Does Donald Trump have a conscience

Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame, recently wrote, “This is the Trump story reporters need to cover”. Bernstein has an acute concern about the President’s mental health and whether he’s mentally ill or not. Regardless of president Trump’s mentally health, he can still cause great harm if he uses the power of his office immorally. That may be the more acute issue. Instead of asking if the President is mentally ill or not, we might better ask, “is he a sociopath”?

David Remnick, Editor of The New Yorker pretty much answered that question in an Aug 20 article he wrote.“on November 9th, the United States elected a dishonest, inept, unbalanced, and immoral human being as its President and Commander-in-Chief” . (David Remnick, “The Divider” The New Yorker, Aug. 20, 2017.)
There are many however, who loudly proclaim their concern for morality, especially evangelical christians, that appear to be satisfied with whatever morality they find in President Trump. Eighty-one percent of white, evangelical christians who voted last year cast their ballot for Trump. Author Frances FitzGerald, who wrote a nearly 700-page history of white evangelical Americans from colonial times to the present, titled “The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America”, thinks Trump’s relationship with evangelicals is complicated and about much more than morality. It shows, however, that some Americans, who are very concerned about morality, think Trump’s is at least good enough.
If Trump is the sociopath Remnick and others think he is he’d be quite adept playing evangelical christians for all he could get from them. Sociopaths have no fear. They don’t care what others think of them. A sociopath can do and say the most outrageous things, and then act like nothing ever happened when it is convenient for them. The sociopath thinks only of himself. If he seems ‘helpful’ it’s usually because his helpfulness will satisfy his own wants. If he wants something, he will make sure that he obtains what he wants by using whatever means he needs. The sociopath does not experience feelings of guilt or regret. He’ll only experience regret, if his actions damage his life.

In 1613 John Donne wrote of sorrow, an unknown emotion to a sociopath, when he offered a prayer to his “Savior” in “Good Friday, Riding Westward”

“O think me worth Thine anger, punish me,
Burn off my rust, and my deformity;
Restore Thine image, so much, by Thy grace,
That Thou mayst know me, and I’ll turn my face.”

As I read Donne’s words I couldn’t help but remember the “examination of conscience” all Roman Catholic children are taught to perform before confessing their sins to a priest. During that examination Catholic children are taught to first pray for assistance in understanding what sins they committed since their last confession. The cheatsheet I often used was to simply think of the ten commandments and check-off the ones I messed-up. This in and of itself is quite a humbling and penitent act so by the time you knell in front of the priest you’re pretty much ready to “spill the beans”.

For Buddhists, I understand, what is right is what is conducive to aspiring towards nirvana; what is wrong is defined as that which is harmful towards spiritual progress. In fact, Buddhists, as I understand it, are less inclined to talk in terms of ‘right and wrong’ than to use the terms ‘skillful’ and ‘unskilful’ about actions.

In Buddhist thinking, a good action is like the action of an archer aiming the arrow towards a target. Just as the skilled archer hits the bull’s eye, so the morally ‘skillful’ person is successfully aiming towards the mark of “goodness”.

It would be nice to think that by reading just the rhyming couplet of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 94 President Trump would feel how his conscience or lack of one more than ever, gravely affects the welfare of people throughout the world.

“For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.”

President Trump enters the confessional of humanity every day and there’s no “America First” sign on the wall, just hundreds of millions of people on the other side of the curtain who don’t judge his mental health. They just pray to the gods of all religions that the lilies in the confessional don’t smell worse than weeds.

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