The Psychopath in Chief
Worth revisiting now that we have lost over 100,000 Americans to COVID, and have unrest in over 100 cities.
“Imagine — if you can — not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern for the well-being of strangers, friends, or even family members. Imagine no struggles with shame, not a single one in your whole life, no matter what kind of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoral action you had taken … You can do anything at all, and still your strange advantage over the majority of people, who are kept in line by their consciences, will most likely remain undiscovered. How will you live your life? What will you do with your huge and secret advantage?”
— Martha Stout, The Sociopath Next Door
How do we deal with a person whose core impulse in every part of his life is to deny, deceive, deflect, disparage, and double-down every time he is challenged? And what precisely is the danger such a person poses if he also happens to be the leader of the free world, during a crisis in which thousands of people are dying every day, with no letup in sight?
The first answer is that we must understand exactly who we’re dealing with, and we have not, because what motivates Trump’s behavior is so far from our own inner experience that it leaves us feeling forever flummoxed.
The trait that most distinguishes psychopaths is the utter absence of conscience — the capacity to lie, cheat, steal, and inflict pain to achieve their ends without a scintilla of guilt or shame, as Trump so demonstrably does.