Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Is the current president of the United States a sociopath?

I am writing this just one month since Donald Trump took the oath of office. With the constant uproar coming from Washington it has seemed like a long month, but overall, not all that surprising to those of us who have carefully watched Trump’s character quirks. When the plea went out after the inauguration to “give the guy a chance,” we thought about his insults during the campaign, his lying, his incredible ego, and we said, “Show us he can change.” What he shows us is more of the same as during his campaign. After the inauguration we were told to overlook the president’s bizarre takes on what is truth and what is fantasy. We were asked to consider his realities “alternative facts.” We said, “Fat chance.” There are facts, and there are not-facts, and no one has the right to confuse them.

What I have seen so far is a man who is begging for attention, which accounts for the bizarre sight of him still campaigning, four weeks after his swearing-in. A couple of days ago he held a rally and once again listed his triumphs, which are skewed to his core believers. They believe everything he tells them, and love the way he tells it.

We hear from someone within his inner circle that the president has cabin fever. He regrets being cooped up in the Oval Office. He misses his free-and-easy life as a bon vivant who has dinner in his favorite restaurant with his pals, a group of the anointed, those fit to sit at the table with Trump. Basking  in his tales of glory and his alternative facts. One would ask, did he not know this would be his life if elected? It is what he signed on for, and now having buyer’s remorse really isn’t an option for him, is it? (If he wants to quit, I say, go for it, Donald!)

For me, this month has been one with many other Americans, trying to figure out why Trump acts like he does. He is 70.  He won’t change, except to get worse with age. Like others I have asked, does Trump have dementia? He produced some letter from a doctor during the campaign explaining he was in good health, but what about an examination by a physician working for the people, not for Donald Trump? What would that show?

I have also wondered if Trump is on drugs, prescription, or over-the-counter, or even illegal? What do we know about him, anyway? He was a rich young guy during the swinging years of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Was he snorting coke with other members of the Who’s Who of the Rich and Cool? If he was, is he still?

My belief is that people in Trump’s inner circle, if not sworn to secrecy, are probably bound by legal confidentiality agreements. They have been paid, or have signed a document not to tell what they know about him. That would account for why we haven’t heard anything from his two ex-wives. We have heard from some people who have had some business dealings with Trump (mostly bad), which Trump can dismiss with a wave of his hand. He can claim they came away from his deals on the short end, that they are “whiners and complainers.” And perhaps they are, except that Trump’s dealings with the American public have left a lot of us with the broader sense of what must go on with him behind closed doors. Nothing good, I think.

I am reading The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout, Ph.D. The book was published in 2005 and is not about Trump. Not directly, anyway. He isn’t mentioned anywhere in the text, but several things Dr Stout has written seem to shout out “Trump”  to those of us in 2017.

Dr Stout describes a sociopath as a person without empathy or a conscience. She gives us the statistic that one in four people are sociopaths. People who kill without any remorse are sociopaths. People who run con games are sociopaths. People who sabotage fellow workers for their own benefit can be sociopaths. The list goes on. You and I have probably worked with sociopaths, have a sociopath or two in our families, or wondered about some public figures. Trump, for instance.

What first caught my eye, quoting directly from the book:
“. . . sociopaths have a greater than normal need for stimulation which results in their taking frequent social, physical, financial, or legal risks.” Also, “. . . as a group they are known for their pathological lying and conning [confidence games].” [Page 7]
A fascinating section of the book called “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” deals with leaders who scapegoat other races or groups of people, called “others” or “its” in the book:
“Using fear-based propaganda to amplify a destructive ideology, such a leader can bring the members of a frightened society to see the its as the sole impediment to the good life, for themselves and maybe even for humanity as a whole, and the conflict as an epic battle between good and evil. Once these beliefs have been disseminated, crushing the its without pity or conscience, become an incontrovertible mandate.

“Why do we continue to allow leaders who are motivated by self-interest, or by their own psychological issues from the past, to fan bitterness and political crisis into armed confrontation and war?” [Page 59]
The section that I think is an apt description of a person like Trump:
“Benjamin Wolman, founder and editor of the International Journal of Group Tensions, writes, ‘Usually human cruelty increases when an aggressive sociopath gains an uncanny, almost hypnotic control over large numbers of people. History is full of . . . sociopathic megalomaniacs who managed to obtain support . . . and incited people to violence.’ Insidiously, when such a “savior” abducts the normal population to its purposes, he usually begins with an appeal to them as good people who would like to improve the condition of humanity, and then insists that they can achieve this by following his aggressive plan.” [Page 93]
Trump is doing nothing more than other world leaders have done in the past, pointing at certain groups, Mexicans or Muslims, and declaring them enemies of what is good and right about America.

Luckily, Trump’s approval ratings are around 39%, as I saw on television last night. But that is still too many people who are buying into his distorted message.  History teaches us that leaders like that don’t do well when their history is written. In looking back, there have been several leaders, maybe some of the most damaging in the history of the planet, in the twentieth century. All of those who scapegoat Jews, Muslim, or foreigners, have come off on the wrong side of history. So why are we still electing people like Trump? I assume it is because a certain segment of the population believes that “its” or “others” should be persecuted and shut out, and some just don’t know history at all.

So, my answer to my own question, “Is the president of the United States a sociopath?” is, in my mind, yes. People laughed at Hitler; they made fun of him. But then for years he got the last laugh. It was only when forces drove him from power that he could be held up as an extreme example of what happens when a sociopath leads a group of fellow sociopaths in their destructive ways. People laugh at Trump. They take him as a joke. The problem is, in a couple of years, will his ways still seem funny?

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