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A Case for Removing Trump: Reasons Why Literacy Matters


A Case for Removing Trump: Reasons Why Literacy Matters

By Dennis Loo (2/15/17)


For the nation and planet’s sake, and for his own sake, we need to relieve Trump from his duties as POTUS. The man is clearly not happy in the job and didn’t want it in the first place. He did not expect to win the nomination or the election. What he really wanted originally was a better deal from NBC for The Apprentice. We need do him and ourselves a favor by getting him back where he belongs as a reali-TV star.


After watching David Pakman’s two recent episodes of February 2, 2017 and February 6, 2017 on Trump’s low literacy rate, initially raised by Samantha Bee’s show Full Frontal on October 31, 2016, Trump’s peculiar behavior is even better explained by his low literacy than by his narcissism, as extreme as the narcissism is. (You should watch these shows before you continue.) His narcissism can, in fact, be at least partially explained by his reading problems since empathy, the ability to put you in someone else’s shoes, is what reading helps develop.


I am a university professor and what I have to say next is informed by that experience. I am also very interested in and apply in practice in my teaching and in other aspects of my life my evolving understanding of how we become critical thinkers. The upshot of this is this: how we learn, what we learn, and how we end up making decisions, are all bound together.


If you are a poor or bad learner, then you inevitably draw upon a smaller repertoire of choices when you make decisions and your ability to make good decisions is compromised, leading almost always to often unanticipated, unfortunate, and sometimes profoundly bad consequences. When you are talking about POTUS and his decisions, the ramifications that flow from bad decisions are enormous.


Low literacy also helps to explain Trump’s notoriously thin skin, his lack of introspection, his non-existent attention span, his inability to co-ordinate and lead those around him (thus the infighting and chaos that plagued his campaign and the White House) and his inability to understand and in particular his intolerance of satire. Who else do we know who does not get satire?


But let’s first stay on this point of no attention span. It is impossible for a POTUS to make good decisions without having an attention span because you can’t weigh and consider options if you can’t stick around long enough to consider them all and weigh them against each other!


Making decisions is the most important and frequent thing that POTUS does. Given the consequences of those decisions, the POTUS has to do this more and with more ramifications than anyone else alive. And this is from the standpoint of accepting the terms under which the head of an empire makes his or her decisions, which those who know me would know I don’t accept, let alone some vital things they would never consider.


Literacy is a higher development of humankind’s ability to coordinate and cooperate. You are unable to plan modern warfare, for example, which involves many participants who are playing lots of different and evolving roles, as well as complicated logistics all along the way, without resorting to the written form.  The Yemen debacle is the first example of this under Trump. There will be many, many more. The non-roll-out form that Trump’s disastrous anti-immigration flight ban took and both the chaos it unleashed and the opposition it spawned is emblematic of this too. After absurdly at first claiming it was going according to plan, the White House was forced to back off. From this issue you can see a preview of the yet-to-come as Trump does not plan and more importantly, cannot plan.


There is a feedback mechanism between the written form and one’s and others’ brains. When you commit some thought or plan to paper, you then have the opportunity to see what you think, now externalized outside of your brain on a blackboard, a paper, or even screen. You can, for instance, correct typos in the course of that transmission, you can revise your word choice, and you can rearrange or otherwise, most importantly, edit your thoughts.


Trump talks frequently about how “smart” he is. But this is his reassuring himself (and us) about something he is uncertain about and on very shaky grounds. He has twice now confused his refusal to daily see the PDB intelligence gathering and analysis from raw personal intelligence. He does not know the difference between intelligence that analysts gather and his own “intelligence.” “I am, like, a smart person,” he has said many times, as if that allows him to divine patterns, which others have missed, but he cannot tell the two kinds of intelligence apart, and refuses to expose himself to that which he doesn’t know, as if one who is smart can see that which they don’t know in the first place.


He says that if something new has arisen that he can be reached by phone in minutes, but he does not understand that digesting intelligence and putting two and two together when anti-state terrorists are actively trying to disguise their actions, requires an imagination, the ability to think outside the box, to see patterns amidst all the tremendous noise, including that even of his analysts, yet his personal “intelligence” is inferior to that of his own analysts and advisers. He cannot process raw data well because he is incapable of the concentrated and protracted effort required. What does that say about the man’s ability to prevent attacks like 9/11? He is already ruling out such detection by his own actions, and this is not even including in that the massive cycle of violence unleashed by US policies…


Concentration is something that reading specifically extends and expands. By dint of repeated, sustained effort, one gets better at it and develops mental stamina through it. The short sound bytes he is known for and the way that information bytes are transmitted through TV is what Trump likes and constitutes his regular diet of information.


When you read, you now have yourself as a reader and potentially others, into whose shoes you are occupying. You can, for example, ask yourself if you are being clear getting across what you are thinking, since the reader can only go by what you have on paper, and often not the benefit of the non-verbal cues you give off when you are speaking. You can see where there are holes in your logic that is not easily detected without drafting out and putting down your thoughts.


The process of writing and especially rewriting – the latter activity known to professional writers as the by far most important of the two, and what distinguishes the accomplished writer from the novice or most people who write a little, such as in school or emails, et al – allows you to not only see what is jumbled up inside your head, but if you make a habit of rewriting and editing, it actually changes the process by which you think.


What I have to say on this point is partially drawn from my own personal experience and also my experience teaching thousands of students over the span of four decades: the process of externalizing one’s thoughts and then specifically editing and rewriting, improves the way that you think about new events. You get, to put this simply, smarter. You don’t do this for the most part without literacy. What helped Trump succeed in business is a very narrow skill set, not for the most part transferable to the presidency.


When you write something down and you reflect on it, it is as if you are talking to someone else but it’s even more demanding than the average person you may know because you are holding a mirror up to examine your thoughts. You are not by yourself anymore but in the other’s imagined place. While most drafts remain a first draft and receives no editing, those who do learn to rewrite find a feedback process that can lead to changing the very way you process information, weigh it against what you think you already know, and by engaging the new information or looking at that information in a new way, you may – if you are open to it – to altering the very way you think and act in the world. Trump never went through this process. For him, thinking and acting are one-act together, without any separation.


The reason why his campaign was chaotic, and the reason why the White House is similarly marked by infighting and disorganization, is because the man at the middle and the head of the process doesn't know how to organize and carry out an extended plan despite being occasionally successful in business. He has, after all, declared bankruptcy several times and cheated people of their pay, and the reason he will not reveal his tax returns is probably because it will do damage to his reputation as super wealthy.


One doesn't have to extrapolate very far from his campaign and his White House in disarray to see that they are simply in microcosm the effects he will have elsewhere and has already begun to have. His cabinet choices are his picks for how they are going to carry out policies. Flynn’s and before him Manafort’s resignations are only part of the picture. That picture, more than anyone else, includes Trump himself. (See my earlier prediction when the Russian dossier came out in January 2017 that this would likely eventually end his so-called presidency.)


Many Trump voters may have seen themselves unconsciously in Trump’s illiteracy (visible in his refusal to use a teleprompter), yet despite that hidden inability, a winner, something some of them hope to catch some of that, someday.


Trump cannot feel any pangs of conscience for ridiculing that NY Times disabled reporter, cannot weigh the pros and cons of policies he enacts through executive orders, cannot carry out many of the most rudimentary forms of diplomacy including distinguishing allies from adversaries, does not refrain from tweeting as POTUS on behalf of Ivanka’s business activities, thinks Sean Spicer is “weak” because a woman satirically skewered him on SNL, does not understand that as POTUS he will not face unadulterated adulation but in fact have people do satires of him and regularly criticize him as a necessary part of their jobs, and does not have any attention span because it requires concentrated attention to read a book.


His imperviousness to facts, his imperiousness, and his regular inventions of alternative facts makes him unable to distinguish real from simulated or phony diversions. Despite his never reading a book from cover to cover as an adult, his enemies can read him like an open book because he is always prey to personal flattery. This is even not beginning to talk about all of his business ventures where he is in a conflict of interest between being POTUS and his many businesses.


What SNL needs to do, as well as Alec Baldwin has done portraying him, is have a woman play Trump, and see how the guy responds to that! He will likely explode. Trump cannot do his job. He is seriously impaired because of his inability to read and his narcissism, and he gets angry at everything, trivial or not. The man cannot understand due process, or innocent until proven guilty, and thinks he can get his way through sheer power, without understanding nuance, which the closest to which he grasps might be the equivalent in his simple mind with weakness. Trump denies having an inner life and denies ever having self-doubt. He does not understand that there will be pushback to his calling out the troops and he appears not to take resistance even into account beforehand. Yet we are now three weeks into his presidency and he grows, if anything, more stubborn than before, angrier, and more unable to cope.


The trouble is, if you take that as true that he reads poorly, then disaster after disaster will ensue, because Trump lacks a quality that makes a person human and certainly being human is a minimal qualification for the job of POTUS: he has sharply limited ability to reflect and weigh pros and cons because he has no ability to concentrate, which is why he consumes so much TV and can only read the simplest of memos in big type with lots of white space and one page long only.


The political establishment is unlikely of its own to get rid of this despicable person as POTUS. The GOP tried to stop him from securing the nomination and they did everything they could to prevent his election and they failed. The system that made Trump rich cannot topple him. Popular action must force the system’s hand by creating a political situation of so much upheaval that the system cannot go forward unless they force him out, the alternative being even worse for them. A percent of Trump supporters must withdraw their support, perhaps 5-10%.


It is probable that the Trump camp’s one year-long back and forth with the Russians will be his undoing, but the system will do so as much as they can on their terms and we, on the other hand, want it to be as much on our terms as we can. I am reminded that when Nixon was president his first – and unsuccessful nominee for the Supreme Court - was G. Harrold Carswell. Carswell was reversed as a district judge 58% of the time and criticized for his actions on race and gender. From Wikipedia:


“In defense against charges that Carswell was ‘mediocre’, U.S. Senator Roman Hruska, a Nebraska Republican, stated:


"’Even if he were mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they, and a little chance? We can't have all Brandeises, Frankfurters and Cardozos.’[5][6]


“Hruska's remark was criticized by many and may have damaged Carswell's cause.”[1]


We have in charge with POTUS someone who is not just deeply mediocre but extremely dangerous who doesn’t even know enough to know his own shortcomings.





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Elaine Brower of World Can't Wait speaking at the NYC Stop the War on Iran rally 2/4/12