Are we related to Donald Trump?

Donald Trump

The human genome is very close to those of other creatures like the rat or the dog even if they look very different from us. We humans also belong to different races although we all sprang from one source (Africa). Learning these, you appreciate and feel more deeply the connectedness among all the earth’s peoples and creatures. We are truly inextricably related to one another and to all of nature, the entire universe, when we also learn that the carbon in our bodies came from stars that exploded innumerable years ago.

But then doubt and denial set in when we realize we are related in some way to specific persons, like Donald Trump and Kim Jung-Un and Vladimir Putin and Binyamin Netanyahu and Rodrigo Duterte. What? Really? Of course not, many of us might say.


Aside from our obvious differences from them in appearance, they are more clearly different from most people because of world-view and because they have the power to pursue the objectives their world views dictate.

Essentially, they are people who preach disconnectedness and discord. Trump, with his ultranationalist, anti-immigrant, climate-change-denying agenda; Kim Jung-Un, with his isolationist, puritanical “hermit kingdom” armed to the teeth to ward off any interventionists; Putin, with his throwback dreams of empire attempting to reverse the further balkanization of the former Soviet Union which he saw crumble before his very eyes; Netanyahu, with his vow to “change the Middle East”; Duterte, with his call for Mindanao secession—they and other leaders like them, to include Islamic fundamentalists and hate- and fear-mongers, have a dangerous divisiveness that endanger and directly harm others.

The divergence between biological sameness (though there are many genetic variations among members of a species) and psychological and intellectual differences (in world view) is among the most enduring issues of human existence. How can we be the same biologically and yet so different in belief and behavior? From what did this arise? We now know that genetic expression and variation are triggered by the environment, whether biochemical stimuli or circumstantial, such as nurture or neglect from parents, or which part of the earth we were born in, or lifestyle practices.

This divergence must be because of consciousness, from an awareness of self and therefore self-interest and greed; from culture, family upbringing and education—which loop back to help form that consciousness.


Enigmatic as it is, consciousness is central to human existence. There is nothing like it that we know of. But there are those overwhelmed by the dark side of its expression. One such observation is Rust Cohle’s in “True Detective”: “I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware, nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself. We are creatures that should not exist by natural law. We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self, this accretion of sensory experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody is nobody.”

Self-interest is not all bad, of course, because it drives diversity and survival. Homogeneity means sameness and eventual mass decay. But not that sameness is all bad either.

Cloning and automation are examples of sameness that are good for the specialization of functions, uniformity and economies of scale or mass production. Up to a point. Mass production has led to mass consumption. Mass media have led to mass culture. And mass culture has led to mass hatred of people with a different ideology. Which has led to the development of weapons of mass destruction that will lead to, well, mass destruction. And that’s a path we don’t want to take. Many of these controversial leaders represent a nationalist or regionalist sentiment that is unhappy with globalization and integration, whether in terms of immigration, economic policies and liberal cultural attitudes, or act out of blind vengeance or sheer self-interest. It is a parochial position that does not tolerate diversity and the aspirations of others.


The “universal” genome is the blueprint of all life, and from which springs infinite variety. Thus, we are all basically the same and yet we cannot be the same if we are to evolve. The question is, evolve to what? To greater caring or to greater destructiveness? It is when these leaders threaten this core sameness, making discrimination, mass killing, and the possibility of nuclear annihilation very real that we must pause. We realize we must respect all of nature because it is the entire fabric of which we and all creatures are threads.

Maybe this realization and this respect will “right the ship” of our selfish, greedy consciousness because just as it engenders disconnectedness and destructiveness, so can it push back and make us think of something greater, something beyond us that is a wholeness of being we can only glimpse in fragments. Whatever its darker aspects and manifestations, human consciousness is a gift not to be wasted.

So, are we related to Donald Trump, Kim Jung-Un, Vladimir Putin, Binyamin Netanyahu and Rodrigo Duterte? Hard to say. Maybe. As they say in the movies, there’s plausible deniability.

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