Practicing what I preach

Thursday, January 03, 2019

First, a disclaimer. The Amherst Bulletin identifies me as a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts. When I write this column I do so as a citizen only and do not represent the university. Further, I have no formal training in clinical psychology or psychotherapy. Any suggestions that I make that may sound related to these fields are opinions based on my life experience. My scholarly areas of interest are infant cognition and, more recently, the relations between consciousness, science, and religion.

I want to thank Mr. Gary Ritter for his letter to the Dec. 14 Amherst Bulletin which revealed how my column of Dec. 1 could be read in ways that I did not intend. Mr. Ritter infers from what he calls my “insults and accusations” that I “despise the President.” Mr. Ritter describes me as “referring to the President as ‘Pinocchio and a racist/Nazi” and says that this is hate speech. Finally he refers to my “version of fascism” and says I appear “to have a lot of hate.”

First, in the article, I said “President Pinocchio, the lying racist.” I did not call him a Nazi. I said, “he caters to Nazis and white nationalists.” Let’s deal with Pinocchio first. This was my gentle, bordering on the humorous, way of calling this president a liar. This is not an opinion of mine. This is fact. I refer anyone interested to the recent Washington Post’s article and its Fact Checker Base that tallied more than 7600 misleading or false claims in the first half of his term. His recent rate has been a per day average of 15. Concrete example: his recent lie to the troops in Iraq that he had secured a 10 percent pay raise for them. Further evidence: his own legal team’s recognition that neither they nor he could prevent him from lying to Special Counsel Robert Muller, so that his attorney, Giuliani, said Trump would appear in person “over his dead body.” As to his racism, the interested reader can start with http://fortune.com/2016/06/07/donald-trump-racism-quotes/.

Mr. Ritter’s accusations of hate speech do not jibe with my own intentions or experience. I do not advocate hatred of anyone. I believe that hate is one of those negative emotions that do damage to one’s body. Google cortisol. When you hate someone you have no effect on that person but you damage your physical self. Surely this is a bad strategy. I have more than once suggested to “friends” on Facebook, when they describe their virulent hatred for the President and their bodily responses to some of his remarks, that they tone it down and find a constructive way to react without all the emotional, destructive bodily effects.

In the matter of hating, I do practice what I preach. I do not hate the president. Although things were not always this way, presently I am not aware of hating anyone. My spiritual beliefs take it as fundamental that the core of every sentient being is absolutely pure. The bizarre behavior that we see in some, the president being a striking example, has to do with how captured their minds have become by surface phenomena that distract them from the core of their being.

Mr. Ritter refers to my “version of fascism” and my “hate speech.” From my perspective, I have been engaging in my first amendment constitutionally guaranteed right of freedom of speech. It is not fascism nor is it hate speech for a citizen to condemn the excesses or the outrages of a president who governs by whim, is out of control, constantly lies, expects the Attorney General to function not as the chief law enforcement officer of the country but as the president’s war time consigliere, wants to muzzle a free press, tear gases and imprisons children, fear mongers, caters to tyrants and enemies, destroys vital alliances, and violates the law.

Richard S. Bogartz is a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts.