Beware of the Trump card

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Street Talk

By GREG B. MACABENTA

The U.S. will be undergoing some interesting times with the assumption to the presidency by Donald J. Trump. A legend in his own mind, Trump could well have written the dictionary definition of his surname:

“Trump – To outrank or defeat someone or something, often in a highly public way… In the card game bridge, the trump card is the most powerful card in a particular round and defeats all the others — sort of like when your needs or wishes trump someone else’s.”

In Tagalog idiom, the term nakakalamang comes close to the meaning of trump. In street lingo, napatungan ang bato means the same thing from the loser’s perspective – to suffer a disadvantage inflicted by an opponent or rival.

That appears to be what Trump wants to communicate about his becoming president of the U.S. He not only enjoyed an advantage over all the other Republican presidential aspirants and over Hillary Clinton, he now wants to deliver the message that he should have an advantage over the whole world. Over Mexico and China, to start with, and over seven countries that he has designated as sources of radical Muslims and whose citizens he has barred from the U.S.

The word trump has an even less flattering meaning. It originally meant “a deceptive form of victory involving cheating” or, as applied in the term, “trumped up charges,” it means falsely accusing or framing someone, such as elements of the Philippine National Police planting evidence in the premises of an intended extortion victim.

That negative meaning of the word applies even more aptly to the new U.S. president — which is why America is in for some interesting times, and the Philippines, as well, being a long-time ally of the United States and being dependent on the latter militarily and economically.

Some alarming red flags have been raised about Donald Trump, including the analysis of several psychologists concerning his mental state. Their conclusion: Trump has a case of malignant narcissism.

In an article in The Independent, Rachel Hosie wrote: “Just after the election, a group called Citizen Therapists Against Trumpism was created, which was joined by thousands of psychologists. They published a manifesto warning of Trump’s psychosis, citing the following as the signs to fear:

“Scapegoating and banishing groups of people who are seen as threats, including immigrants and religious minorities; degrading, ridiculing, and demeaning rivals and critics; fostering a cult of the Strong Man who appeals to fear and anger; promises to solve our problems if we just trust in him; reinvents history and has little concern for truth (and) sees no need for rational persuasion.

”The American Psychiatry Association has a nine-point checklist for narcissism – if someone displays just five of the traits, they have Narcissistic Personality Disorder:
1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
4. Requires excessive admiration.
5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
6. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.”

According to U.S. media, Trump displays not just five but all nine of these traits. Said one pundit, in dealing with Trump, when you shake his hand on a deal, make sure to count not just the rings on your fingers but your fingers as well.

How will the Trump presidency affect the Philippines? The more immediate possibility that the Philippines should watch out for is his obsession with putting one over on others, from not paying contractors who have worked on his hotels and casinos, to finding ways to get Mexico to pay for the wall and giving China a hard time in the U.S. market.

In other words, beware of the Trump Card. America’s long record of beneficence and generosity may have come to an end with the incumbency of this new president. Which is fine for those countries that would like to demonstrate their self-sufficiency and independence.

For all of his bluster, President Rodrigo Duterte is right when he redirects the country’s foreign policy to benefit the Philippines first – the way Trump wants to benefit America first. But there are harsh economic realities that must be faced. If Trump makes it more expensive for American companies to outsource services to other countries, one of our most lucrative generators of dollars and employment, the BPO industry will collapse.

But that pales alongside the very real perils that the world faces in confronting a megalomaniac. History has told us about Adolph Hitler. Is Trump capable of becoming like him?

Within the first few days of his incumbency, Trump has already inflicted considerable damage on America’s relations with other countries, particularly one of its closest neighbors, Mexico. Think of the danger the world faces in the hands of a man who has access to the nuclear code.

Mercifully, the laws and the structure of America provide enough safeguards against a psychotic commander-in-chief igniting World War III. But I wouldn’t be surprised if certain quarters on Capitol Hill and the Pentagon are already thinking of contingencies. For this reason, the prospect of Armageddon befalling the world during the incumbency of Donald Trump is remote.

Of course, if Trump and the Hawks in the Pentagon make good their vow to “block China from taking over territory in international waters in the South China Sea,” as reported by international media, and China regards that as an act of war, the way Chinese state media have warned, that should be cause of alarm for the Philippines.

Being an optimist and a firm believer in the beneficence of Divine Providence,, I believe that the worst that will happen will be a game of chicken between China and the U.S. Both sides will find a way to rationalize the act of “blocking” China without jeopardizing its current interests, go to great lengths to agree that “international waters” are not being taken over by Beijing and that the U.S. is simply ensuring free passage through the sea lanes, according to international law. In other words, both sides will try to save face to avoid a shooting war.

But if someone inadvertently pulls the trigger – or unleashes a nuclear bomb – we can be sure that the Philippines will be caught in the crossfire – well, okay, use a euphemism, “friendly fire,” considering that Duterte believes China is a friend and America considers us a close ally.

Crossfire or friendly fire, the Philippines will – or could – get pulverized. There’s an old African proverb that applies to our circumstance: When elephants fight, the grass gets hurt. (gregmacabenta@hotmail.com)

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