What connection does Donald Trump have with Br’er Rabbit in Joel Harris’s Uncle Remus folktale about a rabbit that tricked a fox into throwing him in a briar patch?
Trump said he really didn’t want to be president. Running for president was just another game he was playing to get structure, recognition, and stimulation, and to make more money. He thought the free publicity he would receive from mainstream media running for president would more than pay for whatever he had to pay in his own money to run, causing the sales of his various “brands” to increase—selling and renting hotel rooms, rounds of golf, apartments, condos, office space, retail space, steaks, wine, beauty pageants, reality TV shows, college courses, books, casino gambling, and what have you.
Uncle Remus’s rabbit got caught in a tar pit and got so much tar stuck to him that he couldn’t run fast enough to escape a fox that caught him and wanted to eat him for supper. Knowing his situation was dire the rabbit pleaded with the fox to do whatever he wanted to do with him, “except please do not throw me in that briar patch over yonder.” After listening to several alternative punishments suggested by the rabbit other than throwing him in the briar patch the fox decided throwing the rabbit in the briar patch might be an interesting thing to do, so he threw the rabbit in the briar patch just to see what would happen. The rabbit licked the tar off him in the briar patch and escaped, making a fool of the fox. Adding insult to injury, the rabbit taunted the fox as he merrily ran away, letting him know he had been born and raised in a briar patch.
Not only did Trump say he didn’t want to win the presidency, he said he didn’t think he had a chance of winning; and reports are he and his wife were initially distraught when he did win, even shedding tears, albeit crocodile tears perhaps. Unfortunately for Trump, assuming this story is true, he over-estimated his Republican candidates in the primaries; and after he won the Repug nomination, a smart rich hedge fund fox, Robert Mercer, decided he wanted to see what would happen if Trump won the general election, so he shelled out big money and helped craft a winning strategy for his campaign, causing Trump to be thrown in the briar patch.
“Winning” the general election showed reverse psychology can work assuming Trump really did want to be president; or his original plan and scheme failed, if he truly did not want to be president of the US. Regardless, he is now burrowed up in a political briar patch in the White House, having been thrown in there by oligarchs and his voters. It remains to be seen whether Trump can escape his briar patch to merrily live happily ever after, as the rabbit presumably did in Uncle Remus’s folktale.
Although Trump appeared shocked and dismayed at first because of winning the general election, after giving his “victory” more thought, the story goes, he decided it must have been a good thing for him to win or it would not have happened, proving he really was special, so he decided to get on with the job in a manly forthright way, switching on the Drama Triangle from the Victim position to the Rescuer position.
Trump would have looked foolish indeed if, after winning the general election, he had said something like, “Look, guys, I was just kiddin’ about wantin’ to be president. I just ran for the fun of it. I was just foolin’ around. I’m not gonna do it. You gotta find somebody else.”
In any case, alas, it now appears Trump must have decided he likes being president for some reason, since he has hired a campaign manager for the 2020 election, implying he wants to “win” a second term.
Trump’s story about his election experience and Uncle Remus’s story about a rabbit thrown in a briar patch are not isomorphically analogous, but there are some interesting parallels, one of the most salient being that neither the rabbit nor Trump could be believed about not wanting to be thrown in the briar patch.
Some Red State evangelical religious folks said after he won the election they thought Trump was chosen though some sort of divine intervention, and decided he would help them promote their religious brands. The current Catholic pope who is fine with Trump recently blurted out to a reporter in a private conversation that hell does not exist, which the reporter reported in mainstream media, which was quickly denied by lawyers in the Vatican who know the Catholic religion needs hell to sell their brand of religion to sinners. What better promoter of sinning and possibly going to hell could evangelicals and Catholics find than Donald Trump as president?
President Jimmy Carter, by far the least sinful of US presidents of my lifetime, who was not very popular with a lot of religious folks in Red States when he left office after one term, recently appeared on a late night mainstream TV show, hosted by Stephen Colbert, where he said he was praying for Trump and he hoped he would do a good job.
It’s hard to know what doing a good job is as a US president. Most people probably consider doing a good job as a US president to be taking actions and working for and signing rules, legislation, and laws that will make them better off at someone else’s expense, which is not exactly Christian-like. On the other hand, US presidents are supposed to entertain people and make them feel good about themselves, which is why most US presidents have movie-star looks with good teeth and nice smiles, and can memorize humorous lines in speeches, or at least read lines from teleprompters with effective emotional body language. Probably the more sinful presidents are the more entertaining for most viewers. Who wants a boring president who is only concerned about justice, reality, fairness, productivity, paying bills on time, and that sort of thing? That would be worse than having a boring teacher in school.
A good leader of a good organization, according to organizational behavior educators such as me, is a person who causes an organization to do what the sign on the door says, whether it says building houses, growing food, selling clothes, educating people, curing the sick, enforcing laws, creating good laws, or protecting people from miscreants and criminals. Organizations can either do the work they were supposed to do or play games, that is engage in entropic activities that waste the potential productive energy of the organization for doing what the sign on the door says it’s supposed to do. The US government has been wasting an incredible amount of time, energy, and money playing games since Trump got elected, probably more than most administrations, dealing with scandals, investigations, paybacks, stupid wars (Trump’s words), and budgets.
There is no way a president of the US can please everyone. According to recent surveys, despite his past sins coming home to haunt him, e.g., Stormy Daniels, or perhaps because of them, Trump is now pleasing about 40 percent of the US electorate, possibly the most sinful 40 percent.
Unfortunately, sinning, as most preachers, priests, and people consider sinning—adultery, lying, cheating, stealing, murdering, and the like—are now job requirements for a president of the US, with the possible exception of adultery. Presidents have to lie by keeping state secrets secret; they have to murder by ordering drone strikes and bombings; they have to steal from other countries by erecting tariffs against them and sometimes bombing them to steal their resources. Loving his neighboring countries as he loves his own would be considered insane and traitorous in a US president.
Trump may have been better qualified for being president than most past presidents were, with one possible deficiency. I have yet to read an article in any information medium alleging Trump had someone whacked or rubbed out by a mafia-style hit man to cover up his sins and crimes, which is not the case with Lyndon Johnson, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. But, Trump is fully qualified to legally steal for the US as evidenced by his bankruptcies he has bragged about, enabling him to walk away with bundles of cash in his bank account, with creditors left holding the bag. He is also very good at legally stealing by avoiding taxes, and not paying his bills, which he said proves he’s smart, maybe even a stable genius. For sure he has not loved his neighbor as himself, being a firm believer in always putting himself first. Stuff like adultery is chump change to him. He has said most people are too moral to make any money.
Most people would readily agree a good US president should want to make the US money at the expense of other nations. This is almost guaranteed with Trump, since he can make money for his Trump Organization as he enriches the US.
I think Trump may be one of the most experienced and skillful psychological game players we have had as US president. Psychological games have various outcomes in which people win and lose, not merely money, but self-esteem, power, and high positions. Born with money, high self-esteem, and a high social position in his environment, Trump does not know what it is not to have these things. How much money he has actually made with his own intelligence after the fortune he inherited is adjusted for inflation is debatable, since he refuses to publish financial statements or tax returns; but, to his credit, he has not yet lost it all. Evidently, his supporters think he is a real winner, financially, and presumably in other ways.
No doubt about it, Trump is a good NIGYSOB player, Now I’ve Got You, You SOB, a one-upmanship game. He knows how to get in one-up positions relative to people around him, I’m OK—You’re Not (or less) OK, having had much experience playing the game all his life. As he has demonstrated in the White House, all a person in his position has to do to win a NIGYSOB game is fire anyone who will not at least pretend they think he is superior. People like Rex Tillerson, no matter how superior they may actually be as managers, almost never can call a boss like Trump a f****** moron and get away with it. Trump has by now fired several people close to him who were unwilling or unable to act as if he is superior. Mueller and his congressional inquisition team may be Trump’s only remaining serious antagonist. Whether Trump NIGYSOBs Mueller before Mueller decides to indict him or not remains to be seen.
Psychological game players act out Rescuer, Persecutor, and Victim roles. Trump was elected as a Rescuer of his supporters and as a Persecutor of their scapegoat Victims, emigrants primarily, necessitating constructing a Great Wall between the US and Mexico to keep illegal immigrants out, but also including of course Trump’s supporters’ heinous Persecutor internal antagonists—those abominable liberals—plus all foreign countries who would dare compete economically against the morally pristine always-right US, playing the most common political psychological game of all, If It Weren’t for You, in which people assert everything about the US would be just hunky dory or peachy cream if only it weren’t for Dems or Repugs, or that idiot Trump in the White House, or Obama, or whoever, or Iran, or Russia, or North Korea, or China, or whatever.
Unfortunately the US has never been fully OK and has steadily become less OK for decades regardless of who was president or which party was in power, although I must say it does seem to me the Repugs during their terms caused the US to become less OK at a faster rate than the Dems.
To his credit or discredit, Trump has tried to get that wall constructed for his voters, however foolhardy it might be. He has also tried to please his voters in the Rust Belt by starting a trade war for them, however insane it might be for everyone else. He has also repaid his rich donors by signing a new tax cut bill and the largest military budget increase in history. Last week, he decided to send the military down to the US southern border to keep Central Americans out of the US, who were marching through Mexico in caravans, with intentions to enter the US, since he had not been able to get his wall built in time to stop them.
Where he is having the most trouble Making America Great Again is dealing with the US military. During his presidential campaign he promised to Rescue peace lovers, by getting the US out of stupid wars (Trump’s words), the worst sort of briar patch to be thrown into, by stopping fighting unnecessary wars against nations not posing a military threat to the security of the US, unlike what he said Crooked Hillary would do, as seemed likely to me. In the interests of full disclosure I voted for Jill Stein of the Green Party.
After getting elected Trump promptly forgot about that promised reduction in military activity after getting confronted face to face by the deep state, the US military-industrial-intelligence protection racket, the biggest game playing Persecutor and Rescuer on Earth, that needs wars to keep its cash flow flowing and meet its payroll, that not only starts wars but destroys nations because they posed an economic threat to the US. Shortly after the confrontation Trump began tweeting messages from the Persecutor Game role to various possible external enemies, threatening to wipe them off the face of the Earth so to speak if they did not do what he said, since he was commander in chief of the most powerful fighting force on Earth and he would not put up with any s*** from anybody in any country.
But here lately he seems to have changed his tweeting tune about using the US military to enforce his indomitable will, switching from Persecutor to Rescuer on the Drama Triangle in a few cases. He has now apparently become a buddy of Kim Jung-un of North Korea, having planned a trip to go see him; he has maintained his friendship with Vladimir Putin of Russia; and, all of a sudden, a few days ago, he tweeted that the US will be getting out of Syria very soon, ISIS or no ISIS.
Let’s You and Them Fight is a common psychological game played by people who like to start fights for others to fight but who do not like to fight them themselves, including most US presidents and politicians. Such games are played to alleviate boredom, and to gain money and power; and Trump is probably pretty good at it, having played Let’s You and Them Fight most of his life within his Trump Organization dealing with departmental conflicts, and externally doing battle with competing organizations to steal and protect business and market share.
Psychological games vary in terms of hardness. First degree games involve mainly insults, tricks, discounts, threats, and humiliations, such as used by the above-mentioned rabbit getting out of his briar patch; second degree games involve shouting, yelling, threatening, and serious insults; third degree games, sometimes called tissue-tearing games, entail consequences such as going broke, or getting fired, divorced, sued, or being put in a hospital or morgue. All psychological games entail deceiving, belittling, or “discounting” the worth and right to exist of the opponent, or “mark.”
By various accounts first and second degree games are omnipresent in the Trump White House. On the other hand, it’s possible Trump can’t abide third degree “Let’s You and Them Fight” games that entail killing masses of people and causing widespread wanton destruction of property and treasure in foreign countries. Let’s hope so. It seems he is attracted to and enjoys pretty people and buildings more than most people, especially big tall pretty ones with his name on them, so he might be less inclined to destroy buildings and people with bombs in foreign countries than most presidents.
Disagreeing with what President Jimmy Carter told Stephen Colbert, I don’t think praying for Trump will do any good, since most people Trump’s age are set in their ways. It seems to me we the people are currently at the mercy of his life script and the scripts of people he hires and doesn’t fire that he personally communicates with making decisions. On the bright side, it does seem to me there is some evidence his life script is not as anti-social as it appeared to be when he first came on stage as a possible new dear leader of the US.
The briar patch Trump is now burrowed up in is probably stickier and thornier than he ever dreamed it would be. I don’t know how he stands it, just knowing about the possible consequences of decisions and actions coming across his desk every day, especially knowing more than anyone else what the US deep state is doing to people all around Spaceship Earth. The last time a US president seriously played games with the deep state, John F. Kennedy, he got assassinated in a third degree NIGYSOB game, probably involving covert operators in the deep state. Obama said he didn’t want to wind up like John F. Kennedy. He cooperated with the deep state, and he merrily exited the White House briar patch after eight years unscathed.
Who knows what sort of tar pit Trump got stuck in doing business before he got thrown into his White House briar patch. Most people would never think of Donald John Trump as a psychological Victim, but in some ways he is, like most of us. Most likely he won’t seriously try to reduce the cash inflows and power of the deep state, but it seems to me there is some chance he might curtail its operations as the so-called commander in chief of the military more than most presidents, letting the chips fall where they may, at least trying to do the right thing for most people in some ways—trying to do some of what he said he wanted to do when he was running for office—get the US out of stupid wars, create new infrastructure at home, and rationally interact with other countries around Spaceship Earth. He could even decide to become a martyr, at age seventy-plus, if he has the necessary script messages that were absorbed into his life script before he was eight years old, that are now stored somewhere in his brain cells, that might get cathected.
What’s the probability this might happen? I have no idea, but it’s not very high. Regardless, you can always hope for the best.
Richard John Stapleton, PhD, CTA is an emeritus professor of organizational behavior and business policy and a certified transactional analyst, who writes on business and politics at effectivelearning.net. He is the author of Born to Learn: A Transactional Analysis of Human Learning.