One video that caught my attention recently is this one, Trump getting onto a plane and abandoning his umbrella at the door. He makes no effort to fold it up, (he may not know how), he recognises it is too wide to get through the aeroplane door, so he simply drops it at the top of the stairs and walks off. A few seconds later an aide (presumably) walks around it, before finally a second umbrella-experienced aide, deftly puts it down.
At first, it’s funny. Trump seems to have a thing about rain; see last weekend’s non-attendance at the Armistice Remembrance event (apparently because it was raining) and numerous pictures of his ‘umbrella hogging’. It’s one more illustration of his self-importance, see also here.
At second glance, however, it’s not really that funny, it’s metaphoric. This has served my immediate purpose, now I can throw it away. This central Trumpian approach can be seen in different ways, his attitude to the environment for example; don’t think about long term damage, find easy solutions in the present. It can be seen in his attitude to staff, detailed analysis can be see here; Trump’s staff turnover in his first year isn’t far off the total turnover for each of the previous five presidents. His constant hiring and firing suggests that people are as expendable as that umbrella. This approach can also be seen in his communication; whatever suits an immediate purpose he’ll say, if he needs to say something different later, he’ll change it. I don’t see any reason why it would be Russia, no wait, why it wouldn’t be Russia…
I wrote on Facebook recently that Trump has to be the ultimate overachiever; never has someone so limited in capacity attained an office with so much power and influence. (George W Bush is looking better, minute by minute.) But Trump might also have achieved some kind of record height (or depth) in selfishness. He is 72 years old. We don’t know how fit he is, because he lied about that too, but he’s definitely towards the end of his life. He won’t see the long-term effects of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on climate change, or reducing access to health care for millions of Americans, or tearing up trade agreements, or peace agreements, or inciting racial prejudice, or ignoring the need for gun legislation reform. I can only assume none of that matters to him; as long as your actions serve your purpose now, the future is someone else’s problem.
Leadership is about doing the right thing in the long run, even if it’s unpopular in the short term. (Arlene, Michelle, could I invite you to reflect on this?) Trump doesn’t demonstrate leadership, he demonstrates cowardice.
But the rest of us don’t get off the hook. What am I leaving behind, is a good question that can apply to different contexts. Environmentally, what effect will our habits of consumption and disposal have on future generations? The recent Greenpeace ‘banned’ advert is a case in point. Northern Ireland is about to enter its third year with no government. While I’d like our politicians to change that, we, the electorate, voted for them because of the platforms they stood on. They didn’t propose co-operation and compromise, so we have to bear some responsibility for the mess we’re in. What effect will our choices now, have on future generations? Personally too, what are we modelling to the people closest to us? Actions communicate values; what do our actions say about the importance of work, or money, or the value of relationships? What are we passing on? Compassion, generosity, patience, empathy, forgiveness, hospitality?
When we ‘go’ -in whatever way you want to interpret that- what are we leaving behind?