Jonathan Engel, J.D. is the President of the Secular Humanist Society of New York. Here we talk about the attack on Capitol Hill.
*Interview conducted January 11, 2021.*
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: It has been a few weeks since our last session. There have been some drastic events, some expected events. Most drastic was January 6th. There was more or less an insurrection or a rampage against and in Capitol Hill by members of a Trump supporting group, squad. So, what seems to be the case around the instigation for all of this? Why didn’t Trump join them, even though he said he would join them?
Jonathan Engel: A couple of things. I’ll answer the second question first. Why didn’t Trump join them when he said he was going to join them? He is a coward. I think he’s a very, disturbed human being. And he is someone who is a malignant narcissist. And I worked for years at the New York State Office of Mental Health. And I’m not a mental health professional, but I learned enough to know that personality disorders are extremely difficult to treat. And he is one of the most severe and malignant people, (malignant) narcissistic personality disorder. So, not only is he a narcissist; he is also a sadist. He likes seeing violence. He likes his people beating them up. And if you don’t believe me, all you have to do is hear a set of clips from his rallies talking about “beating this guy up” and “throw them out” and “don’t be too nice” and all the rest of that thing. So, you have that personality disorder. And again, he likes the violence, but he’s a coward. He would never personally, actually, talks a big game, but he would never actually lead them in that march. That was never going to happen.
But as to the lead up to this, it is something that is absolutely astonishing to me as well as makes me nauseous. Is that the entire objection that is now being voiced by millions of Americans, by hundreds of members of the United States Congress, are all based on his disturbed personality? There’s never been any evidence or proof that there was any problem with this election. Not a single iota that’s mentioned. But Trump says that, they believe it; and that’s it. It is one of the things that as a secular humanist that bothers me so much about this. And there’s so many. But one of them is the idea that we should be living in some evidence free world where “I believe” and “I think” and “I feel,” “in my opinion,” substitutes for actually gathering evidence and presenting that evidence in a reasoned way. So, you had that Trump, remember this too; Trump has never lost at anything that he didn’t say was fixed against him. In 2016, the Iowa caucus was the first Republican primary. He lost to Ted Cruz. And immediately after, Ted Cruz ‘stole’ it. ‘You stole it from me.’ When? Before the election against Hillary Clinton in 2016, Trump said if it is rigged, it is rigged against me. He was hedging his bets so if he lost; he just said, ‘That’s why I lost.’ This is a sick man. You can’t just say, “I lost, it happens.”
And then, of course, even after the 2016 election, he was saying, “We lost the popular vote.” ‘The only reason I lost, the vote was rigged. And then before this election, same thing happened. The only way I can lose, if it is fixed and rigged against me. So, we’re talking about an evidence free person with a personality disorder, but his followers have become conditioned to living in an evidence free conspiracy theory world. And some people bought it. But that Trump has a damaged personality, I know. And he has followers. Yes, it is depressing.
But one of the worst is that; you have people in Congress saying, “Yes, I’m going to vote against certifying this election.” People like Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz and Kevin McCarthy: Don’t tell me that they don’t know that this was all a joke. It is the cynicism of voting to not certify this election. Because you think it can somehow benefit you down the road politically, or maybe, ‘Trump supporters will support me for president in 2024,’ when there’s no evidence supporting this, is detestable. Certainly, there’s a lot of talk now. What’s going to be done? I mean about the people who voted to contest the election without having any evidence or proof, etc. What is going to be done with these people? Remember this thing about counting the electoral votes on January 6th? I saw Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who has been in the Senate for quite some time now. She was saying someone asked her in previous years, when you every four years we’ve experienced this, the counting of electoral votes. What was that like? And Klobuchar replied, ‘I don’t know. I don’t even remember.’ It took 20 minutes. It was nothing – it seems – at the ministerial level, clerical. It is counting the electoral votes, and just confirming nothing. It is supposed to happen here, but it didn’t. So, this is where we are in uncharted territory right now, and whether pieces should be going to be put back together again does remain to be seen.
Jacobsen: Do you think there’s going to be another violent act, large scale event, similar to what we saw on Capitol Hill, whether on Capitol Hill or off in another part of the country? Or do you think this will merely be a manner of online virulent conversation and ranting? So, more of an online thing rather than offline thing.
Engel: Boy, that’s right. I don’t know which is an easy answer, but I think part of me said that I’m just questioning myself. Because my initial reaction when you ask the question will be to say, “I don’t think this is going to happen again.” For a number of reasons, I think people are repulsed by this. I think there are some repercussions that are already happening. I think something like close to 100 people have already been arrested. Again, these geniuses not wearing masks. Not only are they spreading Covid, they’re also saying, “Hi, FBI, here I am, come and get me.” So, I’m hoping; that’s the hopeful part of me.
But then I look and say, “Man, I never would have guessed that this would happen in the first place. And then, every state is going to have a heightened security for the next couple of weeks around important state buildings, around all federal buildings, so you’d better be prepared. There was not an excuse for the lack of preparation on January 6th. There’s certainly no excuse for any lack of preparation over the next week or so. And it all culminates, of course, in the inauguration of Biden. And think about it, who’s going to be there? Because Pence saying he’s going to be there. Now, of course, Trump is not going to be there. He will be wobbling around the golf course somewhere, I assume. But you’re going to have Biden and Harris, the incoming president, the vice president. You’re going to have Pence. McConnell will be there. McCarthy will probably show his ugly face [Laughing], is going to be there. Chuck Schumer is going to be there. President Clinton is going to be there. President Bush is going to be there. President Obama is going to be there. I don’t know if President Carter is well enough to travel there, but, this is essentially like a real test of where we’re going forward and if this inauguration is going to go off the way it is supposed to. If I had to guess, I would say that it is because I think that the people who are organizing, and certainly those from the incoming Biden administration, know the importance of this. This isn’t just a regular inauguration. This is showing the world that we’re going to reckon with this and move forward as the United States of America, as a democracy, as a constitutional republic. That is so essential. And I think that people understand that. I’d have to think the Secret Service understands that. And so, they’re going to do what it takes to make sure that this goes off, and it goes off safely.
Because if it doesn’t. Boy, oh, boy, I don’t want to think about the ramifications of if it doesn’t, the future of this country. So, I’m going forward saying, “Yes, this is going to go off and it is going to happen and it is going to be what it should be.” I think that that’s going to be the case again, because the ramifications of not being the case are frightening to contemplate. And by the way, if for some reason these lunatics were able to – at noon on January 20th – disrupt the inauguration, so that Biden couldn’t be inaugurated: Who is the president? Nancy Pelosi. It is a terrible thing, right? But that’s all it is, because Trump will not be president at noon on January 20th, no matter what happens. Pence will no longer be vice president. If he doesn’t inaugurate a new one, then you go down the chain and the third person in line for the presidency is the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. I don’t think that’s what the Trump aides particularly want. But these people are not famous for their deep thinking. But I would say, “Yes, I think it is going to go on as it should.” And then hopefully, we will slowly but surely start to get our way back to some sanity.”
Jacobsen: John, thank you as always.
Engel: Ok, Scott, thank you much. And I’ll speak to you in a week and see what I’m saying then.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight Publishing and Editor-in-Chief of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal (ISSN 2369-6885). Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and the advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere.
*Associates and resources listing last updated May 31, 2020.*
Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, Centre for Inquiry Canada, Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.
Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du Québec, Atheist Freethinkers, Central Ontario Humanist Association, Comox Valley Humanists, Grey Bruce Humanists, Halton-Peel Humanist Community, Hamilton Humanists, Humanist Association of London, Humanist Association of Ottawa, Humanist Association of Toronto, Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba, Ontario Humanist Society, Secular Connextions Seculaire, Secular Humanists in Calgary, Society of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph), Thunder Bay Humanists, Toronto Oasis, Victoria Secular Humanist Association.
Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an Agnostiker, American Atheists, American Humanist Association, Associação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics, Atheist Alliance International, Atheist Alliance of America, Atheist Centre, Atheist Foundation of Australia, The Brights Movement, Center for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist Ireland, Camp Quest, Inc., Council for Secular Humanism, De Vrije Gedachte, European Humanist Federation, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, Foundation Beyond Belief, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist International, Humanist Association of Germany, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist Society of Scotland, Humanists UK, Humanisterna/Humanists Sweden, Internet Infidels, International League of Non-Religious and Atheists, James Randi Educational Foundation, League of Militant Atheists, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, National Secular Society, Rationalist International, Recovering From Religion, Religion News Service, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, The Clergy Project, The Rational Response Squad, The Satanic Temple, The Sunday Assembly, United Coalition of Reason, Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.
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