Michael Steele, Mary Trump, and The Healing of America

First, a mea culpa: I didn’t even know that Mr. Steele had a podcast. I looked on You-Tube for Mary Trump ‘s podcast just after the E. Jean Carroll verdict of her uncle, our former President. I was curious about her response to that verdict. Though what I found wasn’t that, I’m glad I saw it. Now that I have found the podcast, I have downloaded and subscribed to it.

Who is Michael Steele? Mr. Steele is a Black man who used to be the Chairman of the Republican Party, back when there was a (non-Trump) Republican Party.  In fact, after a recent election (Obama’s first vs. George W. Bush?), Mr. Steele led an “autopsy” on what went wrong for the party and how to win again. He suggested that modernization (seeking younger voters) and diversity was the way to go. As has become apparent, that suggestion was not taken by the party, and they have gone the opposite way with what Steele would probably say are obvious results. Instead of putting out a wider tent, the party took in the tent poles, limited themselves to straight, White, old men and women until they could purify that to very White, seemingly straight, angry men who don’t particularly like women, women’s bodies, women’s rights, women’s autonomy. They, as he could have told them, lost elections that they should have won, appealing to fewer and fewer voters.

Steele is no longer Chair of the party, and is a guest commentator on MSNBC, frequently working with the more “moderate” hosts – Joe Scarborough of Morning Joe, Nichole Wallis of Deadline White House, and so on. Just prior to his interviewing Mary Trump, the Tennessee Three thing happened. Three members of the Tennessee State Legislature were castigated for daring to call for the gun control that their constituents demanded after many mass shootings. Of the three, two were Black, and one was a White woman. Two of the three were expelled and, just to point out the bigotry in the power structure, those two members were the Black members.

In listening to the radio broadcast as it happened, Mr. Steele seemed to be having flashbacks to the Old South, recognizing “dog whistles” for dogs long thought to be dead by White America. The passion and hurt in his voice as he discussed the events happening in real time were great signs of his humanity and, to be sure, his Christianity, (the one that likes Jesus’ words, not megachurch theology). I’ve liked to hear his thoughts on many things of political interest

Who is Mary L. Trump? She has fascinated me on any number of things. Yes, she is Donald Trump’s estranged niece, and that may be what started this journey for most of us. She is a psychiatrist who wrote a book: “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man” which described the development of a narcissist in her family over the years who later became President. Her great-uncle (Trump’s father) was a narcissist and a powerful bigot in New York City who made his money by keeping (or throwing) Blacks out of their apartments in the big city. The former President followed in Dad’s footsteps, of course, while Mary’s father was ridiculed for having his own life, succeeding as a pilot on his own terms until his alcoholism got the better of him.  It is a great psychological study of an incredibly (self) destructive family. As one who likes psycho-biographical books, I found the book a great read, and it gave me insights into the man’s psyche  that allowed me to keep relatively sane during his tenure in office.

That’s how she came to my attention, but Mary Trump is so much more than that, it turns out. She is a Democrat! in the style of old radical Democrats who said what they believed. She pulls no punches in dialog about what she expects from the party and the people in power. She is a well-to-lesbian from The Big City. As others try to be bipartisan and polite, Mary is a liberal who doesn’t have time for that. She wants to be a Democrat while living in democracy. She believes in liberal ideas and she gives voice to them.

She sees herself as a “Nerd” and has a podcast which features “the nerd avengers”. Again, she’s a psychiatrist – an intellectual by nature, who knows how the mind works and is curious about human nature because she has dealt with it for years in her daily life.

Finally, Mary wrote a book on racism in America and its impact on our culture. The book is called, “The Reckoning: Our Nation’s Trauma and Finding a Way to Heal”, In it she explains that unrepentant racism in our history causes trauma for so many and doesn’t allow us to heal when we cling to The Old Ways vs. dealing with them.

So that’s the set-up: a Black, straight, Republican Christian who grew up relatively poor in a Southern city (if one thinks of Washington, D.C. as Southern) and a White lesbian Democrat , who grew up intellectual, in a relatively rich, elite family in  a Northern city, had a conversation. In terms of categories, they couldn’t be much different. In regular news media they frequently talk in terms of sociological categories, which leads to polling and analysis of politics, and speculation about the possible Presidency of Donald J. Trump and the feelings about it on the Right and Left.

To my original disappointment. It turns out, they are both tired of Trump and his impact on politics, criminal (lack of ) justice, and immorality around women and their issues and would rather talk about anything else. That original disappointment turned to hope as they chose a better path: They were just going to be them and talk about things that mattered to them as individual people.

Since it’s Steele’s podcast, he starts right off with “I don’t want to talk about that guy”. I want to talk about what’s happening in the rest of America. I want to talk about why America is so crazy right now and what to do about it. I want you to psychoanalyze this country right now. How did we get here?”

As a recently retired therapist of twenty years or so, I watched as she did the therapeutic thing: she healed him by listening and by being honest about the trauma he goes through every day in America. I don’t now if he’d call it trauma exactly, but it certainly was healing. You could see his body relax, his pupils wide open, and his jaw relaxed, as he simply took it in. She acknowledged his pain. She acknowledged that she didn’t — and couldn’t — know all of it, because she wasn’t him. What she did know, and could understand, she lifted from him.

After that weight was removed and the pain acknowledged, and she gave him a “corrective emotional experience” by sort of repenting on behalf of those who hurt him in the past and present. Answers about what to do and ways to see it came pouring out of him. He spoke about more things and made more connections. Their connection/friendship deepened.

As she spoke about our punitive justice system, she explained that it was cheaper to give someone an education than to punish them for acting out in a society that made them fear. She said neither side healed by punishing the other. Steele stopped and said, “that’s very reminiscent of the words of Jesus”. My heart soared.

As a pastor for now thirty three years, I got it. The Spirit was flowing between them and he knew in his heart of hearts that he was onto something. His faith offered a solution for the problem of mass incarceration in a Truth that she couldn’t come to by herself. Psyche and Soul were joined in the room for each of them. Transformation was happening. He spoke of God as a male and she said, “She (God) wasn’t going to allow injustice”. They were both talking about the same Person. They had found common ground in a country that is so divided it hurts.

It was an incredible experience – like watching therapy and the Spirit moving at the same time, and both people being touched by it. It was a reminder of all the things I love in life being in one place and the healing power each has

This, this, is how we heal our country. Yes, it is possible. I recommend this particular episode of the podcast to anyone who wants to heal and heal others in the political realm.

Thank you to both of them.

Resisting with Peace,