A recent encounter with an old friend whom I had not seen in several years has left me scratching my head and questioning my abilities to understand people, a real downer for an old psychiatrist. You may find this anecdote either humorous or frightening depending on your point of view; for me, it was both. First, I feel the need to apologize for this topic since I am certain most of you are suffering from Trump fatigue or, more likely, Trump exhaustion, but this one is too good to miss and I do promise to be brief.
I arrived on the scene in the middle of the conversation between Barb and this friend. They of course in the manner of all mothers were exchanging information about family, kids, ex-spouses, etc. She greeted me with an apology because she had not been aware of our daughter’s death four years ago. I wondered if she had been living under a rock, for Molly’s death had been widely reported. Apparently she had, for she said she did not read newspapers and did not own a television. This came as a shock to me, for this lady has been very active in politics. As a matter of fact, she has been the leading spokesperson in our town for the Tea Party, and I would have assumed that she would be a Fox News devotee.
WHAT COULD SHE BE SMOKING?
The real shocker for me, however, was when Barb told me that the two had been discussing politics prior to my entering the conversation. Barb, always the decorum expert, later tells me that our friend predicted that Donald J. Trump would become the next Churchill and that she was not joking. Initially, I thought this was funny, then began to ponder the consequences. You may be thinking, “What kind of a doofus could think this stuff,”but this is not a stupid person. She is a white college graduate professional, the very demographic which was supposed to elect Hillary. Furthermore, she showed no signs of cognitive deficit other than for this statement.
WOULDN’T IT BE NICE?
Many have questioned Trump’s competence and some (including myself) his sanity. His supporters vehemently disagree with such assessments. However, nowhere had I heard of him being elevated to the status of one of the last century’s most celebrated and revered statesmen and leaders. Oh, that it could be true, for the world could use a Churchill right now. If POTUS were to make a right turn and suddenly don that superman cape which he pretends to own, I would be there to praise him, or would I? This is a question I have pondered since the encounter. Although this leopard is very unlikely to change his stripes and become Churchillian, remember Mr. Trump was also given less than a one percent chance of ever becoming president.
NEVER DID LIKE HIM
This brings to mind the interesting and important subject of belief. It will come as no surprise to you that I hold strong beliefs that POTUS is not only a jerk but incompetent, unfit for office, and probably nuts*. Such beliefs found their origins in observing his behaviors and publicity stunts even before he adopted his bouffant hairdos. I recall cheering when he was forced to sell his yacht during one of his bankruptcies after flaunting his wealth for years. I laughed when he hired people to cheer when he announced his run for President. I was appalled by his outrageous shenanigans during the campaign. I was amazed when he was elected. Now, I am frightened to think this guy, who I believe to be dangerous, is in the White House.
Obviously, my friend’s belief about Trump is about as contrary as one could get from mine. I did not have an opportunity to ask her why she holds Trump in such high regard, but I assume that much of her belief stems from biases in a similar manner that my belief is influenced by those biases which I have just mentioned. Beliefs are sticky things. According to Webster, “a belief is a conviction based on cultural or personal faith, morality, or values.” Thus, it is not surprising that we are attached to our beliefs and have trouble letting them go. We may become indignant and fight to defend our beliefs as if they are personal property, or perhaps it may be one of those ego things where we are insulted that someone questions our judgement.
There are many who, convinced of Trump’s unfitness, cry for his removal from office. This may be a classic example of the admonition to be careful what you wish for. More than a third of the population provide unwavering support of Trump and are either ignorant or uncaring of his behaviors. In any event, their support appears to be unwavering. Trump attracts large crowds for his campaign style speeches which are met with messianic fervor. They apparently have bought into the mantra that he and he alone can solve their problems.
HE COULD FLIP OUT
Many of us who profess to have some knowledge about personality deficits, which we believe afflict our President, believe that if his narcissistic defenses are destroyed by his removal from office, either by impeachment or conviction of a criminal act, he would be at great risk of psychotic decompensation. This could result in impulsive, irrational behaviors with the potential for disastrous results affecting billions of people. We have been so concerned that we have felt compelled to speak out in spite of prohibitions by our professional organizations.
YOU THINK CHARLOTTESVILLE WAS BAD?
Should he become irrational, his more ardent supporters, who have already demonstrated their propensity for violent behavior, would likely rise up in a defense which might not be so peaceful. We also know that Trump has condoned and even encouraged violence in the past. He has already mounted a defense against any findings from the multiple investigations now underway by declaring neither the investigators nor the news media should be trusted and that the investigations are an unjustified attempt to undermine his presidency. If their past responses are any indication, these lies are apt to be accepted as true, further inflaming the passions of his devotees at a time when our country is experiencing the most divisiveness among the populace in over 150 years and when extremist political groups appear to be gaining strength.
This all raises the most frightening question of all. Could all these events come together as a perfect storm to create irreparable damage or even a civil war? It also poses the question as to which would cause the most damage: the removal of POTUS or the finishing of his term. If I had the power to choose which option, I would probably flip a coin.
*Please excuse me for me for not using an authorized shrink term, but I just felt like getting down and dirty today,