The Anti-Mensch

When I read that Trump had abrogated the Iran deal, I felt a familiar pain in the pit of my stomach. These bouts of indigestion and nausea have increased since November of 2016, as have my concerns over the world my grandchildren will inherit, and the role models they will choose to emulate.

Trump’s Presidency has been a consistent perversion of a value structure to which most Americans have long given lip service (if not always fidelity). Even if the country and the world emerge more or less intact from this dangerous, surreal period, how much permanent damage will have been done to our concept of civilized, moral, adult behavior?

When my children were very young, I used to tell them I wanted them each to grow up to be a mensch. Mensch is a yiddish word meaning “a real human being–a person of integrity and honor.”

What are the sorts of behaviors that characterize a mensch?

  • There’s civility, of course. Respect for other people. Courteous behavior in even trying situations. An absence of name-calling or other efforts to demean people with whom one  disagrees.
  • A rejection of bigotries both overt and latent. Refusing to judge one’s fellow human beings on the basis of such things as skin color, religion, gender or sexual orientation. A recognition that other people are entitled to the same rights and respect we claim for ourselves.
  • A healthy modesty–by which I mean recognition that none of us has all the answers, that other perspectives deserve consideration, that there is always more to learn, that it is always possible that one may turn out to be wrong.  A healthy modesty also implies respect for expertise, for the counsel of those with specialized or superior knowledge. A mensch has sufficient self-worth and self-confidence to give credit where it is due, and will instinctively recoil from bragging or grandstanding.
  • Maturity. Adults have a capacity for self-restraint, an ability to defer gratification when necessary to the pursuit of longterm goals. A mensch demonstrates maturity by admitting when he is wrong, and apologizing when something he has said or done makes such an apology appropriate. A mensch doesn’t engage in childish tantrums or schoolyard bullying conduct like publicly berating or humiliating others.
  • Respect for authority–as distinct from obsequiousness. A mensch balances his obligations to the rules and to those in charge against his duty to confront injustice, even when such confrontation entails a personal cost.
  • Personal Integrity. A mensch keeps his word, honors his commitments, pays his bills.  (As my father used to say, he “walks the talk.”) His behaviors are consistent with his pronouncements. Persons of integrity do not knowingly lie or mislead.
  • A good heart. A mensch genuinely cares about others in his family, his community and his country. He supports efforts to ameliorate poverty and injustice. He participates in activities intended to make the world a better place.

None of these ideal behaviors require riches or even intelligence, although like most parents I hoped my children would do well financially and would have the self-awareness that is one of the many benefits of an inquiring and lively intellect.

When I compare the behaviors and values that most parents try to instill in their children to Donald Trump’s daily, embarrassing eruptions, I cringe. President Obama was–and remains– a mensch; post-Presidency, even George W. Bush has been one.

Trump is the anti-mensch.

How do parents raise thoughtful, compassionate, responsible children when the media constantly reports the activities of a President who violates and scorns–on a daily basis– every behavioral norm they are trying to inculcate?

I’m keeping Tums in business.


  1. Take note that Dr. Kennedy, describing the qualities of a “mensch” consistently used the masculine personal pronouns. I call this cultural sexism; it is a characteristic of a people, a language and a time. Neither in German nor in Yiddish was the word “mensch” heard in reference to a girl or a woman.
    Kellyanne would be insulted to be called a mensch knowing it would be used disparagingly. Hillary, to her credit, would consider it recognition of her gender-neutral innate political skill.

  2. In Taoism, we have both yin and yang energy. It’s not good/bad. We cannot have a shadow unless we have light as well.

    The American Empire is not ruled by our elected president. He’s is nothing more than a figurehead. Some more gifted politicians than others. Some more gifted liars than others.

    Everything was done in 2016 to force feed HRC on the American people, but the left rejected her. The Establishment has been at war ever since.

    In leadership theories it all comes down to ethics – what you do with the power to lead. Why do you think the Mexican Drug Cartel leader, El Chapo, was so loved and protected by his community? He took care of the people.

    FDR and JFK took care of the people. The republicans had to vote in term limits to stop the first and the second had to be assassinated.

    Trump is a useful idiot. How many CEO’s are have banned together to protest Trump. Look at the quiet ones like Indiana – Trump Country. I ride my motorcycle all throughout rural Ohio and Indiana. All Trump country.

    And why has he done for the people…slashed the burdensome regulations on businesses (pure ignorance). Even mensches support Trump. 😉

  3. OMG,

    Sheila used the “masculine”correctly because she was comparing the qualities of a mensch to the sub-human MALE, Donald Trump.

  4. Guess I have been a mensch all these years and had no idea. Something inside me could not return abuse for abuse or lie for lies; after trying reason and logic and getting nowhere, I simply began protecting myself by using avoidance. Or legal protection when needed. I am no angel and perfection is not part of my makeup; I simply saw no positive outcome. Seeing a counselor in later life as usual returned to my childhood for answers; the counselor kept a tennis racket in his office and after talking about my alcoholic, abusive father I was to solve that problem by figuratively using the tennis racket to beat him by hitting an empty chair. It stunned and embarrassed me and I stopped after 2-3 hits; the counselor didn’t understand when I told him I didn’t want to become my father and return the abuse, I wanted to understand it. Too often not returning abuse for abuse in any form gives the appearance of being weak and deserving of the whatever happens to us.

    I see that in our current political situation; local, national and international, we Democrats/liberals/leftists, pick your term, appear to be weak and deserving of what we are getting from this Trump administration. I am hoping and praying that the Democratic party has a plan and Robert Mueller (not a Democrat but served President Obama faithfully for 8 years) with his ongoing investigation will prove to be menches of the highest degree and will come out ahead by not returning abuse for abuse and lie for lies. This country’s years long international allies are becoming stronger by not returning Trump’s childish insults and name-calling. It appears to be the American citizens supporting Trump who continue the abuse and lies with his encouragement and examples.

    “How do parents raise thoughtful, compassionate, responsible children when the media constantly reports the activities of a President who violates and scorns–on a daily basis– every behavioral norm they are trying to inculcate?”

    It is the same with all basic parenting for most parents; we do our best to teach them right from wrong and hope when they reach the age of accountability – and voting age – they have listened and will make the correct decisions. During the teenage years of my five children I became fed up with the repeated excuse of “peer pressure”; it is true to a point but they do make the decision to choose their peers and make the decision in the voting booth…if they choose to vote.

    Sheila; I keep a large bottle of Kroger brand antacids myself as well as Tylenol for the stress headaches.

  5. We’ve never been a nation who lived up to the values of which you have spoken, Dr. Kennedy, but history will show that November 4, 2008 was the day we truly began to turn our backs on the ideas you describe. We faced our bigotry head on, and due to the catastrophe of a Republican economy, we chose to elect a Black President — and then tied his hands.
    On January 20, 2009, the night of his inauguration, the largest political party in the United States planned on how to destroy his administration and prevent the recovery from that Republican economic disaster.
    The end result of all this? What you describe failed, and our historic prejudices and hatreds have triumphed.
    And now, they’re there for all of us, and the world, to see, and history will show that another ’empire’ failed and fell.

  6. OMG; the Declaration of Independence states, “….We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,….”

    The capitalization of the word “Men” is copied as it is stated in the Declaration of Independence.

  7. Todd Smekens-
    Fake news! Hillary WON OVERWHELMINGLY the support of the American people, both LEFT and RIGHT.
    The Electoral College ignored the Popular Vote and the RIGHT, not the left, rejected her by and handful of Electoral College votes.
    Don’t know how any American can get this ass-backward. Tuned in to FOX BAD-NEWS, maybe?

  8. When, after 2020, the Republic has been restored and we are back to a rational government, and future people ask what went wrong, how did democracy go so far astray, I think that we will point out that it didn’t, we elected Hillary Clinton but the Russians elected Donald Trump. We will use this disaster as a lesson in how really urgent voting is. Freedom is so fragile. We the people chose traditional American politics but enough of us did not so that our foreign enemies decided for us who they preferred to be in power.

    Parliamentary government formalizes an important political reality that is more obscure in our governmental organization and that is alliance. They make great public show of which tribes find which tribes imperfect but close enough to rule. They salute diversity of opinion but accept that the greater good can only be served when good can overrule perfection.

    Now we have seen the consequences of dysfunction uniting and function dividing. It is an unaffordable luxury.

  9. I sense that there is growing acceptance of Trump’s “ideas” and he is increasingly being hailed for his efforts with North Korea, his “renegotiation” of NAFTA, getting the US out of the Paris Accord, etc. His press coverage is increasingly positive and non-stop. His obvious character flaws and his limited understanding of the consequences of his actions (mostly unilateral, relieving Congress of its responsibilities), his constant – lying all seem to be fading into the background as he marches ahead with his “plans” to MAGA. Democracy is circling the drain and the options for saving it look increasingly limited.

  10. Thank you for reminding me.., I have some TUMS. Good idea.
    That and a Geiger Counter…

  11. Some bloggers should go back to wearing a helmet when they ride their motorcycles. Bouncing one’s head against hard objects tends to alter one’s views of reality.

    Yes, Trump is the anti-Mensch. He is also anti-Constitution, anti-non-white people and anti-rule of law. The only thing he is for is himself. I don’t see where his behaviors are becoming normalized as much as that the horror of his being is somehow less nauseating. It’s like watching the gore in a horror movie. Toward the end, you stop throwing up.

  12. Twitter would close any other account that repeatedly bullied others. They should close 45’s. The media should send its cub reporters to the White House Press Briefings to be lied to, not their seasoned professionals. 45 got way too much coverage as a candidate. He’s getting way too much coverage as President. Cover what’s important.

    Believe it or not we will get through this. The old racists and nationalists will eventually die off, but meanwhile we need to face our demons and deal with racism and nationalism here and now if we are to get back on course.

  13. The Electoral College.
    The founding fathers established it in the Constitution as a compromise between election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens.

    Each candidate running for President in your state has his or her own group of electors. The electors are generally chosen by the candidate’s political party, but state laws vary on how the electors are selected and what their responsibilities are.

    There is no Constitutional provision or Federal law that requires Electors to vote according to the results of the popular vote in their states. Some states, however, require Electors to cast their votes according to the popular vote. These pledges fall into two categories—Electors bound by state law and those bound by pledges to political parties.

    The winning Presidential candidate’s slate of potential Electors are appointed as the state’s Electors—except in Nebraska and Maine, which have proportional distribution of the Electors.
    The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the Constitution does not require that Electors be completely free to act as they choose and therefore, political parties may extract pledges from electors to vote for the parties’ nominees. Some state laws provide that so-called “faithless Electors” may be subject to fines or may be disqualified for casting an invalid vote and be replaced by a substitute elector.
    So it The Trumpet (Agent Orange) wins Indiana, he receives all of Indiana’s Electoral Votes. I did not notice any burly Russian Types voting at my Polling Place in 2016.

  14. In “1984” Big Brother did not need to be in the voting booth. His presence was virtual.

    In 2016 there were no Russians in the voting booths (that we know about for sure). Their presence was virtual and earlier.

    Now that we insist that entertainment be no more than an arm’s length away and available 24/7 our minds are ripe and wide open for manipulation.

  15. “I sense that there is growing acceptance of Trump’s “ideas” and he is increasingly being hailed for his efforts with North Korea, his “renegotiation” of NAFTA, getting the US out of the Paris Accord, etc. His press coverage is increasingly positive and non-stop.”

    daleb and Marv; I am forced to agree with the above statement…in it entirety but, those hailing his “accomplishments at deconstruction” are putting the cart before the horses-asses. They see only a positive outcome from two childish, super wealthy, mine’s bigger than your’s, liars and bullies who cannot be trusted as for as we could throw them…and both are overweight.

    “Democracy is circling the drain and the options for saving it look increasingly limited.” This statement is the one we need to keep foremost in our minds and the outlook we need to be concerned with changing. We cannot change the opposition; that grass is not greener to anyone but the Trump faction. We need to keep a watchful eye on them 24/7 as we work to strength what you refer to as our increasingly limited options. Discouraging the weak members of our side is not the way to win in November. The local turnout here on Tuesday was below 16%; shameful. We can take a lesson from the Confederacy at the end of the Civil War; they fought till the handshake settled the agreement on the end of the war. Discouragement and negativity kept Democratic voters at home in 2009 and brought out Republicans in droves to beat “the colored guy” in the White House; we don’t need a repeat of that outcome which will only mean a continuation and escalation of what we have controlling us today.

  16. Virtual Russians is that like CGI )computer-generated imagery)??

    Big Brother was more than virtual. Winston was actually tortured, which leads to The Trumpet’s (aka Agent Orange) choice for CIA Director Gina Haspel.

    Gina Haspel tried to come across in her hearing as June Cleaver, but she is really Mommy Dearest.

    “We need a new CIA director who is committed to the rule of law and will heed the advice of U.S. military leaders who vigorously oppose torture and uphold the values that have made us a great and respected nation,” Bernie Sanders said. “Ms. Haspel is the wrong choice to lead the CIA, and I will oppose her nomination.”

    From the Intercept:
    Will Democrats Unite to Block Trump’s Torturer, Gina Haspel, as CIA Chief? If Not, What Do They #Resist?
    Samantha Winograd, who served on President Obama’s National Security Council and now is an analyst for CNN, likewise used Nuremberg defense language in an appearance on the network. Haspel, she said, “was implementing the lawful orders of the president. . . . You could argue she should have quit because the program was so abhorrent. But she was following orders.”

    There is some factual accuracy to this claim: Haspel was not some rogue torturer. It is absolutely true that she was implementing CIA policy as decreed by George Bush, Dick Cheney and the Justice Department. Like most CIA officials involved in torture, not only was Haspel protected from punishment for that, but she was repeatedly promoted.
    Will the Democrats resist “Mommy Dearest” as CIA Director – I doubt it – The Security-Military Industrial Complex has given her the OK – After all she is one of Us.

  17. JoAnn,

    “daleb and Marv; I am forced to agree with the above statement…in it entirety but, those hailing his “accomplishments at deconstruction” are putting the CART before the HORSES-asses.”

    You couldn’t say it any better. I bet you will end up being RIGHT.

  18. OMG: German uses the word “Mensch” to apply to women regularly. Brecht’s famous play, “The Good Woman of Sezuan”, about a woman named Shen Te, has the original title, “Der gute Mensch von Sezuan”.

  19. We need to acclimate ourselves to the era of the the anti-mensch. It will be with us for rest of our lives. Trump’s strategy for achieving immortality, given to him and implemented by Mitch O’Connell, is to appoint a record number of far-right judges to lifetime positions on district courts, circuit courts and courts of appeal. In many of the appointments so far, those with qualifications needn’t have bothered applying. Additionally, if he survives in office until 2020, Trump is likely to appoint another right-wing radical to the Supreme Court , thereby predetermining (or at east rendering predictable) nearly every decision in the realm of business and social issues such as crime, immigration, race, education, gender equality, etc. Judicially, America will more and more resemble the mind of the unbalanced deplorable cretin who makes a daily mockery of the West Wing.

    As if that weren’t too stunning to contemplate, there are no good ideas out there about how to repeal the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, so money is likely to be the deciding factor in most elections going forward. If I were a true-believer Republican, that would make me want to clink champagne classes with my fellow bigots.

    No, I’m not considering swallowing a beverage laced with hemlock, but until I begin to hear rumors of Trump’s flock catching on to what he is doing to our country (none so far), I’m having a tough time seeing how we work our way out of this morass.

  20. Well, well, well; already on the anti-mensch list of our high position elected officials, Vice President Mike Pence’s anti-integrity was just exposed on Indianapolis Channel 6 ABC News at Noon. Pence voted in this Tuesday’s primary election via an absentee ballot using the address of the Indiana Governor’s Mansion as his home address. The head of the Indiana Democratic Committee is seeking an explanation.

    Governor Holcomb, who has lived in the Governor’s Mansion since Pence vacated it in 2016 to join Trump has no comment.

  21. Terry,

    “No, I’m not considering swallowing a beverage laced with hemlock, but until I begin to hear rumors of Trump’s flock catching on to what he is doing to our country (none so far), I’m having a tough time seeing how we work our way out of this morass.”

    The answer is not all that difficult. It’s all about issues. For example: LIFE or DEATH is an issue. If we can prove the Republicans led by Donald Trump are on the side of DEATH [FUTURCIDE], then there shouldn’t be much of a problem for the Democrats to win big in November. Is there anyone who disagrees with me on that particular SOLUTION?

  22. I accept that I may have ridden without a helmet, etc., but even PBS News Hour coverage is starting to appear apologetic to Trump. I miss the post-election backlash, the demonstrations. Congress is comfortable with Trump at the helm. The Democrats are directionless, message-less and intimidated, except for the occassional Schumer or Pelosi soft missive against the obvious. The resistance is gone. Voters still don’t turn out.

  23. Death is what Trump has been all about since he took America out of the Paris Climate Accord less than six months after assuming office. Later he endorsed wide-scale death by threatening the use of nuclear weapons. He’s come around to agreeing with the NRA that teachers should impose death on school shooters. He’s all about death for blacks and just about anyone not named Trump, and yet his pouty loyalists issue nary a peep. He will prove his manhood and validate his death credentials by taking us into a war with Iran or North Korea. No Republican president has the guts not to start a war for his best friends in the military industrial complex. Are we spending $600+ billion a year in pursuit of a strategy to bring about world peace? Give me a break.

  24. They are never going to catch on. If they voted for a guy who mocked the disabled reporter, they won’t care when McCain is called a traitor or whatever horrible thought they use to appeal to their insentient base. Terry is right, it’s the era of the anti-Mensch. We are in the timeline where Biff Tannen is elected president.

    I don’t have any good answers. Your destiny is not to see any of this resolved. Enjoy the time you are given. Laugh at the funny primates. Don’t take what they do personally. They do not possess the intelligence to understand their own minds, much less the consequences of their actions.

  25. daleb,

    As I have been saying for a long time, the LEADERSHIP has to come from OUOTSIDE of the Democratic Party. As you have pointed out, Shumer and Pelosi are incapable of doing battle with the the Republican Party. If you’re for LIFE and not for DEATH then you have to confront the current leadership of the Democratic Party. What other competent choice is there?

  26. daleb @ 1:03 pm.
    “The Democrats are directionless, message-less and intimidated, except for the occasional Schumer or Pelosi soft missive against the obvious. The resistance is gone. Voters still don’t turn out.”

    The problem is Pelosi and Schumer, the DNC and the DCC.
    Good analysis by Ralph Nader>> Ralph Nader to ‘Decrepit’ Democrats: Stop Scapegoating and Embrace a Bold Agenda

    “I think the Democratic Party should take the third party agenda away from it. They should have a living wage, crack down on corporate crime, full Medicare for All.”

    “Democratic Party: stop scapegoating, look in the mirror, and ask yourself why you cannot landslide the worst, the most ignorant, the most corporate indentured, the cruelest Republican Party in history. Look in the mirror.”

    This blunt advice from the veteran progressive champion and politician comes as a new CNN poll finds that the Democratic Party’s “2018 advantage is nearly gone.”

    A Reuters poll concluded that ‘enthusiasm for the Democratic Party is waning among millennials.
    Since Nov 2016 the Corporate Establishment – Vichy Democrats have done nothing but to try to run against The Trumpet (Agent Orange). The situation with DACA has also fallen off the Democrats radar. No plan by the Democrats for what they are for, no offense.

  27. Over it,

    You’re right, they don’t care about anyone else, EXCEPT THEMSELVES. I learned that gem of wisdom many years ago as the sole trial attorney in Raines County, the most racist county in Texas.

    I’ve mentioned this before, I never lost a case during that time. My solution as a defense attorney was to target the juries emotions, i.e. “loss of sleep” if they convicted the wrong person. It was all about them. They could have cared less about the defendant. I knew they just wanted “a good night sleep” like we all do.

    As a matter of fact, that’s all they want from Donald Trump. If it can be PROVED that he can’t deliver on that, then he and the Republican Party are going to be DOOMED.

  28. remarkable what social media and the major news has given us. theres a word for the wise,take some time out and read,and look at past history. obviously,the entire congress has lied to benifit the monied intrests in this country,and themselves,with no,regard to rule of law,ethics,and basic moral principles. we have shown how lazy we are,and how inept to protest… maybe alook back at how we left vietnam,and its profiteers.
    bumper sticker:
    maybe if we tell people thier brain is a app,
    they would start using it

  29. I, unlike some of my fellow contributors today who think that Pelosi and Schumer are lost causes, note that much Democratic leadership these days is springing from an aroused electorate, especially from permanently outraged women and a youth tired of being shooting targets. I admit that Trump’s daily atrocities are taking their toll in terms of our enthusiasm coefficient, but I think that is seasonal. I expect the blue tsunami to intensify as we approach November and am more assured than ever that we will almost certainly reclaim the House with a shot for the Senate. I apparently remain more enthusiastic about November than my fellows; perhaps it has something to do with being currently on Maui. Nice place.

  30. I too agree with Ralph Nader. Those who have been around a long time are not much surprised by this mess and understand exactly why it all came about. Democrat leadership needs to shape the hell up and quite being reactive.

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