Lawrence Rubin Ph.D, ABPP, LMHC, RPT-S

Popular Culture Meets Psychology

An Appreciation for Trump and Blue Bicycles

How I cleverly avoided political embroilment

Posted May 09, 2016

Social critic Marchall McLuhan famously opined that "art is anything you can get away with." So too apparently is politics, and the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is living proof of that.

I am not a politician (hence my posting here), nor am I a political pundit...and truth be told, I don't really find politics, or should I more accurately say, politicans interesting. And certainly there a few topics of conversation more volatile and that run the risk of escalating to blows than politics, so I keep my opinions to myself. There are many who willingly enter the fray, and of late I have even noticed that some very esteemed colleagues in my field of psychology have begun offering diagnostic impressions of Trump. I will stay out of that one because I think that armchair diagnosis is dangerous and ethically questionable.

But as a someone who has spent a good deal of time at the intersection of popular culture and psychology, I feel comfortable thanking Donald Trump for existing because without him, and others of his ilk, we as a society run the risk of "collective discourse fatigue" or CDF. In short, he gives us something to talk about, to think about, to rail against....and if we pay real close attention, we may even have the opportunity to explore our own (both spoken and unspoken) cherished beliefs.....about the important stuff like gender, race, religion, vulnerability, fear and loathing. In short, Donald, in spite of himself and without thinking about it, gives us something to think about.

I liken his role in society to a curiosity that struck Fort Lauderdale a while back called the Blue Bicycle Phenomenon". In short, this was an experiment in phenomenology designed to draw the eye and more importantly, attention to a seemingly common object in uncommon places...for no apparent reason other than to spur conversation. And this object was a fleet of powder blue spray-painted bicycles. It was an invitation to critical discourse, passionate reflection and stimulating conversation...all for its own end. Take a look and explore this link.

So, I thank you Donald Trump for opening up personal and collective cans of worms and untold Pandora's boxes that allow us to look deeply at our values. And I promise you, that the looking may not be particularly pleasant. And regardless of the outcome of this election cycle, or should I say roller coaster, we will be the better if we take the opportunity to talk to ourselves and each other about the important things. 

About the Author

Lawrence Rubin, Ph.D., ABPP, is a co-author of Messages: Self Help Through Popular Culture, and a professor at St. Thomas University.

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