I grew up interested in horse-racing. In the summer as a kid in Edmonton, my uncle, ten years older than me and studying at the University of Alberta, would sometimes take me to the track to catch the last few races. We’d get in free. I loved seeing the horses. I loved seeing my uncle’s excitement and the way he would comb through the program to look at a horse’s history.
The Triple Crown in horse-racing is the big three of annual races in North America. Each is prestigious. The Preakness Stakes. The Kentucky Derby. The Belmont Stakes. If won together in the same year, the horse is deemed the Triple Crown winner. It doesn’t happen that often; there have only been 13 horses to do this. On Saturday, “Justify” won the Belmont Stakes to cap the Triple Crown. It’s the second time in three years that a horse has done this. However, before that, it had been 37 years.
I’ve been thinking a bunch about another kind of triple crown that has more to do with failure to mature than with fast horses. I’d suggest that three qualities that block maturing are dishonesty, manipulation, and hypocrisy. These are all pretty strong words. Prestigious, I suppose, like the horse races, in their own right. Patterned together is really quite a package of potential harm.
To be clear, I can find each of these qualities in me. This isn’t a post about purity and moral perfection. Without intending malice, many of us have to move the edges a bit in the name of the good things that we love or care about. I do manipulate my 13 year-old when I’m trying to get him off of too much video game play. I’m not sure it’s even possible to be totally honest with self or with others, but these are issues of complexity and emotional awareness more so than scruples and morals.
All of this plays out on many layers. One, that many of us are paying attention to, is with US President Donald Trump. The latest arising storm and name calling from that presidency is from the G7 economic gathering held last week in Quebec, Canada. I don’t track the details of the economics of that; there are just too many that are beyond my primary interests. But I somehow can’t help but pay attention to the behaviors exhibited and reported. Donald Trump so often seems to want to stand out on his own. To go against the grain. To rattle the cages. To shake the fences. It seems so often that he does so with arrogance, wielding power and privilege like no other. Collaboration doesn’t seem to be his game. He’s stirring the pot, sometimes completely tipping it over, and sometimes smashing it with a sledgehammer.
Let’s go back to the triple crown of unmaturation. I don’t have a problem with manipulation, hypocrisy, and dishonesty being part of the narrative. I’m talking about nuances now. Not, “it’s ok to be 94% manipulative; everybody does it.” Rather, “there is some of the everything in all of us, even less than one per cent.” They are nuances that when owned, can be quite evolutionary. However, with Trump (and for now, I’m just using him as a symbol), he just seems to get off on it. It’s his operating mode. It’s his expression of power (which so often is a compensation for fear, right). Mix in some narcissist here and you get someone not working for a higher cause (I do love my 13 year-old when I’m interrupting his overdone video games), but rather, behaving like that annoying little brother that can’t help but act selfishly because he’s still a boy.
Personally, I’m hoping that we get through this presidency and time of living without annihilation. When you give your teenager the keys to the car the first few times, there’s a period where you hope that they just don’t do damage. You hope that they mature into more responsible adult humans. Same here with Donald Trump. Let’s hope that the local and global ability to cooperate, collaborate, and work for the higher good isn’t completely undermined for generations.
In the mean time, I do believe Trump as symbol is provoking most of us to attend to shadowy parts within us. That’s a good thing. There’s much to learn. And it might just be that this is the opportunity that Trump can uniquely invoke in contemporary society, like no other. We may not be able to get to an evolution of consciousness without times like these. There’s risk.
But let’s call it what it is. Manipulation, dishonesty, and hypocrisy — when done with such egotism, that’s a triple crown that contaminates, not elevates for the higher good.