Donald Trump and the decline of America’s moral ecology

Peter Wehner writes about the “cultural and moral context that allows someone like [Donald] Trump – narcissistic, crude, obsessed with wealth and fame, and who has never felt the need to ask God for forgiveness – to emerge.” Pete believes that “it is hardly a coincidence that Donald Trump shot to the top of the polls in a nation that celebrates the Kardashians.”

I agree.

Pete ties his discussion of the cultural and moral context that fuels Trump’s campaign to David Brooks’ recent book, The Road to Character. According to Brooks:

Each society creates its own moral ecology. A moral ecology is a set of norms, assumptions, beliefs and habits of behavior and an institutionalized set of moral demands that emerge organically. Our moral ecology encourages us to be a certain sort of person.

Over the past several decades we have built a moral ecology around the Big Me, around the belief in a golden figure inside. This has led to a rise in narcissism and self-aggrandizement.

I haven’t read The Road to Character, but I agree wholeheartedly with these observations. I also agree with Pete’s view that they go a long way towards explaining the rise of Trump. I doubt that several decades ago Trump could have gained traction with his boastful, narcissistic, stand-up comedy act of a campaign.

In my view, Brooks’ observations about the current “moral ecology” also help explain some of the mass shootings America has recently experienced. The evidence strongly suggests that some mass murderers, including the latest one (in Oregon), are motivated by the desire for fame, or at least notoriety. In a Big Me society obsessed with self-aggrandizement, we shouldn’t be too surprised that certain unstable individuals who have failed to make a mark attempt to go out in a media blaze.

We also shouldn’t be too surprised when they target Christians. Christianity (and I like to think Judaism too) stands for that which the Big Me society negates — humility, deferred gratification, and the quest for forgiveness. When society tries to negate the influence of Christianity, it should expect a deterioration of the moral ecology.

Please remind me, what is so intolerable about the public display of the Ten Commandments?


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