There are times to believe in people’s teachability and neuroplasticity. That’s most of the time. There are times to wonder about how to effectively educate people and really lead them to see things in new lights. That’s also most of the time. Then there are times when you have to realize that some people are simply uneducable. They have an unquestioning sense of their own brilliance. They are, as David Orr might have said, so ignorant that they don’t know the reach of their actions and are all the more brazen in achieving their desires. And every ounce of their desire is fed by their intellects and their intellects are slaves to their desires. They are universal wolves who at last eat themselves up.
Donald Trump is a universal wolf eating himself and everything else in front of him. Negotiating with or educating such a man is a) impossible and b) a bad choice. I don’t think I need to share any evidence that it’s impossible. Just watch the news in the next three days to see numerous examples of how little he knows and cares. He exemplifies the burglar from John Dewey’s Experience and Education. Were it remotely possible, he shouldn’t be taught anyway because he’s shown himself to be an irredeemable bully, interested only in himself, and working with him to make solar great in the US (or some other such thing) would teach every one around us that cow-towing to tyrants is somehow good. Martin Luther King, Jr. wouldn’t have done it. Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela didn’t do it. Neither should we.
Some of the best conversations I’ve had and important community relationships I’ve developed have come from attending science and religion conversations at a local evangelical church. Sadly, the pastor was jettisoned for being too open. But it was me, a bio prof, and five evangelicals who were invested in meeting one another and developing community.
So let’s make those happen. Everywhere. Every day. The hope is in us and our commitments to dignity and to those will entertain dignity by granting it to us. If we do that, we make him unnecessary and we build the kind of society that respects free speech, free assembly, free religion, free press, and free inquiry. He isn’t and won’t be a part of it.
The only way to teach such a person is to show him his errors repeatedly until he falls apart and must be rebuilt. It would be an amazing thing to see Trump go into an incredible darkness and emerge a transformed hero. Amazing. And it could happen. But he would have to hear the call of the hero, traverse the labyrinth, and come out the other side transformed after asking for help. I am hopeful that it could happen, but not optimistic. Until then, we need to lock him in a maze of his own delusions while we build the world outside of it that we want. So stamp your feet and fight like hell in one part of your life and open your home, your heart, and your mind the rest of the time to those who won’t ruin yours and everyone else’s house.
By all means, please reach out to those who have shreds of decency remaining, but don’t waste your time playing nice to a dictator.