Malignant narcissists love to ruin holidays and other events that bring people together. It’s common for a narcissist to ruin Christmas, anniversaries, or birthdays by picking a fight, gaslighting or insulting the guest of honor or the attendees, or finding ways to turn everyone’s attention on themselves and make it all about them. The truth is, the narcissist hates it when they aren’t constantly the center of attention, so ruining everyone else’s fun is often the easiest way for them to accomplish that. It’s also a way to keep others from having a good time. Malignant narcissists hate to see other people happy because, to them, life is a zero sum game and if others are happy, they see it as a threat to their own ability to be happy (the truth is, they are incapable of genuine happiness) and become envious of those who can. So if they are at a party or other gathering where people are celebrating, they will do anything they can to become the center of attention and ruin the fun of others in order to “right” things (by taking away the happiness of others).
On the national level, in America, we have two traditions that are shared by millions of people of disparate backgrounds and historically have had a way of uniting people who may not otherwise agree or have much else in common. These traditions are professional football and Christmas.
Christmas is celebrated not just by Christians, but also by many Jews, atheists and people of other belief systems. It’s become a secular and national holiday, and while I deplore the commercialization of Christmas, it certainly serves as a yearly reminder of the importance of family ties, close friendships, and generosity. Although many (understandably) become depressed during the holiday season (especially if they lack family, friends or money to buy gifts) and have every right to not celebrate it at all, I think most people see Christmas as a positive and enjoyable thing, and of course many also recognize the religious meaning of Christmas too.
Christmas brings together people not just of different religious beliefs, but also people of every race, ethnicity, creed, gender identity, age, and lifestyle. Everyone from the liberal childless high-powered urban career woman to the Latino factory worker supporting his wife and five children to the conservative Christian farmer’s wife get a day or two off of work, decorate a Christmas tree, and give gifts to the people they love on December 25th. For the most part, people feel a sense of togetherness and joyfulness during the holiday season, and are caught up in the excitement of decorating, cooking and shopping for those they love.
NFL football is much the same way. While it probably has fewer fans than Christmas (I’m one of them), football is a huge deal to many Americans of varied backgrounds, education levels, political ideologies, interests, and religious beliefs. It tends to bring all these people together in support of their favorite team (and against the opposing team). As long as the players are out there on the field, football fans can put aside their religious or political differences, and forget about race and social class and come together in solidarity to support their team. Football, like Christmas, fosters unity and community.
How Trump is destroying Christmas and NFL football.
Trump is a malignant narcissist and because he is, he hates anything that brings people together and causes them to celebrate together or find common ground or unity. Because he is miserable and empty inside, he hates happiness and joy in others. He has homed in on Christmas and football because these two traditions are associated with community and fellowship. Perhaps even more importantly, they are traditions associated with America, and though Trump will never admit it, he hates America and the democracy and liberty for all it represents. He is hell-bent on destroying those things that make us Americans and transforming us into a thuggish Russian-style dictatorship.
Christmas was his first target. Even during his campaign, he (and his sycophants on Fox News) railed on about a nonexistent “war on Christmas” — a manufactured “crisis” focusing not on the spirit or meaning or even the holiday of Christmas itself — but on meaningless and shallow trappings of Christmas like the proper method of greeting: “Happy Holidays” was suddenly a Very Bad Thing, even though Happy Holidays has been said for many decades without anyone ever blinking an eyelash. His unreasonable rages against red Starbucks coffee cups that lacked Christmas decorations on them was similarly petty and shallow and had nothing to do with Christmas itself.
Last fall, Trump attacked football in a remarkably similar manner. He became enraged when black football players exercised their First Amendment rights by “taking a knee” during the singing of the National Anthem instead of standing for it. For those unfamiliar with what “taking a knee” represents, it’s an action of protest against police brutality against people of color — not a disrespect of America, the Anthem, or the flag. In fact, it’s because these players who take a knee love the America we used to be and the one the Constitution stood for, that they are peacefully protesting against the return of racism and violence to law enforcement during the Trump era. There is nothing wrong or disrespecful about exercising our freedom of speech, a right we are promised by the Constitition, but Trump acts as if it’s an unpardonable sin and a personal affront. He doesn’t seem to understand that what makes a person a great patriot isn’t whether or not they stand for the Anthem or salute the flag, but whether or not they have the integrity and courage to hold up the truth, and seek justice, freedom, and the upholding of the Constitition. Anyone can salute a piece of cloth or stand for a song. But not everyone can stand up for the values America claims to uphold. Trump certainly can’t — and he won’t.
I also don’t think it’s an accident that football is closely associated with Thanksgiving — a holiday that specifically celebrates inclusiveness of the “other” (white settlers sitting down to dine with native Americans) and family unity.
Note the similarities between what Trump is doing to Christmas and NFL football. He is using a sport that normally unifies people and zeroing in on a trivial “optic” in order to create discord and divisiveness. In much the same manner he focuses on shallow details such as the design of a throwaway cup or the wording of a Christmas card instead of the secular (unity and community) or religious meaning of Christmas, he is focusing on black football players’ failing to stand during the Anthem instead of on the enjoyment and sense of community the sport of football brings to so many Americans. In zeroing in on the inconsequental and trivial and getting Americans to focus on those instead of the thing that brought them together in the first place, he is dividing people within two revered traditions that used to unify us.
The end result is that people are no longer able to enjoy Christmas as they once did because they now have to worry about whether or not they should say “Happy Holidays” (to be inclusive) or “Merry Christmas.” (to please Trump). They have to worry about what kinds of decorations they use or what their throwaway coffee cup should look like. The whole issue is ridiculous because people have always said “Merry Christmas.” They have also said “Happy Holidays” as long as I can remember (and that’s a long time). Football fans now have to worry about whether they should stand for the Anthem or sympathize with the black players who are protesting police brutality (not America itself). They can’t just focus on the game and have a good time.
Both of these things are Machiavellian thought control tactics intended to divide us and create discord in an already deeply divided and tribal country. The intended goal is control. The more we are divided as a nation, the easier we are to control. Such manipulation of public sentiment is standard practice in dictatorships and authoritarian regimes.
Malignant narcissists like Trump can’t understand genuine human emotions or ideals, so they substitute meaningless slogans and phony platitudes and symbols like a flag or an Anthem or MAGA hat or a greeting card message as a pale substitute. People with heartfelt passion for the actual ideals these symbols are supposed to represent can see right through the facade of “patriotism” or “Christmas spirit” or whatever else the narcissist is trying to convince the world they are standing up for, when the sad reality is they stand for nothing because they are so empty inside.
Football and Christmas. Two traditions as American as apple pie. I wonder how he’ll use apple pie as a tool for division.