Mark Kingwell is professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto.
There are moments when the President of the United States gets things just right. Consider, for example, his aversion to the late Senator John McCain.
Mr. McCain is widely considered a war hero, despite Mr. Trump’s attempts to paint him as a coward who was imprisoned and tortured in Vietnam. “I like people who weren’t captured,” Mr. Trump said in 2015. We all know the sterling service record of Mr. Trump, who can salute proudly, if his painful bone spurs allow it, during this week’s 75th-anniversary acknowledgments of the D-Day invasion. So there, Loser McCain!
Now it is 2019, and the President travels to Japan – where, as it happens, the naval vessel named for Mr. McCain is on station. Suddenly, a tarpaulin covers the destroyer’s hull, and the White House chief of staff rushes to explain why.
“An advance team is hundreds of people,” Mick Mulvaney said this week. “The fact that some 23- or 24-year-old person on the advance team went to that site and said, ‘Oh my goodness, there’s the John McCain. We all know how the President feels about the former senator. Maybe that’s not the best backdrop. Could somebody look into moving it?’ That’s not an unreasonable thing to ask.”
Was Mr. Mulvaney throwing this hapless twentysomething under the bus, or offering a postfacto justification for a move that would relieve the President of embarrassment, knowing that no U.S. warship will ever be named after him? There is a USS Ronald Reagan, however, so who knows, and who cares?
But then, a large projection of a red USS John S. McCain baseball cap, on the walls of Madame Tussauds wax museum, greeted Mr. Trump on his subsequent state visit to London. Mr. McCain haunts him from the grave, courtesy of the U.S. Navy and puckish English protesters.
Still, Mr. Trump’s staff has opened new vistas in the field of bogus self-worth. The key is never to confront anything uncomfortable. We can’t all move warships, hide sailors or deploy tarps, but we can construct self-saving blinders that will ease our passage through an unappreciative world.
So, here is a magic seven-step guide for making ego-inflating avoidance real in your life and mine.
- Actual blinders. Remember those milk-carton periscopes you made for science class in Grade 5? Now construct a straight-ahead version that constricts your peripheral vision. Call it a Paradigm Stabilizer (I stole that from a cartoon), and then just look at the things you like. The cartoon is only as big as the frame.
- Sycophants. Mr. Trump has cornered the market in boot-lickers, butt-kissers and brown-nosers. It is baffling why seasoned public servants agree to this servitude, only to be dismissed and dissed sooner rather than later. But just keep telling everyone you are a stable genius, and weak-willed middle-aged white men will apparently bow down. Good to know!
- Have you seen those TV ads with Jon Hamm as an oblivious celebrity who thinks he lives in a smart house? In fact, the voice-commanded closing drapes, lavender mist and piano music – not to mention the order-in pad Thai – is co-ordinated by a hustling young man in a button-down shirt and khakis. You can do this, too! Millennials are starving, they will work for almost nothing. Hire some invisible lackeys and get happy.
- Alcohol has many virtues. One of them is the ability to erase unpleasant memories. Did you see something nasty? Did you do something nasty? Drink more, go to sleep and wake up secure. (Note: Mr. Trump does not drink, so this expands the stable-genius stable paradigm.)
- Rework Tom Jones’s hit song It’s Not Unusual as It’s Not Unreasonable. Sing it loudly anytime someone thinks it’s odd that you daily disrespect your enemies, tweet falsehoods and insult worthy people.
- Spend all your time on Twitter, denying the things you demonstrably said, while wearing a princess crown from an old My Little Pony catalogue. You’re so pretty, and Meghan Markle is nasty! Acquire a magic mirror that will tell you that you are the fairest of them all. (You are!)
- Don’t look at opinion polls, or the Constitution, whether that means the document or the naval vessel. Instead, cover your eyes and sing: “It’s not unreasonable to be loved by everyone.” (In your mind!) “It’s not unreasonable to have fun with everyone.” (Who follows you on Twitter!) “Why can’t this crazy love be mine?” (It can!)
Repeat as needed, until you smell the lavender mist, the pad Thai or two Big Macs and a Diet Coke.