Shortly after the advent of Christianity, the Church Fathers adopted a set of seven “Cardinal Virtues”: humility, charity, temperance, diligence, kindness, patience, and fidelity. These universally desirable traits, which establish the gold-standard for character, were borrowed partly from Greek philosophy and partly from the teachings of the Old and New Testaments.
Mirroring the Seven Cardinal Virtues are Seven Deadly Sins: pride, greed, gluttony, sloth, malicious envy, wrath, and lust. The Seven Deadly Sins characterize the degree of immorality -- or depravity, if the individual’s personality exhibits an abundance of deadly sins. In truth, all of us are some mixture of virtue and vice. Most of us hope for more of the former.
No matter how objective I try to be, I see in Donald Trump a man who epitomizes all seven deadly sins.
Pride: Hubris is Trump’s hallmark, his life one long episode of puffing himself up at the expense of others. Time and again, he must remind us how rich, smart, healthy, and virile he is. He has no acknowledged need of advisors, preferring instead his own mercurial and irrational council. For example, he claims to know more about ISIS than all the generals on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and apparently more about the climate than the world’s climatologists. When legitimate polls reveal that he was trounced in the first presidential debate, Trump feeds his oversized ego from supportive but grossly biased online “surveys,” perpetuating the bubble of his alternate reality. Even Trump’s charitable foundation seems designed more for appearances of do-gooding than actually doing any good. In the Donald’s narcissistic mirror, he’s a winner and virtually everyone else is a loser.
Greed: When is enough, enough? For Trump apparently never. It may be conceivable for a billionaire to make his or her fortune legitimately, creating jobs for thousands, treating employees well, and creating things of value to society. Trump on the other hand appears to have built his empire by running rough-shod over the little guys. A lengthy investigation by USA Today -- not exactly a liberal rag -- has turned up hundreds of contractors who were stiffed by Trump. “That’s business,” bragged Trump in the first presidential debate. He’s admitted also to not paying taxes, because, he swaggers, “That makes me smart.” Here then is a man who is all about taking and never about giving back.
Gluttony: Trump is a man of insatiable appetites: for wealth, attention, glitter, and women. When viewing online images of the Trump’s gold-plated, $100-million Manhattan penthouse, I am struck by a sense of déjà vu. In March, while visiting our daughter in Paris, my wife and I toured Louis XIV’s Versailles. How do people like Louis and Donald justify to themselves living in such gaudy opulence in the midst of so much poverty and need? And where there is opulence, there is almost always decadence.
Sloth: While Hillary Clinton was diligently preparing for the first presidential debate, Trump’s pride assured him that he could just wing it. As a result, Hillary mopped the floor with him, and his chances of winning the election have subsequently fallen by twenty percent. A man too lazy to prepare for a high-profile debate is too lazy for the intellectual rigors and nuances of the presidency.
Malicious Envy: Donald Trump is an unabashed and cruel bully. Fond of name-calling, he’s a man who attempts to build himself up by tearing down others. He is an equal-opportunity tormentor, whether bullying a former Vietnam POW, a handicapped reporter, the Muslim parents of a fallen hero, or a Miss Universe who put on weight. If his juvenile and vile tweet-storms originated from a middle-school student instead of a would-be president of the United States, that student would be immediately suspended.
Wrath: The Donald, easily baited, has a notoriously thin skin. He seeks revenge against anyone he perceives to have slighted him. At the writing of this editorial, he has been on a five-day Twitter rampage against Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe who has called out his bullying. In his lifetime, Trump has filed an unprecedented 3,500 lawsuits against others. How many normal people have filed even one?
Lust: In addition to three marriages, Trump has had numerous affairs. You might think that all these relationships with women would have at least taught him to respect them. Not so. Trump treats women as objects. “Fat. Pig. Dog. Slob. Disgusting animal.” These are terms Trump commonly uses for women. The UK’s The Telegraph has documented more than two decades of Trump misogyny. Here’s the link.
Dishonesty: It’s puzzling that the Cardinal Virtues don’t explicitly include truthfulness, so let’s consider it as an eighth virtue, and dishonesty as its fallen twin. Trump has exhausted an entire army of fact-checkers with daily torrents of half-truths, lies, and pants-on-fire absurdities, many self-contradictory. In comparing twenty prominent and current American political figures, Politifact found Trump to be the least truthful -- by a long shot. Less than three percent of what he utters is unassailably true. Nearly eighty percent of his statements are “mostly false,” false,” or “pants-on-fire.” (Clinton, by contrast, is actually one of the most truthful according to Politifact.)
All human beings have flaws and feet of clay. Hillary Clinton is no exception. But the fact that forty percent of Americans and half our states are poised to vote for a man who is not only flawed but arguably depraved – based on Christianity’s time-honored standards for morality and immorality – is immensely troubling. Europeans are scratching their heads, wondering: have Americans lost their minds?
I fear something worse. Has America lost its soul too?