Monday, March 13, 2017


After now two years of virtually nonstop exposure to Donald J. Trump, it is surely not injudicious to assert that the man has no concept of morality; or, to be fair, that the dual lodestar of his moral compass is money and the accumulation of power over others (as identified in one of his favorite words, "winning.") In this, sadly, he is perhaps an accurate reflection of the American ethos in this day and age—which is likely at the root of his phenomenal success. And of his eventual failure.

The foundation of Buddhist morality differs a bit from the Judeo-Christian model of good and evil, but still dovetails with it nicely. It can be reduced to that simplest of injunctions: do no harm. There are no “Ten Commandments” in Buddhism, dictating human behavior--though there are "precepts" for monks; actions that violate the basic principle are not “sinful,” they are “unskillful.” They lead to harmful consequences, whether for oneself or others.

Is it worth re-stating the obvious: that for Trump and his enablers in the US Congress, it’s all about the money? And that the consequences of their actions threaten to bring harm to most of us--the poor, the vulnerable, the powerless, the defenseless--even as they enrich the very few, the likes of Donald J. Trump.

To take a look at just a few examples. Given the fundamental motivation to restrict the role of government in every aspect of our communal lives, the Republican agenda is driven by the compulsion to “privatize,” which caters in turn to the bottom-line profit motive. Thus, their infrastructure program proposes a “public-private” collaboration, in which public funds will be doled out generously to corporate contractors who will not only make money on construction projects, but also subsequently benefit from fees charged for their use. Instead of stimulating the public treasury in the form of taxes, the profits are headed directly back into the pockets of private corporations.    

The same, of course, with the privatization of health care, public lands, the schools, the prison system. I read yesterday about “pay-to-stay” jails, where convicts with sufficient financial resources can purchase comfortable quarters and conditions for themselves during their confinement. The profits are certainly turned back into the improvement of the prison system. Public lands are already up for grabs by mining and oil-drilling interests—a give-away of resources soon to be sold back, for profit, to a gullible public. Our education system is being parceled off to for-profit organizations whose interest is not primarily the education of our children or young adults, but the bottom line. Under Trump, we can only expect more of the same.

What of the health care system, devised by the Obama administration to extend coverage to millions? Is that to be “repealed and replaced” by a system that caters to the needs of insurance companies, drugs manufacturers and medical providers? And what of our political system, skewed by laws that recognize wealthy corporations as “people” and allows donors, privileged by wealth and class, to act anonymously to influence elections?

It’s all about the money, then. And where is the morality in that? If the money were devoted to “skillful” ends there would perhaps be no harm in it. But no, the motivation appears to be only to amass more of it. Sitting in the people’s White House, Trump clearly relishes the opportunity, along with his clan, to enhance his “brand” and to amass further wealth at public expense. If he had a moral compass other than that provided by the accumulation of money and power, it is not reflected in his actions.

Do no harm. It’s a simple rule. It requires only a measure of compassionate vision and self-reflection—qualities that it seem notably lacking in our president. The result, I fear, will be an increase in human suffering not only in this country but around the world. And no one will "win", not even Donald J. Trump.

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