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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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Resisting Trump

10 Months Later From A More Narrow
But More Honest Integrative Perspective

Elliot Benjamin

I also must admit that my integrative perspective lacked another important ingredient: honesty within myself.

Well the world is still here and we have not yet had World War III and President Trump has been the president of the United States for nearly 10 months. So I suppose things could be worse.

I wrote an Integral World essay entitled Fighting Against the Trump Dictatorship: An Integrative Perspective[1] a few days after President Trump was inaugurated, in January, 2017. I followed this up with two articles published in a Mexican American progressive political magazine,[2] describing the development of my Citizens Against Hate Crimes and Discrimination group that I initially portrayed in my above Integral World essay.[1]

The name of my group soon changed to Building Bridges Through Political Diversity, and we occasionally had a bit of diversity in the form of Republicans or mild Trump supporters visiting our group, but the political diversity I envisioned was quite minimal. The “integrative” perspective that I described as including “diverse contrary views for the purpose of finding common ground on one particular issue” was limited in scope initially to making some progress with finding common ground with one vocal but communicative mild Trump supporter who attended our first four meetings.[1, 2] More recently this extended to some constructive conversation with the Republican Party chairman of my county, who ended up visiting my group. But in hindsight I also must admit that my integrative perspective lacked another important ingredient: honesty within myself.

This lacking of honesty within myself became especially apparent to me when I gave a talk about my political Resisting Trump work at a humanistic psychology hospitality suite at the national 2017 APA (American Psychological Association) conference in Washington D.C. It was very clear to the people listening to me that my real interest was not in finding a way to bridge political diversity, but rather in “influencing” mild Trump supporters to weaken their support of Trump. Now in all fairness to myself, I certainly attempted to honestly share what I was trying to do with my group, along the lines of how I described my take on Gene Sharp's book From Dictatorship to Democracy:[3]

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 hat has promoted hate crimes and discrimination.[1]

I was occasionally attending Indivisble[4] meetings during the time period in which my group was trying to find political diversity, and I knew that my heart was completely in the progressive Resisting Trump movement, which I identified with. But I was stubborn, and I told myself that the best way I could contribute to the cause was to constructively dialogue with mild Trump supporters. However, gradually my group lost interest in hearing me talk about my intense concern about the devastation that Trump was causing, and I was especially concerned about the devastation that I believed (and still believe) that Trump has the potential to cause. I started talking about the danger of Trump starting a nuclear war with North Korea, as well as escalating the destruction of the planet through his environmental pollution promotion. My group became more interested in cultural diversity and discussing books, and I became more interested in becoming a progressive activist along the lines of the Indivisible movement.

A More Honest Integrative Perspective

Around this time I decided to try out a more “honest to myself” kind of integrative method of forming a political group, and I left my Building Bridges Through Political Diversity group and held a meeting with the title “Resisting Trump Through Political Diversity”. At least now I was being completely transparent about my main purpose of Resisting Trump, but I was still trying to be “integrative” in the context I described above, working with people who may think very differently about many political issues, but who have common ground in Resisting Trump. And I soon found out that I was now even more entrenched in a common core of progressive-oriented group members than I had previously been.

But to my surprise, during the second meeting of my new group, the above Republican Party chairman of my county made his second visit to a group that I was facilitating, as I had invited him but never thought he would attend. I had entertained the thought of working with Republicans interested in challenging Trump in the 2020 primaries, and I thought that perhaps this Republican chairman might be open to this, as he had conveyed quite moderate Republican views in his previous visit to my group, and he had made it clear that he was not by any means a Trump enthusiast. But to my utter disappointment, I learned that the Republican chairman did not have any serious concerns about Trump, but rather wanted to “influence” him to make more moderate political decisions, and had no interest in challenging him in the 2020 primaries.

And this was the turning point for me. I knew that I was used up with trying to make my Integrative perspective into a reality. I no longer had the desire to converse with Republicans. Rather, I felt that I needed to be working with progressives in a common cause: Resisting Trump. But was there anything left for Integrative? Well perhaps “more narrow” and “more honest.”

A More Narrow But More Honest Integrative Perspective

One more time I decided to form a political group, this one called Resisting Trump: Building Progressive Bridges. Yes “building progressive bridges” is what I was now interested in: Resisting Trump through a variety of progressive tactics, ranging from electing progressives in the 2018 elections to constructive dialogue with “non-progressives” to impeachment. But only progressives interested in Resisting Trump were invited, as I made it very clear that for the purpose of my new group, having constructive dialogue with non-progressives was solely to try to (subtly) influence these non-progressives to weaken their support of Trump, along the lines of my original vision based upon the work of Gene Sharp,[3] (see above).

Well my new group did not generate enough interest to sustain itself, which became very clear to me at the second meeting when no one showed up, even though two people I had spoken to on the phone had conveyed to me that they would be attending.

However, I have now become quite involved in the Indivisible movement. I have been going to the weekly meetings of my local Bangor, Maine Indivisible group and I have had a phone conversation with the national Indivisible northeast coordinator. In regard to my intensive concerns about the Trump first strike nuclear issue, my attending weekly local Indivisible group meetings spurred me to give a presentation as part of a group visit to the staff assistants of my two Maine senators,[5] one of whom is Republican, and submit letters to the editor to a number of Maine newspapers[6] as well as progressive magazines, and submit a posting to Huffington News. However, after watching the full 2 hours of the 11/14/17 Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting on the topic of concerns about the president's nuclear first strike option (see “Congress Asks If Donald Trump Really Can Blow The World Up Without Restraints”, The Intercept) I came to the conclusion that it was not realistic to successfully make the kind of legislative changes in congress proposed by progressive senators Ed Markey and Chris Murphy (Senate bills S.200, S.2047, and S.2016) and Representatives Ted Lieu and Adam Smith (House bills H.R.669 and H.R.4415), which involved restricting any president's power to launch a first strike nuclear attack or initiate war with North Korea, without the approval of congress.

Consequently I conveyed in my presentation to my two Maine senators, as well as in my submitted letters and posting, that I believed the most effective course of action is to establish concrete formulations of what constitutes “imminent danger” to justify a first strike nuclear attack.[5, 6] I further conveyed that hopefully this would reduce the likelihood that a U.S. president would ever give an illegal first strike nuclear order, and increase the likelihood that a high-ranking military or government officer in a position to do so, might disobey such an order if there was some kind of concrete legal formulation to conclude that there was “not” imminent danger for justification. I also ended up conveying my ideas about this in a productive phone conversation with a staff member to Senator Markey, who had initiated the above nuclear first strike bill (S.200) in January, 2017.[5]

Make Shift Coffee House Limited Diversity Experience

Make Shift Coffee House

However, to keep some semblance of practicing what I preach (or more accurately used to preach), I attended a Make Shift Coffee House event,[7] which had the goal of promoting constructive communication between people of opposing political viewpoints. There were somewhere between 100 and 150 people at the event, most of whom were progressively oriented, with a few people more in the middle and two Republicans. And one of these Republicans was none other than my county Republican Party chairman, who dominated the second half of the meeting and was quite popular at the coffee house. But I managed to have a conversation with him after the meeting ended, and we discussed my Trump nuclear concerns. Although he didn't share my concerns about Trump getting us into a nuclear war, I must say that it felt good talking about my concerns with him. So yes I was practicing what I had been most recently preaching, i.e., Resisting Trump from a variety of progressive ways that included constructive dialogue with non-progressives.

Avoiding Nuclear War Presentation

The day after my disappointing “no one showing” and ending my Resisting Trump: Building Progressive Bridges group, it was time for me to give my Avoiding Nuclear War presentation to the staff assistants of my two Maine senators, as part of Indivisible Bangor. And this was a powerful and very significant experience for me in many ways. There were 15 people from a few different progressive organizations, including Indivisible Bangor, at the meeting with the Bangor staff assistant to my Republican Maine senator, Susan Collins. My presentation was received very well by everyone at the meeting, which included the editor of the Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine Newsletter, who was greatly interested in my letter and requested that I send her a shortened version to publish in the Peace & Justice Center newsletter.[6] Subsequently a few people accompanied me to the office of the Bangor staff assistant to Senator Angus King, my other Maine senator, who is an Independent and usually votes as a Democrat. Both staff assistants said they would show my letter to their respective senators, and one person at the Senator Collins meeting talked to me afterwards about arranging a Collins staff assistant meeting specifically to discuss the issue of President Trump's apparent mental illness.

Conclusion

The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump

I now feel like I am a bona fide part of the Indivisible movement in Resisting Trump, and it is a good feeling. In spite of my disappointment that my own Resisting Trump: Building Progressive Bridges group did not work out, I feel like I am now most definitely “resisting Trump by building progressive bridges.” I have evolved in my thinking and in my political actions the past year since Donald Trump won the United States presidential election. I intend to practice what I described in my most recent group flier in regard to resisting Trump through a variety of progressive tactics, which is consistent with my more narrow but more honest integrative perspective. But the one thing that has remained constant for me is that resisting Trump is absolutely urgent for the preservation of anything resembling human decency, much less human survival, as eloquently, articulately, and passionately described by many authors in Bandy Lee's (2017) book The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.

Furthermore, I have learned that the most effective way that I can personally contribute to Resisting Trump is directly through my various activist activities in progressive politics. I will no longer be facilitating my own political groups, but I will be working constructively as part of the Indivisible movement with a focus on what I perceive as the most crucial, urgent, and immediate issue at hand in regard to preventing Trump from destroying the world, and this is the nuclear issue. So yes my focus may be more narrow but it is also more honest, and I am open to an integrative process of working with progressives as well as Republicans and people of all political persuasions, to accomplish my goal of at least minimizing the risk that Trump will initiate the nuclear debacle that could become World War III. I am not naive, and I have no expectations that my Avoiding Nuclear War presentation to the staff assistants of my two Maine senators will have any effect on congress making concrete formulations of what constitutes “imminent danger” to justify a first strike nuclear attack. But I feel good that I am at least expressing myself in the “right ballpark,” and I intend to continue to do whatever I am able to with the goal of preventing President Trump from wreaking the ultimate disaster for the United States and the world.

Notes and References

[1] See Elliot Benjamin (2017), Fighting Against the Trump Dictatorship: An Integrative Perspective. Retrieved from www.integralworld.net

[2] See Elliot Benjamin (2017), Fighting Against the Trump Dictatorship: An Integrative Perspective. La voz de Esperanza, 30(3), pp. 3, 6, 7, 11; and Elliot Benjamin, (2017). Still Fighting Against the Trump Dictatorship. La voz de Esperanza, 30(6), pp. 17, 20, 21.

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

[4] For more information about the Indivisible movement, see http://indivisibleguide.com and the following articles: Indivisible' Movement Presses Legislators At Home on Trump Agenda, The Rachel Maddow show, 1/25/17 at www.msnbc.com; and Donald Trump is a National Security Risk. Here's the Current #Trump Threat Level at www.indivisible.org.

[5] My presentation to the staff assistants two Maine senators was very much stimulated by the testimonies of a number of psychiatrists, psychologists, and mental health experts in the book The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President (Bandy Lee, 2017; London: Macmillan), and the text of my letter is as follows:

I am very concerned that the actions of President Trump in regard to both North Korea and Iran are leading us into the unimaginable horrors of a nuclear war. There is no doubt that the dangers to the United States from both North Korea's and Iran's development of nuclear weapons are tremendously alarming. However, I believe that President Trump is making the situation far more dangerous by his reckless and threatening tweets regarding North Korea, and his declaration to pull the United States out of the Iran nuclear agreement. At the 11/14/17 Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting devoted to the topic of the nuclear war issue, concerns were brought up by Senator Chris Murphy that President Trump is too unstable and volatile, and quixotic in his decision making to be trusted with the immensity of making a decision unilaterally about a first strike nuclear attack. In particular, serious concerns about President Trump's threatening tweets to North Korea, brought up by Senator Jeanne Shaheen, was shared by one of the government speakers at this meeting, Brian McKeon, a former top policy official in the Defense Department.
Along these lines, there have been a number of bills submitted to both the senate and house of representatives that would restrict any U.S. president from launching an initial nuclear strike without a declaration of war from congress, as well as bills restricting the funding and authorization for any preemptive strike on North Korea without congressional approval. These bills are all consistent with the continuous concerns about the maintenance of the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), which allowed President George W. Bush to take military action anywhere in the world that he deemed “necessary and appropriate.” This authorization has now been used by three U.S. presidents for the past 16 years to engage in military actions all over the world, and it never expires, unless Congress decides to amend this authorization.
Given the current extremely dangerous situation of having a U.S. president who openly threatens nuclear war, I believe it is of the utmost urgency to stop our president from putting both the United States and the whole world in critical danger. Furthermore, given the present set of circumstances, I am in agreement with the view expressed by Senator Markey at the 11/14/17 Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting, in which he countered that it cannot be expected that a high level military or administrative person in the nuclear launch chain of command would necessarily question the legality of and refuse to carry out a president's order to launch a nuclear attack. However, all the military and government speakers at the two recent meetings of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee expressed serious concerns about changing the first strike legislation, which they see as a necessary deterrent for our country's self-defense, and apparently the majority of congress is in agreement with these concerns. I therefore think that the most effective course of action is to establish concrete formulations of what constitutes “imminent danger” to justify a first strike nuclear attack. This way, in addition to hopefully reducing the likelihood that a U.S. president would ever give an illegal first strike nuclear order, it would also increase the likelihood that a high-ranking military or government officer in a position to do so, might disobey such an order if there was some kind of concrete legal formulation to conclude that there was “not” imminent danger for justification.
It is my hope that you may consider sponsoring this kind of work to establish concrete formulations of what constitutes imminent danger to justify a first strike nuclear attack, and I would be more than happy to assist you in what I believe is a crucial endeavor, in any what that I am able to do so.

[6] See my Avoiding Nuclear War letters to the editor in the 11/23/17 issues of The Republican Journal at www.waldo.villagesoup.com and The Free Press at https://thefreepressonline.com, and the 11/24/17 issue of the Bangor Daily News at https://bangordailynews.com/2017/11/23/opinion/letters/friday-nov-24-2017-reject-tax-bill-limit-nuclear-weapon-use-invest-in-maines-children. A revised form of my letters will appear soon in the the Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine Newsletter (www.peacectr.org/wp/news) .

[7] For more information about the Make Shift Coffee House see www.makeshiftcoffeehouse.com




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