It’s Against My Religion to Accommodate Nazis.
The backlash so far is mostly vindictive, verbally violent, and devoid of insight that tables have turned on the flamethrowers. This lack of self-awareness is stunning, if not surprising. The same constituency who applauded business owners who exercised their freedom of religion by denying service to LGBTQ patrons are now howling at the injustice of being unwelcome beyond certain doors or, in this case, a door.
While it’s amusing to observe the confused flailing of bullies receiving a taste of their own medicine, there’s a larger kernel of wisdom to pluck from this story. Even as they are placed firmly in the shoes of their victims, the new GOP are incapable of making the leap to empathy.
They see no connection between harm they’ve done and their own outrage at being excluded from places to which they’ve denied others entrance. This is the hubris of white males who believe the myth of their superiority, but it’s also something more troubling.
The GOP’s devolution escalated with the election of Barack Obama. At a secret dinner, the night of Obama’s inauguration, 15 Republicans schemed to block the new president and do everything in their power to bring down his presidency. They put party ahead of country, caring little if the downward-spiraling economy bullet-trained to the abyss.
More sinisterly, they plotted to derail America’s first Black president because he posed a threat to their existing mythology. They could not afford to let him succeed without undermining their own privilege.
For anyone who suggests it was politics and not racism that drove their determination to obstruct and smear President Obama, I urge you to think back on eight years of unprecedented indignities, hateful — and yes, racist — adjectives and rhetoric heaped upon our president and his family. It was a symbolic lynching.
For Republicans, destroying one man who threatened the status quo, was worth unraveling a nation; and unravel it did. Racists threw off their sheets and emerged in the open, no longer hiding behind social graces.
It could be said the GOP’s efforts were repaid with karma. The vacuum of respect and morality became the stew slow-cooking the nascent Tea Party into a cancer, displacing whatever health remained in the GOP. The Tea Party did not wholly succeed, but birthed the dark, alt-right (code for white supremacist), nationalist, theocratic entity that ushered in Donald Trump.
The tree Republicans eyed for Obama, bore not an uppity President, but strange fruit of the GOP’s own making.
In recent years, psychologists have shown interest in corporate psychopathy and how psychopaths rise to power. Dr. Kevin Dutton argues that the megalomania unique to the criminal mind is closely related to characteristics rewarded in capitalism.
In their book, Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work, psychologist Paul Babiak and psychopathy expert Robert D. Hare describe how psychopaths use charm to gain entry to an organization, size people up to determine whether they are patrons or pawns, create a psychopathic fiction in which they represent themselves positively while using negative disinformation to discredit others, employ character assassination to uphold their agenda, and finally usurp power and control from those who once supported them.
Faggioni and White list behaviors of organizational psychopaths who: throw public temper tantrums; humiliate and manipulate others; spread malicious lies; create anxiety via mercurial emotional displays; blame others for mistakes and take credit for others’ work; encourage supporters to demean, torment and harass peers; threaten the ‘enemy’ with discipline or job loss; show reluctance to hold meetings with more than one person; demonstrate little to no follow-through on ideas; obsess about self-importance; repeatedly abuse power sexually; owe money with no intention of paying it back; will do anything ‘to close the deal’, regardless of law or ethics.
It would be comical to suggest tedious examination is required to identify a certain someone whose behavior resembles these traits. It became blatantly obvious in the 2016 presidential campaign that there was something wrong with Donald Trump. Professionals and lay people discussed their diagnoses, most agreeing that he’s a narcissist.
While narcissism is a serious mental disorder and does indeed seem to apply to Trump, it’s worth asking further questions:
Is the President-Elect also a psychopath? What would that mean for our country? Should future presidents be required to undergo psychological testing before they take office? If such testing reveals mental disturbances, should that person have access to the nuclear codes? Should s/he be prevented from assuming the presidency?
There are circulating rumors that Trump underwent treatment at a mental health facility in the ’90s. Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald tweeted about Trump’s hospitalization, then later deleted the tweet, saying it was a signal to a source. Mental health is usually a private concern, as is medical history. However, the public inquire about the physical health of presidential candidates.
Do we not also have an interest in the mental health of a president?
Trump, psychopath or not, is only the outer layer of an onion in need of peeling.
A deeper cut reveals a culture of psychopathy: a party sickened by its hatred, misogyny and xenophobia; grown too accustomed to deceit; blaming others for its missteps; compromised by a paralysis of ideas; resorting to character assassination and abject humiliation of perceived enemies; fiscally irresponsible to the point of bringing the country to the brink of a Great Depression; willing to do virtually anything to take back power; spreading lies and fake news, weaponizing religion.
The fruit does not fall far from the tree, so to speak. Donald Trump is a product of a dysfunctional organization; the RNC drips with symptoms of psychopathy.
For this reason, we cannot ignore signs that the incoming administration has plans to dismantle much of our nation’s policies and infrastructure that keep us safe. We cannot treat Trump or the current incarnation of the GOP as normal. It is not normal to hate, lie, demean, torment, humiliate, cheat, obstruct with the purpose of destroying one man, the nation be hanged.
It is not normal to deny equality and healthcare, sell off the planet to Big Oil, pretend Climate Change isn’t real and make facts malleable, to reignite an arms race in a tweet, to taunt an equally unstable North Korean dictator, to defy and belittle 17 intelligence agencies in 140 characters.
Trump claims to know more about hacking and the Russians tampering with our elections than the experts. He promised to enlighten the public this week. Predictably, his aides now say that’s not going to happen. Trump continues to praise Putin as he insults his own President and prefer agreement with a foreign power to his own party. This is not normal.
The frightening abnormality of it all is justification for resisting a Trump presidency. Republicans will point fingers and accuse Democrats of payback for meanness to Obama, of being sore losers. And yes, they will rightly say there are psychopaths in the Democratic Party too, though the culture of Stronger Together and Love trumps Hate is not itself psychopathic.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what the GOP think about democratic resistance. No one is required to assimilate to a psychopathic culture. On the contrary, it’s patriotic to fight for our nation’s health, to confront dysfunction and offer healing, to stand up to bullies, to protect the weak and those on the fringes, to defend free speech, but not hate speech.
It’s the epitome of patriotism to resist a government that shows all the signs of fascism.
I’m hanging a sign in my own window: No fascists allowed. No Trump-adherents. No neo-Nazis. No KKK. No empathy, no service. It’s against my religion.
Gayle J. Greenlea is an American poet and novelist currently residing in Australia. She served as Press Secretary for Garry Mauro in his Texas gubernatorial run against George W. Bush. She also wrote for Texas Senator David Van Os and Get Out the Vote, San Antonio. Greenlea is a recipient of Australian Poetry’s Prod Award, and shortlisted in the Fish Poetry Prize, 2014. Last year, she debuted her novel, Zero Gravity, at the KGB Literary Bar in Manhattan.