The Freudian concept of psychological projection refers to the behavior of people who, unable to acknowledge their own weaknesses, ascribe those same failings to others. President Trump provides a striking example in his multiple post-impeachment rants calling those who sought his removal “vicious” and “mean.” His choice of the word “mean” caught my attention, because I’ve been thinking for some time now that the United States has become a mean country.
There has been meanness, and worse, in the world, of course, long before there was a President Trump. But it doesn’t require suffering from the agitation of Trump derangement syndrome to observe that something toxic has been let loose during these past three years.
Much of it has to do with immigration: the separation of families at the border and the effort to terminate DACA, the program that protects from deportation undocumented young people brought to the United States as children. Removing this protection for hundreds of thousands of productive “Dreamers,” now pursuing higher education or holding jobs (or both), is an obvious lose-lose proposition for the country. It is also simply mean.
And the meanness radiates out from Washington. The mayor of Springfield, Mass., one of the biggest cities in one of the bluest states, has taken the president up on his offer to let local officials veto the resettlement of refugees in their communities. Tennessee enacted a law to cut off state money to cities that declare themselves “sanctuaries” from federal immigration enforcement. (At the same time more than a dozen counties in Tennessee have endorsed a growing “Second Amendment sanctuary” movement for gun rights.)