INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
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Elliot BenjaminElliot Benjamin is a philosopher, mathematician, musician, counselor, writer, with Ph.Ds in mathematics and psychology and the author of over 150 published articles in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, pure mathematics, mathematics education, spirituality & the awareness of cult dangers, art & mental disturbance, and progressive politics. He has also written a number of self-published books, such as: The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health. See also: www.benjamin-philosopher.com.

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Fighting Against
the Trump Dictatorship

An Integrative Perspective

Elliot Benjamin

But I must say that it feels to me like our new President Trump has all the characteristics of a dictator in power.

I realize that technically speaking the United States is not a dictatorship, and that we have a president—not a dictator. But I must say that it feels to me like our new President Trump, complete with his cabinet of appointments with unapologetic views against science, the environment, women, blacks, jews, muslims, the poor, and peace, and buttressed by a Republican majority in both houses of congress, has all the characteristics of a dictator in power. Of course in the United States any president or would be dictator can hold office for at most 8 years, and this is indeed a blessing. But 8 years of dictatorial power is far more than enough to cause massive disasters to the world, including the abysmal dangers of nuclear war. This coupled with our egocentric, narcissistic, emotionally reactive, irrational, Klu Klux Klan supported new president is enough to cause much alarm for many U.S. citizens, including myself.

As I have done in a number of my previous essays, I am approaching the ideas in this essay from what I describe as an “integrative” perspective[1]. I have described what I mean by “integrative” previously[1], but for this present essay suffice it to say that my integrative perspective includes diverse contrary views for the purpose of finding common ground on one particular issue. The particular issue I have in mind is “hate crimes and discrimination” and the diverse contrary views I am alluding to can be described simply as “Trump supporters and Trump non-supporters.” For the past month I have been actively promoting a group meeting initially entitled “Trump Supporters and Non-Supporters Against Hate Crimes and Discrimination”[2]. However, I gradually learned that the flyer to promote my group, which included a rather complimentary picture of Trump[2] that I purposely included to try to attract Trump supporters to my group, was labeled as “political” and rejected by my local school superintendents, my local librarian, the director of my local Chamber of Commerce, and even my local American Legion chapter. Consequently I decided to remove the graphics from my flyer and I changed the name of my group to “Citizens Against Hate Crimes and Discrimination.” The change in response that I received was quite striking, and my flyer was distributed in three local school districts and 11 schools, to over 400 teachers. My group finally had its first meeting tonight, and it was a success; but before describing the dynamics that took place in my group meeting, let me backtrack to describe my initial motivation in promoting and forming my group.

My initial motivation to form my group began soon after Trump won the U.S. presidential election, as I re-read the short book From Democracy to Dictatorship by Gene Sharp[3], which included 198 methods of non-violent tactics to overthrow a dictatorship and replace it with a democracy. I knew that these methods were geared toward authoritarian dictatorships, but I also realized that there was no reason that these methods could not be applied to the current situation we have in the United States, which feels to me like “president/dictator Trump.” The one particular method that had the most meaning to me was Sharp's description of getting the dictator's supporters to sympathize with the plight of the revolutionaries[3]. In a section of the book entitled Necessary Sources of Political Power, Sharp said the following3:

The principle is simple. Dictators require the assistance of the people they rule, without which they cannot secure and maintain the sources of political power. These sources of political power include:. . . Human resources, the number and importance of the persons and groups which are obeying, cooperating, or providing assistance to the rulers; . . . Intangible factors, psychological and ideological factors that may induce people to obey and assist the rulers;. . . All of these sources, however, depend on acceptance of the regime, on the submission and obedience of the population, and on the cooperation of innumerable people and the many institutions of the society. They are not guaranteed. . . Withdrawal of popular and institutional cooperation with aggressors and dictators diminishes, and may sever, the availability of the sources, the rulers' power weakens and finally dissolves. (pp. 18-19)

However, this process is by no means one that will always be successful, or that guarantees no casualties, as Sharp described:

Of course, none of this means that weakening and destroying the dictatorships is easy; nor that every attempt will succeed. It certainly does not mean that the struggle will be free of casualties, for those still serving the dictators are likely to fight back in an effort to force the populace to resume cooperation and obedience. (p. 23)

But when I re-read Sharp's book and thought about the current situation in the United States with the election of Trump, something pulsated through me. It dawned on me that there was likely a large number of people who voted for Trump who do not condone hate crimes and discrimination, and that if these people could be stimulated to express their disapproval of the related sordid events that were continuously displayed over the internet, perhaps it could have the effect of weakening Trump's impact that has promoted hate crimes and discrimination. At any rate, these were the motivations that led me to give my ideas a try. And thus I ceased being an “armchair philosopher” and I decided to try to put my ideas into action—I suppose I could now call myself, at least temporarily, a “practical philosopher.”

The idea of diminishing the dictator's support is actually at the core of a recent political group that has formed to try to combat what they view as Trump's disastrous policies; this group has the name “Indivisible”[4]. The tactics of the Indivisible group are intensively political at the local level, putting a great deal of pressure on the congressmen and senators (referred to as “members of congress”) in the region where one lives, through things like continuously requesting town meetings, staging demonstrations and congressional office sit-ins, extensive phone calls to the members of congress, etc. The idea is to persuade the members of congress that they will have trouble getting reelected if they don't listen seriously to the views of their vocal constituents. There are over 3,000 Indivisible groups currently active in the United States[4], and the strategy is to evolve a growing powerful effect in a multitude of regions in the country, in a somewhat similar manner to how the Tea Party was able to stimulate tremendous political change in the far right direction, starting off in very small numbers in local living rooms[4].

The ideas that resulted in the formation of my Citizens Against Hate Crimes and Discrimination group are quite different from the ideas that resulted in the formation of the Indivisible group, but the goals are similar. The Indivisible group wants to weaken Trump's power by weakening his support from members of congress, hopefully stimulating a handful of Republicans to think twice about their support of controversial issues that are against progressive values, inclusive of the environment, health care, immigration, and abortion. If my Citizens Against Hate Crimes and Discrimination group develops and expands, my goal is also to weaken Trump's power, in the way that it has stimulated an increase in hate crimes and discrimination, and it may very well overlap with some of the tactics of the Indivisible group in making contact with members of congress. If I dream big, I would say that I would like to see an impact on Trump himself to much more actively and forcefully make statements against hate crimes and discrimination. But I am dreaming right now, so let me get back to describing my very small success for the first meeting of my Citizens Against Hate Crimes and Discrimination group.

17 people attended my group last night, which included one person who I would describe as a mild Trump supporter. However, this mild Trump supporter was very vocal, and it led to a number of dynamic interactions with the other members of the group, all of whom I would certainly describe as “Trump non-supporters.” I facilitated the group in a contemporary person-centered way[5], listening as non-judgmentally as I was able to, and gently guiding the discussion back to its main theme whenever it invariably lost its focus on hate crimes and discrimination. Many people were emotional in the group and filled with fear; the group included mostly women (there were three men including myself), a few jewish people, an Asian man, and a mexican/puerto rican woman. The mild Trump supporter said that he knew Trump had his faults, but that he thought he was more accomplished than Hillary Clinton, that he thought Trump has gotten unfair bad press, that people are too sensitive about being called names (as in “sticks and stones...”) and defended Trump's sex tape by agreeing with Trump that it was just “locker room talk,” and added that he was not president at the time.

Needless to say, this stirred up some intensive reactions from the progressive thinking anti-Trump women in the group, but things did not get out-of-hand. The group ended on a positive note, and 15 of the 17 participants filled in their contact information, indicating that they were interested in having another group meeting. I had to keep my intention clear of maintaining the central focus on hate crimes and discrimination, as one woman suggested that the group become more open-ended, with a focus on negotiating diverse viewpoints. Someone asked the mild Trump supporter if he would be willing to bring other people who thought more like him to our next meeting, and he was agreeable to try to do this. Other people suggested that we all try to bring other people with diverse viewpoints to the group, and as I left the meeting I saw the mild Trump supporter continuing to engage in what looked to me like some constructive intensive dialogue with a few of the women in the group.

Thus all things considered I think my group was a success last night. Luckily there was a Trump supporter there, and he was both vocal and relatively constructive in his communications, which for me enabled my group to serve as an overture to fighting Trump from an integrative perspective. I do plan on holding a second group meeting, but there needs to be more Trump supporters who attend the meeting if my integrative perspective of fighting against Trump will be able to develop. This is easier said than done, but I do believe in Gene Sharp's wise counsel about overthrowing dictatorships through getting a segment of the dictator's supporters to sympathize with the revolutionaries. I was able to get the mild Trump supporter in the group to agree that it would be a good thing for Trump to be more active and forceful about making statements against hate crimes and discrimination, though it was important that I acknowledged that hate crimes have gone in both directions—i.e., committed by both Trump supporters and non-supporters.

I have no doubt that there have been far more hate crimes committed by Trump supporters than non-supporters, but this kind of factual detail would have been counter-productive to pursue in the group last night, and I chose to not go there. Rather, I gave some concrete instances of hate crimes, such as swastikas painted on synagogues, and muslim women threatened to be burned to death if they did not take off their burkas. The mild Trump supporter immediately countered with the recent episode of four black youths beating up a Trump supporter, and I had no hesitation to agree that this was equally reprehensible. One person in the group suggested that at the end of our next meeting we try to come up with some statements that we can all agree with, and I think this is an excellent suggestion, as long as there are some more Trump supporters who attend the meeting. Thus I conclude this essay about fighting against Trump from an integrative perspective with signs of tenuous optimism, and I plan on continuing to transform myself from an armchair philosopher into a practical philosopher, at least for a while.

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Notes and References

[1] See Elliot Benjamin's 2016 Integral World essays Trump and Hitler: An Integrative Perspective and Clinton vs. Trump: A More Integrative Perspective, and his 2007 Integral World essay Integral vs. Integrative: A Response to Parker; retrieved from www.integralworld.net

[2] See my Trump Supporters and Non-Supporters Against Hate Crimes and Discrimination flyer at http://www.integralworld.net/benjamin87.html

[3] See Gene Sharp (1993), From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation. London: Green Print-Housmans.

[4] For more information about the Indivisible group, see http://indivisibleguide.com and “‘Indivisible’ movement presses legislators at home on Trump agenda”, The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/25/17, www.msnbc.com

[5] What I mean by “contemporary person-centered facilitation” refers to the expansion and extension of person-centered psychotherapy as initially formulated by humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers in the 1960's. This was a key component at the July, 2016 World Association of Person-Centered and Experiential Psychotherapy and Counseling (WAPCEPC) conference in New York City; see www.pce-world.org for more information about this.

[6] I was pleased to receive the following unexpected e-mail from this mild Trump supporter the day after our group meeting: “As I got home it occurred to me that we probably should have set a date to meet again soon. I really enjoyed the meeting and the interaction. Lets do it again, soon.




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