The American Inferiority Complex
by George Wolfe
It is often said that boisterous self-aggrandizement, particularly when a politician states a claim that is contrary to the facts, is in actuality a mask for covering a deep-seated insecurity and inferiority complex. This is a personality flaw that aptly describes Donald Trump. His obsessive-compulsive behavior, most recently directed toward National Football League players kneeling for the National Anthem, which pre-occupied him at the expense of responding adequately to the devastation in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands caused by Hurricane Maria, is a glaring example of misjudgment fed by his neurosis.
Sadly though, his inferiority complex has become contagious, infecting many Americans. This is understandable, however, given the vulnerable position America is now in, both nationally and internationally.
As I watch the Public Television Series on the Vietnam War, we can see where this sense of vulnerable inferiority began. Despite Richard Nixon’s determination not to be the first President to lose a war, America Lost. Despite President George W. Bush’s determination to retaliate for 9/11, launch the War on Terror and preemptively invade Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein, terror groups like Al-Qaida and ISIS have proliferated and expanded. Despite our efforts at nation building in Afghanistan, the Taliban is still a threat after 16 years of war. And despite President Trump threatening to destroy North Korea, Kim Jong Un is politically stronger and more influential than ever, and is holding the United States, South Korea, and Japan hostage through it’s growing nuclear capabilities.
The American inferiority complex is regrettably symbolized in the audacious unfolding of the giant, football-field sized American flag at NFL football games. But our inflated national ego can’t compete with professional athletes, coaches and team owners prayerfully kneeling before or during the National Anthem in protest of police brutality and President Trump’s divisive rhetoric. As an expression of hope and unity, it would be best now to add to the ceremony the singing of an alternative anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is also known as the African American National Anthem.
Perhaps our response to the Commander in Chief, who never served in the military, should be as follows: “Mr. Trump, since World War II, America’s stature in the world has changed. Today, you need to earn our patriotism. Stop tweeting and embarrassing our nation and our flag. We are not going to blindly follow you into another winless war, or into a conflict that increases global poverty and anti-American hatred.”
Karl Marx warned that capitalism contains within it, the seeds of its own destruction. Uprooting the poisonous seeds of white nationalism, police brutality, big-money politics, class and ethnic division and American self-centered arrogance as expressed by our president is a moral imperative if our country is going to survive the internal and external forces that threaten to tear it apart.
George Wolfe is Professor Emeritus and former director of the Ball State University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. He also chairs the Muncie Interfaith Fellowship, is a trained mediator, and the author of The Spiritual Power of Nonviolence: Interfaith Understanding for a Future Without War.