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Killing to Heal

In my study of Nazi doctors I emphasized their reversal of healing and killing. Trump and Trumpists, though not Nazis, are doing the same.

According to Hitler and his inner circle, the Nordic race had once been powerful but had been “infected” and weakened by Jewish influence, so that getting rid of the Jews was required for “healing” the Nordic race.

In the case of Trump and Trumpists, the way to heal society and return it to full functioning is to expose Americans to illness and death. The weak can be sacrificed; the robust will be fine. And when offering up the elderly in particular, Trumpists render them expendable, reminding us of the Nazi dismissal of “life unworthy of life.”

Trump and Trumpists have not only failed to take steps necessary to mitigate the virus but have colluded with covid-19 — holding large rallies, sometimes indoors, in which thousands of people congregate without masks or distancing. Trump himself was entrapped by this collusion, falling ill along with family members and loyalists who have been in contact with him.

Knowledgeable projections suggest that Trumpist policies have resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans, making this an age of presidential killing.

Trump also carries out his version of what the Nazis called Gleichschaltung, which meant the reordering or reorganizing of institutions and professions to conform to the required ideology. The Nazis did not destroy the medical profession but rather removed from its leadership those considered unreliable, replacing them with loyalists, so that the profession itself became Nazified.

The Trumpist Gleichschaltung of medicine during the Covid pandemic has installed the leadership of a neuroradiologist named Scott Atlas, a man with no public health or epidemiological experience. His advocacy – now Trumpist policy – is to invoke the deadly principle of “herd immunity” – encouraging the unimpeded virus to infect everyone and causing an extraordinary number of deaths in the service of a vision of ultimate healing.

Trump himself has resorted to a stance of cult-like omniscience, attacking scientists and physicians who tell us truths about Covid-19, and attempting to criminalize and destroy all who question him.

But Trump and those who follow and enable him are the criminals, agents of presidential killing. American presidents are responsible for protecting their people and enhancing their lives. Trumpists instead kill in the name of the president’s solipsistic (completely self-contained) reality. Their dominant mode has become the reversal of healing and killing.

We must keep that in mind as we vote this criminal administration out of power, remove it if it does not go willingly, and begin the long struggle to reassert truths about, make clear distinctions between, healing and killing.

Robert Jay Lifton M.D.

LOA LIVE: The Fate of the Earth: Jonathan Schell and His Legacy

To mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the fiftieth anniversary of the first Earth Day, renowned psychiatrist and author Robert Jay Lifton and Katrina vanden Heuvel, publisher of The Nation, discuss the writer and friend who put his remarkable literary gifts in the service of disarmament, nonviolence, international cooperation, and the irresistible power of democracy. Moderated by Martin J. Sherwin, editor of the new LOA collection Jonathan Schell: The Fate of the Earth, The Abolition, The Unconquerable World.

Originally aired on August 6, 2020, by LOA LIVE.

LOA LIVE: Online programs inspired by Library of America publications

Presented in partnership with The Nation, Type Media Center, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Friends of the Earth, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, The New Press, Arms Control Association, and Global Zero.

“Hiroshima and Covid-19”

(First published here, by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on August 5, 2020)

By Robert Jay Lifton and Charles B. Strozier

We are always terrified by a deadly force that we cannot see or in any way perceive until it strikes.

That was the kind of fear one of us (Lifton) encountered in survivors of the atomic bomb when he interviewed them in Hiroshima some decades ago—a fear of “invisible contamination.” Their fear was based on their witness or experience of grotesque early symptoms of radiation effects, a later increase in leukemia and other cancers, and the possibility of hereditary harm to subsequent generations.

With COVID-19 the dread involves a force that is everywhere and nowhere; the virus takes on an almost supernatural aura that in turn leads to bizarre conspiratorial explanations. It is very difficult to bring reason to a deadly force that is invisible.

Continue reading ““Hiroshima and Covid-19””

Bill Moyers Interview with Robert Jay Lifton

“Losing Reality: Can We Get the Truth Back?”

Robert spoke with Bill Moyers about his most recent book, Losing Reality: On Cults, Cultism, and the Mindset of Political and Religious Zealotry, and how it relates to current events for Moyers’ podcast, Moyers on Democracy.

Listen to a SoundCloud recording of the interview and read a copy of the transcript on the Moyers website, or listen to the episode anywhere you get your podcasts.

The New Press, Oct 2019

“The Assault on Reality” in Dissent Magazine

Essential to understanding Trump is his attempt to subject the public to his own solipsistic reality—and thereby destroy our shared basis for democracy.

An important way to understand Trump and Trumpism is as an assault on reality. At issue is the attempt to control, to own, immediate truth along with any part of history that feeds such truth. Since this behavior stems from Trump’s own mind, it is generally attributed to his narcissism (and he has plenty of that). But I would suggest that the more appropriate term is solipsistic reality. Narcissism suggests self-love and even, in quaint early psychoanalytic language, libido directed at the self. Solipsism has more to do with a cognitive process of interpreting the world exclusively through the experience and needs of the self.

Read the full article on the Dissent magazine website.