“Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe that.”
The crowd cheered Donald Trump as he taught them his keys to success. Video footage reveals his comments at a 2011 conference for business leaders in Australia. Trump thrilled the audience by advocating a large dose of lies mixed with vengeance as the recipe for success. What really caught my attention, however, was the example he offered for how to put this advice into action. It involved a former Miss Universe, but not the one you are thinking of.
Donald Trump and Another Miss Universe
We’ve seen Trump’s vengeance on display with former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, but at this conference he invited Jennifer Hawkins to join him on that Australian stage. Hawkins, an Australian, was crowned Miss Universe in 2004. Trump thought she “dissed” him by ignoring his request for her to introduce him at the event. As she walked onto the stage, she and Trump had this exchange,
Donald Trump: “First of all, how beautiful is Jennifer?” The crowd cheered. “But this is about getting even. I was so angry at her yesterday, seriously, because as I said, I thought that she dissed me … I go around saying ‘She’s my favorite Miss Universe,’ although I think I like the new one better Jennifer. So, I go around saying she’s the greatest. She writes books, they call me. I go, ugh, I don’t want to answer another Jennifer Hawkins question. She’s fantastic! And then when I came here, there was no Jennifer Hawkins.
Jennifer Hawkins: No, no. In my defense, it was a miscommunication.
Trump: So, I was actually going to get up and tell you that Jennifer is a beautiful girl on the outside, but she’s not very bright. (Crowd cheers.) But that wouldn’t have been true, but I would have said it anyway. Because, I said, you know what, it’d be great. I haven’t seen Jennifer in a couple years. She’s so great and she did so well, and she’s a big star here, and I helped her make it. I own the Miss Universe pageant. And I heard that she wouldn’t introduce me.
Hawkins: But I did!
Trump: No, but you didn’t. (Crowd cheers) So, what happens is – and you know what? She came tonight. She came – came, she came, she came, she came … (Crowd cheers. Trump looking at Hawkins) See, so they have the same filthy minds in Australia. (Crowd cheers.) No, but here’s the beauty. When she found out about it, she got in the car and she got her ass over here and I love her.
Hawkins: Can I say one thing? I found out this morning, okay? It was a miscommunication with my management, so I’m sorry. I feel really bad.
Trump: You know, I don’t know too many women who are taller than me. (Trump puts his arm around Hawkins’s waist and leans in to kiss her. She turns her head so that he kisses her cheek.)
Hawkins: Can I go now?
Trump: Yes. Go.
Electing a President
Today Americans will elect the next president of the United States. Many people are contrasting this election as a choice between the lesser of two evils. One group claims that we just can’t trust Hillary Clinton. Why? Because despite the fact that the FBI has repeatedly gone through her emails and found nothing to indict, there is an assumption that she has lied. In fact, she admits to being foolish and wishes she handled the situation better, but there is no evidence she lied or broke the law.
Trump, on the other hand, thinks that lying is a virtue. He thinks revenge is an asset. He has repeatedly shown that women are meant to be groped and kissed without their consent. And when he’s caught in the act, he makes no apology, no admission of being foolish nor does he display any desire to change.
Telling the Truth or Scapegoating?
As they read this, some of my mimetic theory friends might think I’m scapegoating Donald Trump. Indeed, there’s a fine line between telling the truth and scapegoating. Scapegoating hides behind truth claims as we condemn another in a way that dehumanizes them. It gives us a sense of power and moral superiority over and against our opponent.
But to tell the truth about Trump’s behavior without scapegoating him is actually pretty easy. Nobody needs to condemn Trump or dehumanize him. The truth is that Trump’s own words condemn him.
Jesus once warned, “I tell you, on the day of judgement you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
I’m not naïve. I know politics is ugly. Whether we are talking about the Left, Right, or anywhere in between, gaining power in politics is often earned by scapegoating our opponents. Like everyone one of us, Donald Trump deserves to be loved, not scapegoated. He’s a human being who needs his blessed humanity reflected back to him. I’m convinced he’s a broken and fearful man who desperately wants to be loved. And when he doesn’t receive that love, like so many of us, he lashes out in revenge.
The Holy Spirit: A Different Kind of Power
Trump gains power and prestige by seeking revenge. It’s a power that is over and against another. Unfortunately, Trump is not alone in using that method to gain power. But there is another way. The Judeo-Christian tradition refers to the “power of the Holy Spirit.” It’s a power that isn’t over-and-against anything or anyone. It’s a power that is with. The power of God is with us and with them, leading us into a world where divisions of “us” against “them” are melted away by the nonviolent power of God’s all-inclusive love.
No matter what happens today, let’s love Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton while speaking truth to the powers of this world that are so often violent. Indeed, God loves Donald Trump, but I sure as hell hope he doesn’t become president.