Once Upon A Time in America...Trump, the Grimmest of Tales
It's been nearly three months of dread, apprehension and even glimmers of hope. Then there was last week and all those disappeared. No more ambivalence and certainly no hope. All the "give him a chance" memes, cartoons about Sally and Bob, who disagree but "be like Sally, she's still friends with Bob", even the political comedians like Maher and Noah, have paled beside the dawning horrific realization that we have elected a president who's certifiably insane. This isn't political name-calling or Republican/Democrat partisanship, it's a fact that can't be ignored. Not to be the alarmist harbinger of doom, but we are in some serious trouble here and the American people and Congress need to wake up before it's too late. How did we get into this mess?
Basically, we got conned. There was Russians, fake news, non-stop media coverage, a weak opponent but mostly, we got conned because we were ripe for the picking in complacency and ignorance. Sure, it's true he's different from the usual politician, which is why people voted him in, among other reasons like feeling disenfranchised, wanting change, not liking the other choice, or frankly because he's a vulgar racist misogynist bully and they kinda liked that "strongman, tough guy, give it to 'em" image whether they admit it or not. As Fran Leibowitz said," Trump is a poor person's image of what a rich person is" (as well as that of many of the middle-class), and for many as close as they'll ever come to being a rich man is voting for one. (It's "the king might recognize the good serf who served him syndrome" and what the hell, it's cheaper than the lottery. Voting for Trump didn't cost them anything except their self-respect and maybe, late at night, a little quiver of worry, quickly dismissed.)
So why do I say he's insane? Seem harsh?
Let's take a look at what's happened in seven days. Inauguration, Executive orders, trade agreements, meetings with Teresa May, phone calls with Putin and others, the wall and Obamacare noise, gag orders for a few departments, CIA visit with claquer support, immigration ban, sanctuary city bans, voter fraud...some good, some not, depending on your point of view. But all of it washed in the bright colors of Donald Trump's thin-skinned megalomania at every turn. Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway can barely keep up with the deflections necessary for briefings and interviews, since most of what they're trying to sell us are outright lies, or as Conway calls them, "alternative facts", while Spicer has reverted to "he believes what he believes". They both look increasingly haggard and hungover.
Trump is obsessed with being lauded, praised and loved and strikes without a moment's hesitation when he feels disrespected or as the rest of the world sees it, is faced with the truth. He talks incessantly about himself, straying off-topic constantly, insists on facts that aren't in evidence and will go to any length to justify his need for adulation. There was no "landslide" win, no 3-5 million fraudulent votes, no huge crowd at the inauguration, but there was tweets from an outraged Trump about intelligence community Nazi-like behavior, fake news accusations if he doesn't like what he sees, slams on the media's integrity and many others, all not only un-presidential but close to deranged. He admits he doesn't read, watches TV compulsively and gets his information from sycophants like Bannon and others whose own information is sketchy and biased, if not downright wrong. That alt-right agitator Bannon has replaced the head of the joint chiefs of staff is frightening in itself. There's much more, but this isn't a compendium of (mis)deeds. We have bigger fish to fry.
For months, many respected people have warned, some insistently, that Donald Trump is dangerously unstable. In this era of genuinely fake news, incendiary blogs, and campaign nastiness, these warnings have been mostly dismissed. However, in watching Trump's behavior since inaugurated, they've re-surfaced and included many others, from both sides of the aisle as well as the academic and medical communities.
Eliot A. Cohen, the director of the Strategic Studies Program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and a former counselor to Condoleeza Rice, says "Precisely because the problem is one of temperament and character, it will not get better. It will get worse, as power intoxicates Trump and those around him. It will probably end in calamity—substantial domestic protest and violence, a breakdown of international economic relationships, the collapse of major alliances, or perhaps one or more new wars (even with China) on top of the ones we already have. It will not be surprising in the slightest if his term ends not in four or in eight years, but sooner, with impeachment or removal under the 25th Amendment." This sounds ominous, and likely.
From Dr. John Gartner, a psychotherapist at Johns Hopkins, worried enough to go against his ethics at not personally examining Mr. Trump, comes the observation that he believes Trump suffers from "malignant narcissism". Dr. Gartner says, “Donald Trump is dangerously mentally ill and temperamentally incapable of being president,” citing his movements and behavior, pointing out the president’s tendency for grandiosity, sadism, aggressiveness, paranoia, and anti-social behavioral patterns. We’ve seen enough public behavior by Donald Trump now that we can make this diagnosis indisputably.”
Scared yet? I am and you should be, too. We have a problem, my fellow citizens and it's going to get worse. This tale could have a very bad ending. At best, we will have chaos domestically, from protests to shutdowns. Internationally, it could be disastrous, perhaps fatal. We won't be making America great again. It was great in the first place. Under Trump's "leadership" we will be going down a very dark rabbit hole to a twisted wasteland of hate and toxic policies, while he and his cronies enrich themselves at America's expense and yours.
While it's only been a week, I've seen all I need to see. Let's work together to change the ending of this story. We will look back at this through the historian's lens in disbelief, I assure you. There is a better version, and it's not an alternative fact.