Monday, September 18, 2017

Week of 09/18/2017

Understanding the Narcissist
I’m sure my Brutally Honest readers are perplexed by my lack of non-stop evisceration of all things Donald Trump.  In fact, I’ve gone out of my way to avoid bringing the man’s name up if I can help it, focusing instead on other subjects. 
I’ve said nothing so far when it comes to the so-called “Dreamers”, the children of people who came to America “illegally”, and whether or not they should stay.  I’ve said little about Trump’s apparent obsessive fixation to completely erase everything his White House predecessor did.  I’ve said nothing about his pardoning of abusive former sheriff Joe Arpaio, or the speculation that he could pardon everyone working for him, including himself, over the Russia probe.  I’ve kept silent about the Russia probe or how close it could be doing anything substantive to hurt Trump, or what it is precisely about the probe that people are upset about.  I’ve kept talk of his Twitter-tantrums to a vague reference and I’ve said little about his latest apparent partisan twist in working with the failed Democrats.
There’s a very simple reason why... and that is because there is very little about President Donald Trump himself that truly shocks or amazes me.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it here, we have elected a narcissist to the White House.  And while that in and of itself should serve as an explanation as to why nothing he has done or is doing or will do will truly shock or amaze me, it appears that way too many people can’t seem to fully grasp the situation.  They continue to act as though Trump is just another politician, and thus are shocked at what he says or does. 
Thus, it is time for little-ol’-me to educate you about just what the hell we got ourselves into with President Trump.
Being a narcissist is more than just having an over-inflated ego and wanting to put your name on everything.  Narcissists have a self-centered mindset, to a point where everyone and everything exists as an extension of that person and work for the purpose of glorifying that person.  You are really not an individual in the eyes of a narcissist.  You are like a disembodied limb; separate but still functioning for that narcissist.
Imagine being on a stage where you are the director, the producer, the writer, and the star performer, and everyone and everything on that stage must take their directions from you.  Everything on that stage is subject to change as you see fit.  You have full control over the story.  If you don’t like the set, then you can order the stagehands to change the set for you on the spot.  If you don’t like the cast, you can re-write the cast or get new actors on the spot.  Everyone is there at your whim and for the privilege of showcasing your greatness as the lead character and star performer.  And you know that no matter how the overall performance turns out, it will be the most stupendous performance in all of history, with record-setting attendance and rousing reviews, and nothing will ever compete against it again.
This is how a narcissist sees things.  The world is their stage, and they are the writer, director, producer, executive producer, casting director, and lead in the ad lib real-time performance of themselves.  There is no real sense of “right” or “wrong” with that person other than what benefits that person and whether or not it glorifies them.  If they benefit from it, or if it makes them look good, then it’s “good”.  Anything else is “evil”.  Not just “wrong”, not just “bad”, but “evil”.
Now I know some of you are saying to yourselves “Nah, that can’t be true, David!  You’re talking about a megalomaniac!  You’re talking about some sort of supervillain tyrant straight out of comic books.  Most people don’t have the means to change things that much!”
You’d be right in that most people that have a narcissistic personality disorder are restrained by the limits of society and the limits of their environment.  They do not have the power that they believe is theirs by birthright to make the changes that they want.  So they have to take that power where they can from family, friends, significant others, co-workers, and even mild acquaintances.  They have to scheme and seduce and manipulate people to do their bidding.  They have to lie and exaggerate and say whatever they can to get those people to their side.  And then they have to lie and exaggerate again to keep those people in their grip.
This is what keeps most narcissists from being too much of a problem.  They know that there are limitations to their will.  They know that they can’t do some things that they want to.  It doesn’t matter if it is the law or a lack of money or because someone else is in their way, most narcissists are limited in what they can do.
What makes someone like Trump different from your ordinary narcissist is that he has spent a good portion of his life essentially without those limitations.  His money and his connections have given him the means to do whatever he wants without limits.  It’s given him access to things that most people in his situation would not have.  He’s surrounded by people who continually reassure him that he’s always in the right, he can never do anything wrong, and if something is wrong, then it “can’t be” anything that he did or said, and, besides, whatever it is can be fixed and made to go away.
Now, in business, that’s been an asset for Mister Trump.  It’s allowed him to create a brand out of his name and to use that brand to try to sell whatever he can.  If it works, great.  If it doesn’t, well, it’s never really “his” fault.  But as a candidate-for and now President of the United States, that same narcissism has made him a chaos figure.
Understand that President Trump is not your typical politician.  (And, yes, he became a politician the moment he announced his candidacy.)  Your average politician knows that there are limits.  Trump does not.  Your average politician has developed a personal filter to avoid saying or doing anything that could cost them votes.  Trump has no such filter.  He’s never needed one.  In fact, his drastic refusal to filter his thoughts through things like Twitter and through his campaign speeches and rallies have been considered a strength for him and his supporters.  Your average politician has to work within a well-established rigid framework set by party bosses and (on occasion) the United States Constitution.  Trump does not.  It seems like, to him, the government is just another business that he has acquired, with incompetent executives (legislators) that just need to be better managed or else replaced.  And, of course, he has to put his name on everything.  Because, you know, he’s Trump.
Let’s get brutally honest here… everything that President Trump has done so far is completely understandable once you accept that we are dealing with a narcissist.  Everything he does is not meant for the benefit of America as much as it is to benefit himself.
Yes, there is “something wrong with him”, as some people have said, but he’s not crazy.  He’s just a narcissist.  He’s not a “white supremacist”, as some people have accused him of being; he is a self-supremacist.  He’s quick to condemn Muslims because he’s not one, and he’s slow to condemn racists and white nationalists and white supremacists because they associate themselves with him and he really doesn’t want to distance himself from anyone that glorifies him.  He pardoned Joe Arpaio because Arpaio supports him.  That’s why he says there’s “many sides, many sides” when it comes to Charlottesville, but only two when it comes to Islam; with him or against him.
Trump want his “wall” because that has become his “brand” issue, just like his Muslim travel ban and his immigration “solution”.  He knows that it gets the support of the simple-minded who think in zero-sum terms and want equally simple solutions.  That means he’ll do everything in his power to get some kind of “wall” put up, and to get his Muslim ban enacted, and to get those who are not in America “legally” gone.  It’s all about validating his “brand”, which is his image and that’s also textbook narcissism. 
I have no doubt that Trump would want to deport Superman if he could, because Superman is the world’s biggest “Dreamer”, having come to Earth, never mind America, as an infant.  No fault of his own, but, hey, too bad.  Gotta go back to that blown-up planet of his.  Plus, hey, it was a Barack Obama program anyway, so it has to go for that reason alone.
I’m also not surprised that Trump would “defer” the actual “Dreamer” issue over to Congress, because then it would make the GOP leaders look bad if they don’t somehow “save” those children of undocumented immigrants, not Trump.  Again, it’s about image.  It’s supposedly not Trump that is “letting the Dreamers down”, it’s the GOP.  That’s narcissism. 
Trump breaks agreements and treaties because it gets attention and then he can take credit for “re-negotiating for a better deal”.  Everything is subject to his “re-negotiation”, because that has been part of the Trump “brand”.  He has long portrayed himself as the master of “The Deal”, so, yeah, he’ll exploit that at any opportunity and call for a “re-negotiation” over any kind of agreement.  And, yes, at some point I expect that to include the “deal” called the United States Constitution.
Trump is the simplest kind of partisan: with him or against him.  There is no middle ground with him.  That’s why he hitched his horse with the GOP at first, and now he’s making deals with the failed Democrats.  It’s not about party loyalty.  The GOP hierarchy never wanted him in the first place.  Remember the “Never Trump” movement?  So it’s not about parties with Trump.  It’s about whether or not people will work for Trump.  Operative words being “for Trump”, not “with Trump”.  If House Speaker Paul “Mister Budget” Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch “The Bitch” McConnel can’t do it for him, then he’ll talk with the inept Nancy Pelosi and the milquetoast Chuck Schumer.  Anything to get the attention on him and to get what he wants.  And, again, that partnership will only last as long as their usefulness to him does.  Then it’s back to name-calling and Twitter-tantrums.
Trump is quick to over-exaggerate his successes and his challenges, because that is what gets people to his side.  He’s quick to dismantle everything Barack Obama did because people look up to Obama when they should be looking up to him.  He’s quick to attack the media because he seems to believe that the media’s job is to glorify him.  He’s quick to attack critics and attack people that fail him and go after anything that could make him look bad because that is what a narcissist does.  It’s all about making Trump look good. 
Correction: it’s about making Trump look great.  And, by loose association, making America look great.  Again.
And now the punchline: even our misunderstanding of Trump plays right into his hands.  As long as the media and the so-called “political experts” consider Trump to be or capable of becoming “just another politician” or even try to behave as something that he has never shown signs of being, then they will continue to be outraged by his actions and his antics.  They will continue to lose their minds over Trump’s Twitter-tantrums and what he links and what he says off-the-cuff on campaign speeches.  That means that people will continue to talk about Trump, and that will continue to feed his narcissistic need for attention, as well as his own paranoid assertion that people are “out to get him”.
Like it or not, we are all stuck with Donald Trump as President of the United States until at least the year 2021.  And maybe even longer than that if certain people do not get their acts together.  All of the fantasies of impeachment or removing him through the 25th Amendment are just that, fantasies.  The idea of replacing Trump with the Vice-President is just an idle fantasy.  It won’t happen with the GOP in charge, and it sure as hell won’t happen should the Democrats get control after 2018. 
The only thing that we can do right now is understand just what President Trump is and why he does what he does and then not play into his game.  Don’t be shocked or surprised or amazed by what he does or says.  Be shocked or surprised or amazed that more people don’t understand why, or, even worse, buy into it. 
The old saying holds true here: knowledge is power.  It’s high time that we all bone up on some concerning the guy in the White House, or else we will all be playing his game.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Week of 09/11/2017

Socialism Versus Compassion
The 2017 Hurricane Season is proving to be very destructive for the Atlantic.  First, the rampage of Hurricane Harvey destroying and flooding parts of Texas for a week, then Hurricane Irma blowing up Florida and Georgia as of this column’s posting date, and the full extent of that storm has yet to be determined.  And we still have a whole month to go for the whole season and a few more hurricanes to watch.
And a funny thing started popping up after Harvey flooded Texas...
Certain people started putting in troll messages on Facebook about the need to help bail out those impacted by Harvey.
“Everyone OK with using socialism to clean up after Harvey?” asked one Facebook troll post.  “Or shall we let the free market take care of things?  Asking for a friend.”  Other troll posts follow the same line that any kind of government assistance is socialism and quickly call out those conservative Texans for their philosophical opposition to the very help they’re asking for.
Listen, guys, I don’t mind a little hypocrite-outing.  But, to borrow from “The Princess Bride”, when it comes to socialism, “you keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”
What a lot of these trolls are calling “socialism” isn’t socialism at all, but a little thing we call “compassion”.
You see, helping people when they really need it, for no other reason than out of kindness, is compassion, not socialism.  The two things are not interchangeable.
Socialism is a socio-political train of thought; a philosophy whereby things are done for the greater good of the community instead of for the individual.  The idea that we should all pay for and provide for primary education, that we should provide medical coverage to the old and the poor, that we should help those in poverty, those are all socialist ideas.  Zoning regulations have been used to advance socialist ideas.  Covenant neighborhoods are enclaves of pure socialism, which I know first-hand  through recent experience. 
Compassion, on the other hand, is an emotion.  It’s a feeling of empathy.  It’s a desire to help those that need it that is not rational or born from reason.  You see someone hurting, someone that needs help, and you put yourself into their shoes emotionally and you want to do something to help them.  There’s nothing rational or reasonable about that.  It’s not about thinking; it’s about feeling.  You might even say that compassion is what makes us human.
Compassion can drive people to act, but there is nothing socialistic about that.  Likewise, socialist ideas can be spread without any kind of emotion to them.  Public education was advanced over a century ago not on some perceived desire to “level the playing field” between rich and poor, but rather to make competent factory workers that could read the instructions on the machines they would soon use.
So when it comes to helping people who need it, specifically the federal government bailing out communities like those in Texas devastated by Hurricane Harvey, and New York and New Jersey after Super-Storm Sandy, and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and soon for the Florida area after Hurricane Irma, is that really socialism?
Let’s get brutally honest here... no, it’s not socialism.  It’s compassion.  You’re helping those that need it at a time when that need is the greatest.  You’re helping to clear debris and rebuild homes and rebuild communities devastated by forces beyond anyone’s control.  And then, when that’s done, the help ends.
What would be socialism, though, would be telling people how they should rebuild and how they should carry on afterward.  It would be socialism to tell people in a flood plain that they shouldn’t have their homes built there in the first place.  It would be socialism to tell the businessman that he can’t rebuild his pawn shop or set up a payday loan business or strip club in an area that was once devastated by a disaster.
If you think about it, the so-called “fiscal conservatives” that vote to deny funding to bail out these communities are more socialistic than the people that are quick to call for such support.  Their very argument, that money dedicated to such endeavors would be better spent on other perceived obligations – such as endless wars – is actually a socialistic notion.  It presumes that the “homeland”, the collective whole, is more important than the “individuals” in one small part of the country.  That’s pretty socialistic for a bunch of people who claim to despise it.
Yes, the “free market” fails the community in these situations.  We saw this in all past disasters and we’ll see it in pretty much every future disaster.  Insurance companies will refuse to own up to their part of their deals.  Suppliers will price-gouge at every opportunity.  Then again, it’s not really the “free market” at play here.  It’s capitalism that has manipulated the rules to get the maximum amount of profit for a select group of businesses – a.k.a. insurance companies – with a minimal amount of risk.  And it is safe to presume that this is by design, because they count on our sense of compassion to get the government to do the heavy bailouts.  There’s nothing socialistic about that; it’s just shrewd business strategy and political manipulation.  It’s sociopathic, not socialistic.
Maybe it could be seen as Karma that these disasters happen in places full of hypocrites that oppose helping others and then look for help themselves when they need it.  And, yeah, I can’t deny feeling a little bit of schadenfreude in exposing the hypocrisy.  But if you’re going to do it, at least do it right, and stop confusing human empathy with an unemotional idealistic philosophy.