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Tomgram: Frida Berrigan, A Mother Confronts the Wounded Ego of the Century

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There had never been a "concession" statement like it. It was short, to the point, and in addition to the usual accusations of "lyin'" leveled at Ted Cruz, compared his victorious measures to the ruse the Greeks used to destroy Troy, accused him of outright illegal acts, as well as election thievery, and claimed that even the label "puppet" was too kind by half. Here's how that 157-word release began -- and I know at this point you won't be shocked to learn that I'm quoting from the statement the Trump campaign put out after The Donald was stomped in Wisconsin: "Donald J. Trump withstood the onslaught of the establishment yet again. Lyin' Ted Cruz had the Governor of Wisconsin, many conservative talk radio show hosts, and the entire party apparatus behind him. Not only was he propelled by the anti-Trump Super PAC's spending countless millions of dollars on false advertising against Mr. Trump, but he was coordinating with his own Super PACs (which is illegal) who totally control him. Ted Cruz is worse than a puppet -- he is a Trojan horse, being used by the party bosses attempting to steal the nomination from Mr. Trump."

Admittedly, the full statement lacked words like "vampire," "pimp," and "zombie," but in its relative restraint the Trump campaign was undoubtedly reserving its fire for any election losses still to come on the road to the Big Smash-Up (that used to be called "the Republican convention"). It's also true that, despite the expectations of New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz, Trump has not yet filed a suit against the state of Wisconsin and its voters for his loss there. But if you think we can make it through this "election" season without recourse to the experts (and by that I naturally mean expert satirists, humorists, and cartoonists), then you truly are a -- in the Trumpian tradition of insult -- mad person or, actually, a zombie! Not having a satirist, cartoonist, or humorist in sight, TomDispatch has gone in another direction today in trying to grasp the essence of what we're watching and make a little sense of it. Thanks to TomDispatchregular Frida Berrigan, it's turning to a different set of experts who know something special about the boundaries of the All-Absorbing Self and others: children. So sit back in that swing, give yourself a push, and listen up. Tom

Make Trump Great Again!
Taking The Donald to Toddler Town
By Frida Berrigan

So far, I've dealt with Donald Trump's bid for the White House as performance art: a clever, full-body, self-marketing scheme in the fashion of actor Joaquin Phoenix restyling himself as a hip hop artist to promote his mockumentary I'm Still Here. You remember that odd media moment from a few years back, right? When the handsome star of the Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line grew a huge beard and rapped incoherently on David Letterman? I can't be the only one, can I?

So I keep waiting for the Trump-presidential-run punch line. I mean, what is his endless campaign that's conquered America's and even the world's attention 24/7 really selling: the new Trumptopian private community on the Moon (or in Burma)?

Still, after all these months -- can it truly be nearly a year and not an eon or two? -- I guess I finally have to accept that he's really running for president and I have to figure out how to explain Donald Trump to my kids. At nine, three, and two, they may be the only Americans left who aren't in the know when it comes to The Donald -- and, believe me, I have no illusions. This is going to be tough! After all, he makes me scream at the screen, which leads my kids to wonder not about him but about their mom. It goes without saying (which is undoubtedly why I'm saying it) that he's the antithesis of everything I believe in. Why are you not surprised by this? I'm way left of Bernie Sanders. I don't usually admit it in public, but I'm probably going to vote for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. She talks about deep system change and a human-centered economy, and that's the kind of talk I like.

Please note that, in good Mom fashion, so far I've used only "I statements" and I'm always polite (when not screaming at that screen). Come to think of it, I pretty much only argue about politics with other people who read the New York Times with a highlighter in one hand, their indignation in reserve, and a pad of paper ready to make notes for their next rational (yet withering) letter to the editor that won't be published.

So, it's no surprise that Donald Trump pushes all my buttons, even a few I hadn't noticed that I had, which is why I've tried to relegate him to the National Enquirer end of the media-political spectrum. But now that the Enquirer is breaking stories of "political import" in the era of The Donald and he's even more of a household name than ever, it's time to reconcile with reality. It's time to accept that, even though (or do I mean because?) he's racist and sexist, blustering and entitled, full of lies and blames and hates, he's a Republican presidential candidate of consequence. I know, I know -- I'm the last person in the United States to do this, but bear with me.

And even if he doesn't win (please, GOD, yes!), who can deny that this election says something sad, troubling, and important, if not -- in the Trumpian tradition -- unbearably self-important, about our country? I imagine a President Trump and I immediately want to move my whole family to the other side of his big, fat, future "beautiful" wall on the border with Mexico.

All of this means that maybe trying to explain The Donald Phenomenon to my kids is a lost cause from the start. I'll just get screechy and irrational and nine-year-old Rosena will go into preteen mode and roll her eyes, while three-year-old Seamus will say: "Mom, why are you pullin' on your hair and cryin'?" As I'm reading about Trump, however -- and like all Americans these days, to read is to Trump and to view is to Trump, so I'm totally Trumped -- I've been thinking lately that maybe I have the whole thing upside down. It's not that I should teach my kids about him, but that my kids could teach him a thing or two about how to be a good person. They could make him great again! Maybe what we need to do is take Donald Trump back to toddler town.

"Mine" Is a Chilling Word

"Mine, Madeline! It's mine." The kids are both pulling on Olaf's arms. The tiny, hug-loving snowman from Frozen is stretched between them, and Seamus is technically correct: Olaf was a Christmas present from his big sister Rosena. I am, however, trying to teach them the concept of "ours" and sharing and taking turns as well. If it isn't something they can share -- like books -- they can at least trade off, so that both Seamus and his younger sister have a chance to enjoy the object of affection exclusively for a few minutes.

The objects in our house -- except for the high-tech, expensive, and dangerous ones (which are MINE) -- belong to all of us and should be used and enjoyed responsibly by all of us. That's how we officially operate. My mother, an activist in her own right, always told my brother, sister, and me that "mine is a chilling word." Isn't that a great line? I don't use it a lot, because the kids get sidetracked by what chilling means.

It's no surprise that they are only partway there in moments that really matter like that dispute over Olaf, but Seamus is savvy enough to recognize that deploying the word "ours" when Madeline (the house baby at 2) says "mine" is a good way of getting my attention and some kind of interventionary help against his little sister. Madeline just learned the word "everybody's" as in "This ball is everybody's." It's mighty cute, even if it does sometimes still stand in for "mine." And we keep trying.

Trump obviously stopped trying a long time ago, or was never taught to begin with. He has a "mine" problem. Maybe it's because he was brought up with a silver knife in his mouth. Maybe his father told him "You are a king" and taught him to be a "killer" in childhood, business, and life. Who knows? His father is the "Old Man Trump," the grim landlord that folk troubadour Woody Guthrie wrote and sang about (after signing a lease for one of his apartments): "I suppose/ Old Man Trump knows/ Just how much/ Racial hate/ He stirred up/ In the bloodpot of human hearts." (In the 1970s, young Donald Trump and his family were compelled to provide the New York Urban League with a listing of every open apartment in their vast New York City holdings of 14,000 apartments after being sued for racial discrimination by the Justice Department.)

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)

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