The ostensible purpose of President Trump’s Muslim travel ban is to give the government time – 90 days – to figure out how better to vet incoming Muslims and make America safer from possible terrorist attacks on our soil. I say ostensible purpose because there are psychological matters to consider – and consider them we must. First is the mechanism of displacement, which is a form of projection, whereby a central concern is displaced onto something else or someone more peripheral. A simple example is when a father who fears being lambasted by his wife for buying new golf clubs yells at his son for recklessly spending his allowance on a video game. He is displacing his guilt and fear of discovery onto his son and then attacks him for being impulsive.
So back to vetting. Donald Trump is sneaking Steve Bannon – and maybe others – into his Administration unvetted, under Congressional radar. He knows that Bannon is the kind of extremist ideologue that probably would not be approved to serve in the White House, much less be allowed to sit on the National Security Council. Thus at one level, Trump’s surreptitious promotion of Bannon appears to be a sleight of hand maneuver using misdirection techniques similar to magicians doing card tricks. But at a deeper level, we see the process of displacement and projection. The President projects his personal wish to sneak Bannon into the NSC onto Mexican and Muslims who he says cannot be trusted. There are enough facts behind which to hide his projections of this illicit behavior, even from himself. Many immigrants are illegal, for starters – and that itself is a projection because Trump himself is appointing an “illegal” to one of the most delicate security positions in the nation.
Once displacement is recognized and understood we can push Congress to take action. But first we must recognize the essential reality behind the mask of Trump’s “ostensible purpose.” Then we might carefully vet all Trump’s cabinet appointments, not to mention those personal advisors such as Bannon, who never had to appear before Congress and now has a permanent seat on the National Security Council. Is it normal, or even acceptable, to welcome un-examined white Christian men into our most private government enclaves while using walls to keep Mexicans out and border guards to block Muslims from entry?