The phrase Now more than ever has been used liberally in our media since November last year, more often than not to sell something. The New York Times uses it to push subscriptions, for example, and it is not alone in this. Now more than ever did not matter, though, when the NYT had an opportunity to alert America to the clear and imminent dangers presented by the GOP candidate in 2016. The paper, like all others, disregarded repeated explicit warnings sent to it by mental health professionals who described Trump’s fixed, inflexible character defect with its predictable manifestations and consequences for the country and the world.
Another phrase one hears often these days is “future historians” — as in, future historians will be perplexed trying to figure out why America elected the least qualified and most dangerous person in the country for president.
There are solid reasons why this happened, and some of them have been touched upon in the public discourse. The most important one, however, the American narcissism which Trump/ism both represents and reflects to the still unseeing like a glaring mirror, remains a taboo. Trump/ism is here to remind us urgently that we must change: we must dismantle and transcend our grandiosely deluded notions of ourselves and build a better, more just and equal world. America is at a crossroads and has a chance to turn this crisis into an opportunity for meaningful growth. But first it must save itself and the world from imminent danger posed by its inherently destructive leader.
Now more than ever we need future historians and psychologists, to bring this nation to its senses or whatever is left of them. One hopes against hope that they would be able to explain to the sizable portion of the American population in thrall of the evil unfolding around it what’s in store for them if the catalyst of that evil remains in power. Presumably, those future experts will know ways to open people’s minds enough to change them. One hopes against hope.
We’ve just witnessed the most Trumpian of Trump’s performances yet — and our pathocracy is still young. For those of us who were raised on Hitlerism, the Phoenix rally was sickeningly familiar, especially in the relentless scapegoating and unloading of narcissistic rage on The Others. “They are trying to take away our history and our heritage,” he bellowed, inciting hatred and bloodlust, as did the other leader in 1930’s Germany and as did all leaders like them in our human history. Some things never change. This is not a dog whistle but a bullhorn. Not surprisingly, the Nazis applauded.
In Phoenix, Trump reveled in his ceaseless streak of lies and personal grievances delivered in a tone of someone who practices his speech in the mirror for the audience of one. No accident, that, since Trump is THE designated audience of his performances. People who attend his rallies are just props filling his echo chamber of self-adulation. It doesn’t matter that they many of them are fake fans, as evidenced by, among other things, their behavior. Early on, a man just behind Trump held a sign “Women for Trump,” giggling and feigning (?) surprise when it was pointed out to him. He weaponizes his own rage by spreading it onto his followers who are only too eager to take on what they perceive as a shared cause of aggrieved entitlement.
Back at Mar-a-Lago, Trump will watch his rally repeatedly and demand his handlers to affirm how great he was. His public performances have the aura of hypnotic theatricality because almost none of he says is real in the sense of being grounded in human values or facts. He does not write his speeches nor understands most words in them, save those that express his pathological desires for power (“win,” “losers”), adulation and revenge. Those he enunciates with the kind of relish that makes non-psychopathic people cringe.
His rallies, like his presidency, are adulation-and-power garnering acts — there is nothing solid or true about them, not in the sense normal people — people with a conscience — understand. They are vehicles for his pathological emotions, just as the other guy’s rallies were, and as such human occasions always are. Groups are always more pathological than individuals, which is one reason why character disordered leaders and followers form such a strong bond: it allows them to normalize and enact their sick impulses without a fear of judgment.
There is logic and predictability in this pathology, as there always is in cases of human behavior (future psychologists and historians should explain it one day to everyone’s satisfaction). There is a reason, for instance, why this horrific lie-and-hate-fest came a day after a more somber, praised by some journalists, speech on Afghanistan. It is the same reason why Trump delivered his jaw-dropping “fire and fury” threat to North Korea looking as though he was straitjacketed.
Many people wondered about his seemingly defensive posture of crossed arms and petulant demeanor as he spontaneously issued a stunning death threat to another country. His body language expressed how constrained he feels by the presence of the seemingly competent adults around him, those generals who remind him of his military school days and supposedly can reign in his misbehavior. Whenever Trump is forced to act like a human being with a conscience rather than freely show his narcissistically psychopathic self, he experiences it as an unbearable imposition, a wounding which he must undo — unwound — in order to feel like his old “winning” self. And he unwounds best by wounding others, 10 times as hard, as we have been told.
That’s why any attempts to tame or civilize him are futile: he is a walking wound in a perpetual need of unwounding — the harder, the better; such is the pathology of narcissistic psychopaths (a.k.a malignant narcissists). We should ask his former teachers and siblings — they would tell us if they had the courage to tell the truth. He cannot stand to be forced to pretend to be a normal human being.
Any self-serving delusions we may cultivate about our mighty generals controlling Trump should be dissolved quickly, for everyone’s sake. The generals most likely know it already, unlike many of our journalists who are still mired in the swamp of denial. While Trump may partially and superficially submit to his handlers’ guidance, his demeanor says it all: he resents any and all interference with his vengefully grandiose plans and will do what he can do subvert it. And he can do a lot of evil, and nobody will stop him.
This was shown in the unprompted “fire and fury” announcement accompanied by a resentful and defiant straitjacketed posture, and now in the horrendous display of his insatiable id (not as though there is any other kind) during the Phoenix rally which followed his fake somber (and still unacceptable) Afghanistan speech. Whenever Donny is forced to pretend to do something right, he will have to — yes, it’s a compulsion — undo it to feel better.
People with Trump’s character defect never do anything good or even decent. This is not a demonization, this is a fact, difficult as it may be to understand and accept for some. Bereft of a conscience, these individuals are incapable of recognizing higher values and have no internal correspondence for positive affective states associated with them. If anything, they look with contempt upon values and people who try to live their lives accordingly. In their eyes, those people are “suckers” to be used and abused. If something that a man like Trump does appears good or decent, you can be certain that it is either an accident — which he will try to undo ASAP — or part of a larger, nefarious agenda meant to benefit him and harm others. If there is one thing everyone, and especially the members of our media, should know in these times of Trumpism, it is this.
Tragically, our journalists are still unable to see and understand it, although some may be slowly opening their eyes. The Afghanistan speech was followed by another batch of journalistic pronouncements of Trump’s non-existent near-virtues. Apparently he was that close to the ever elusive pivot. Why, even as the Phoenix rally was going on, the WaPo editorial board praised Trump’s “welcome self-correction” in his supposed Afghanistan stance (as if he understood anything about the country and its needs).
Steeped as they are in their own narcissism and blinded by the proximity to power, many journalists do not grasp the danger awaiting us. Maybe our future historians and psychologists can explain what is going on more clearly to them, one of these days after the dust of our inevitable mayhem finally settles.
Our future experts may also issue a word of warning to those who expect that Trump’s inevitable demise (tyrants always fall) will make America great again. Nothing is further from the truth. Trump has not caused the disorder we witness, he has merely revealed it and brought it to our attention, as we refused to see it for far too long. Some, those who expect that the removal of Trump would fix everything, continue to do so. It is a mistake.
Narcissistic psychopaths have a knack for violently, sadistically pulling scabs off people’s individual and collective wounds, unveiling the sickness that festers underneath. It is painful and horrifying, but also potentially healing if the revealed sickness is properly diagnosed and attended to. America’s process of (maybe positive) disintegration has just begun, for worse and possibly for better once we get through the worse part and learn from it, if we do.
What we know about malignant narcissists is that they psychologically decompensate once they achieve the ultimate position of power. They worsen in every possible way: become more grandiose and paranoid, more aggressive and demanding, and progressively less in touch with reality (and Trump has never been fully in touch with it). We can expect his narcissistic rage to intensify in proportion to his growing grandiosity and paranoia. His handlers will have to resort to increasingly more “creative” ways to placate and subdue him — and it will work, for a while, until it doesn’t. There’ll be blood, symbolic, if not literal, as he’ll fire and destroy his previously “trusted” associates, maybe even in rapid succession and without any rhyme or reason. His demands for adulation will also become more intense and bizarre, and we’ll be witnessing idiotic and quite possibly dangerous displays of his “superiority” and might, likely military as well. This is where the possibility of him starting a war or two just to satisfy his ego becomes quite real. It’s not only that he will never get better, but it is certain that he will get worse. There has never been a case of a malignant narcissist in power whose pathology improved, or even remained stable: they always deteriorate, and often rapidly, as they become drunk on (what they see as) now unlimited power and adulation.