will run for President in 2020.
Trump has helped us to renew our commitment to basic values.
Most of us have religious or ethical values that stress behaving decently toward other human beings and showing compassion for those who are suffering. Trump is indifferent to others’ suffering and his callousness actually increases our compassion for the victims of his misguided, capricious, and mean-spirited policies such as the separation of children from their families at the US border with Mexico.
Furthermore, he gives us an opportunity to cultivate compassion for people like him. Trump is suffering deeply because he is firmly in the grip of hatred and greed. With each malicious act he becomes more at war with the rest of humanity. This presents an opportunity for people to cultivate compassion or loving kindness.
We are Buddhists, and we now meditate daily on loving kindness for our President. When we do, we recite the phrase, “May President Trump find the wisdom to resign.” When practicing loving kindness, Buddhists explicitly remind themselves that all people are seeking happiness, but that some have mistaken assumptions about how to get it. This is certainly true of Trump. By understanding the views of people like him we can understand their actions and the reasons why they feel these actions will lead to happiness. If their actions are harming themselves and others, we can help them to abandon these actions more skillfully.
Trump has forced us to ask better questions.
Many of us are trying to understand how a person as unqualified as Trump was elected. To do this, it is necessary to ask better questions about our electoral system, our government, and our society. In the era of the internet, asking good questions has become an essential skill. This is because we can obtain information in seconds that used to require hours or days of library or field research.
Through the process of inquiring we progressively refine our questions. For example, as we explore the question of how Trump was elected we learn that the majority of voters actually voted for Hilary Clinton, but Trump won in the Electoral College. This leads to another question – “should we eliminate the Electoral College?” It also leads to a better question about Trump’s election: “why did a near-majority vote for Trump?” The purpose of inquiry is not only to find answers but also to ask better questions.
Citizens now have access to an incredible amount of information. The secret to getting the information we want is learning to ask the right questions. We have Donald Trump to thank for helping us recognize how important it is to improve our skills in this respect. The release of a redacted version of the Mueller report gives us an excellent opportunity to practice and refine our questioning skills.
Because of the harm President Trump is doing we must oppose him and encourage him to leave office as soon as possible. This does not mean, however, that he has done no good. We have at least five reasons to be grateful to the man who currently misleads the USA.
Because of him, we are more aware of election tampering, dysfunctional polarization, and the need for energetic opposition to an incompetent and reckless leader. More importantly, he is helping us renew our commitment to our basic ethical and religious values. Most important of all, he has forced us to admit that we elected a president who is completely unfit for the job. In order to avoid making the same mistake again, we must learn to think more clearly and ask better questions.
When we think about the good President Trump has inadvertently done, we are reminded of a quote from Goethe’s Faust.
Faust to Mephistopheles: “Who are you?”
Mephistopheles to Faust: “I am a part of that vast power that wills forever evil, but alas, does forever good.”
People who are basically good sometimes cannot help doing evil. Conversely, an evil man cannot help doing some good. For the good he has done by accident we say, “Thank you Mr. President.”
This article is written by Susan L. Rhodes And Charles R. Schwenk and originally appeared in openDemocracy.
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