Hypermasculinity and Trumpism.

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Credit: N/A

I’ve been noticing a huge and (to me) obvious difference between Trump supporters and those who oppose him.  Much has been said about the tendency of Trump supporters to have more authoritarian personalities than the norm, and that is true, but why is authoritarianism so attractive to them?  Why do they hate democracy?  Don’t they want to think for themselves?  Don’t they want to live in a free and inclusive society that values empathy for others and the Golden Rule (which we were all taught in kindergarten)?

The other day I was following a Twitter convo between some Trump supporters talking about Matt Whitaker, Trump’s new Acting Attorney General.  They were all talking about how Whitaker looked like a guy who wouldn’t take crap from anyone, and would rule with an iron fist. They admired Whitaker’s pumped up, hypermasculine physique, his cold, expressionless features, and were almost reverently comparing him to Mr. Clean (who would, of course, clean up “the swamp”).

The kind of people I observed conversing on Twitter, like all Trump admirers, don’t seem to care about the lack of checks and balances and the deep corruption in Trump’s administration.  In fact, they love the idea of Trump having as much power as he desires (which is unlimited as his need for power and adulation is insatiable), so he can push through his cruel and destructive agenda.  In Whitaker they see a tough, merciless enforcer. And yes, they actually used the word “enforcer.”

This same group was making fun of Rod Rosenstein, Jeff Sessions’ deputy Attorney General (who seems to have been demoted since Sessions was fired and Whitaker came on the scene) for his “girlish, wimpy” appearance.  One of the group even posted a meme of Rosenstein as a 90 lb weakling getting sand kicked in his face by (you guessed it) an exaggeratedly muscled Whitaker who looked like he was pumped up on massive doses of steroids.  This group was not all males.  In fact the person who posted the meme was a woman.

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Far right paramilitary groups like the Proud Boys embody Trumpist hypermasculinity.

Trump supporters see the exaggerated stereotype of the “macho man” as what a “real” man should be.  Someone like Rosenstein (or any man who believes in doing the right thing, has empathy or humility, or who opposes Trump for lacking those qualities), they see as weak and  feminine, an affront to patriarchy.   Trump supporters believe a real man shows no “soft” emotions, never apologizes, is never at fault (or at least never admits fault), can break the law or do cruel things to other people as long as they get away with it or it’s a means to an end they believe is “good,” and dominates everyone who they perceive as beneath them, which is just about everyone.

In a leader, Trump supporters regard “soft” traits such as empathy or mercy, as undesirable because they are stereotypically “womanly” traits, and women are believed to be inferior to men.  I suspect most Trumpers had authoritarian fathers who demanded girls act like girls and boys act like boys.  That would explain Trump/Whitaker’s appeal among right wing evangelicals, who celebrate authoritarianism and patriarchy.   This same mindset also explains the hard right’s obsession with guns, and the primacy of the Second Amendment over all other rights bestowed to Americans in the Bill of Rights and Constitution.

Trump supporters seem to find nothing wrong with Trump’s bullying, cruel insults and namecalling and in fact seem to think it’s a plus.   Yesterday, in one of his increasingly unhinged tweets, Trump deliberately mangled Adam Schiff’s (D-CA) last name into a profanity (no need to repeat the word since I think it’s pretty obvious).   Another Trump fan tweeted this in response:

Some might say this isn’t becoming of a President. That’s ok…I didn’t vote for him because of his impeccable decorum skills. Give me a Commander in Chief that cuts thru the bull, gets things done, has a backbone, is a Patriot thru and thru, & actually keeps his word anyday [sic].

You’re not imagining things.  Trump’s followers are actually praising Trump for his puerile butchering of Schiff’s last name. They find ways to spin his worst traits and most immature, childish, and cruel actions and statements into actual virtues and good deeds.  It’s really rather remarkable the way they can so glibly make excuses for his worst behaviors.

My conclusion is this:  the values of Trump supporters involve a deep admiration, even worship, of “strongmen” figures:  hypermasculine, even abusive, men; physically pumped up, emotionless, violent, without mercy, dictatorial, punishing, and bullying.  They don’t want a president of the people, a president who brings us together as Americans;  they want a president who “sticks it to the libs” and others they don’t like. Trump shares their hates and fears, and they love him for it, even if he destroys the country we all share in the process.

“Republican Jesus.”

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Related to the above, I’ve often seen Trump supporting evangelicals talk about “Christ as a warrior,” rather than a compassionate friend. The “Republican Jesus” memes are, unfortunately, not exaggerations.  Dominionist and far right evangelicals depict Jesus Christ not as a loving figure of grace and forgiveness, but as an angry warrior out to avenge sin using the most terrifying and violent methods imaginable.  He is especially enraged by sexual sins like abortion and homosexuality (strangely, rape and adultery don’t seem to be issues, given “chosen one” Trump’s immoral sexual behavior and failure to repent or humble himself before God).  Of course, the sins of greed, wrath, exploitation, cruelty and indifference to the “least of these,” destruction of the earth, and bearing false witness are all considered fine since they are just a means to an end (establishing God’s kingdom on earth, a heretical teaching which doesn’t even appear in the Bible they’re always thumping).

Their hyper-Calvinist God favors his “elect” who apparently can do no wrong, and as a reward, he showers them with wealth and power.   For the rest of us, God exists only to mete out punishment and condemn us to eternal hellfire.   Even Jesus is seen as a violent, warlike, avenging figure, and this explains extremist evangelicals’ infatuation with Old Testament legalism and punishment over the Gospels.   The caring, compassionate Jesus of the New Testament isn’t an appealing figure for them.  A few weeks ago, at a “Religious Liberty” meeting full of extremist evangelical Republicans, a Christian preacher was taken out in handcuffs for quoting New Testament scripture (specifically, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ most important and famous sermon).

Trump supporting evangelicals believe both Trump and Whitaker were sent by God to do his holy bidding (at least according to the group I observed on Twitter, who said they believed Whitaker, like Trump, was anointed by God).  The goal is to destroy all of “the liberal establishment” and by logical progression, all liberals (who I think are hated not so much because of what they believe, but because they are associated with softness and all traits they regard as “feminine” and also include a great many more women leaders and nonwhite people).

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Narcissistic abuse: who is the real victim?

I’ve noticed the way the Trump administration is constantly “blaming the victim,” and the way they never take responsibility for their own terrible and abusive actions that hurt real people.  Not just that, but they usually paint themselves as innocent victims and use rhetoric that makes it sound as if the real victim is the perpetrator.  They project their own evil onto the victim and often use flying monkeys (in a government, a flying monkey can include state run news, TV pundits, and other propaganda generators) to smear or destroy the victim’s reputation or credibility.   This is a form of emotional and mental abuse common in families run by sociopaths and narcissists and, as we are seeing, it also happens in sociopathic regimes like the one we’re currently living under.

There is an acronym called DARVO in the narcissistic abuse community (DARVO = Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender). Narcissistic abuse survivors are all too familiar with this method of mental abuse and emotional manipulation.  It surprises me that more of them don’t see it happening in the Trump administration, when it’s staring them right in the face, but there are abuse victims who actually unconsciously identify with their abusers and this could be an example of that.

There are many examples of DARVO in this administration (it would take a whole other article to name all of them), the most recent one being the GOP ganging up on and blaming a rape victim of trying to “ruin the life of” and making a victim of a “model citizen” (Brett Kavanaugh).   In general, women are held in very low regard in this regime (especially if they are not white), and are usually blamed by the patriarchy for anything that happens to them, including rape. These hateful, entitled men seem to think a man who sexually abuses a woman or even a child (Roy Moore) is just “doing what men do” and it’s the female’s job to somehow stop him, or that she somehow “led him on.”

In this authoritarian regime which emboldens and encourages toxic masculinity and misogyny, men are painted as poor innocents who simply cannot control their sexual urges.   Never mind that forcible sex, rape and molestation have nothing to do with sexual desire and is all about power and control.   If it cannot be denied the rape or sexual abuse was wrong, the woman is blamed for not reporting it in a timely enough manner.  But there are many reasons a woman or girl may not report sexual abuse or may wait many years to do so: shame and fear of retribution being the most common reasons.   According to the patriarchy, the man is never to blame.  It is always the woman’s fault.

Franklin Graham, the dominionist son of Billy Graham (what the heck happened to Graham’s kids anyway? Billy was not a lunatic) even went so far as to say Kavanaugh “respected” his victim by “not finishing.”   Wow.  A real man of God.   He probably thinks it’s okay to rape young girls because that’s what men did in Old Testament times.    Now the corrupt GOP are trying to silence Dr. Blasey Ford and ram Kavanaugh through for the SCOTUS seat in spite of abundant evidence he is not a man of good character.  They are trying to excuse what he did to Dr. Blasey Ford as normal behavior for a teenage boy, even though it is not at all normal.     When I was in high school, no boy with any moral compass would ever hold a girl down while forcing sex on her and cover her mouth to keep her from screaming (and have a friend turn the music up to drown her out), and if he did, it would become a police matter (if she ever reported it).

In light of these developments and the real peril women are in under the Trump regime (we may lose all our rights and freedoms should this nomination go through and if the GOP wins the midterms), I’m reblogging this article I wrote about distinguishing victims from their abusers (it can be hard to tell, if the abuser has convinced you they’re the victim)

Lucky Otters Haven

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Narcissistic abusers are great at charming people they want to impress, or those people they want to get on their side. When they have targeted an individual for abuse, they will stop at nothing to turn their friends, colleagues, even their families against them–and it’s not at all uncommon for them to claim that THEY are the ones being abused.   The process of using malicious gossip and lies to turn people against the victim is called triangulation and is well known in the narcissistic abuse community. Most of us who have been targeted by narcissistic abusers know all too well about triangulation and its close cousin, gaslighting. Both will be used in conjunction with each other to turn the victim’s potential allies against them, effectively isolating them and ripping away any support systems they could use later.

Those who have been turned against the victim by the narcissist are called

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Can we ever stop the hemorrhaging?

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America is sliding backwards in almost every way imaginable.   Like it or not, as a country we have become far more superstitious, fearful, intolerant, and tribal than we were twenty, forty, or even sixty years ago.   Such a worldview is incredibly dangerous to any real progress and the sustainability of democracy.

The following article will provide a background of why this happened, its historical roots, how our situation compares with the rest of the world, and what, if anything, we can do to reverse our destiny and restore democracy as we used to know it.

The Middle Ages.

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Hundreds of years ago, tribalism and irrational fear of the “Other” was the norm in the West. During the Middle Ages, the only form of government was basically a theocracy with “one party rule” by the medieval Catholic Church.  Feudal lords ruled over the serfs with an iron hand, with meager benefits, such as a small patch of land for a family to subsist on, handed out in return for loyalty and backbreaking labor.   There was very little to no chance of a common peasant or serf escaping their grim reality, or ever rising to the merchant class and certainly not the nobility (the oligarchs of those times).   For almost all who weren’t part of the nobility or merchant class,  life was “brutal and short.”  Harsh punishments were meted out liberally against those who dared question the regime or their overlords.  It was a life not much better than slavery.   Science was considered heresy and education was discouraged.  Higher education was limited to the clergy and the nobility, and even that was primarily religious education.

During these “dark ages,” which lasted approximately a thousand years following the fall of the Roman Empire, there was little to no progress, scientifically or otherwise.  Each generation lived pretty much the same way as the one that came before, and people did not live very long.   Daily life revolved around religion and the church and people were very superstitious.  Women were considered the property of men, their only role (besides backbreaking labor alongside the men) was producing as many children as possible as quickly as possible.  Most of those children died of illness before the age of 5 or so.   In fact, infant mortality was so common that medieval women didn’t bother to name a child until he or she was several years old, and more likely to survive.   Not naming a new child made it possible to not get too attached to the child and enabled the mother to take its death in stride without undue grief.

Modern feudalism and third world countries.

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Today, there are such societies. But they are not in the West. You can find feudal-like living conditions under harsh dictatorships and theocracies in third world countries in South America, Africa, and other parts of the undeveloped world.   Unlike advanced western democracies, these developing countries have not advanced in any discernible way, and do not contribute knowledge to the rest of the world. The vast majority of their people live much as Europeans did in medieval times.  The rulers and kings of these impoverished nations may themselves be very wealthy, but they keep their wealth for themselves at the expense of the populace, who have no chance to ever live a good life within their own countries.  These regimes are rife with corruption, oppression, sexism, and violence.  They are societies where hatred, fear, tribalism, and often religious superstition take the place of rational and enlightened thought and higher values such as inclusiveness and empathy for others.

Random violence and harsh and unforgiving laws are common in these societies, and people live in fear of their own government, who care nothing for them and treat them as vermin or at best, as inconvenient burdens.  Some people have been fortunate and able to escape from these regimes.  Many of those refugees emigratred to America for what they believed would be a better life, and for the most part, they have not been disappointed.

Tyranny outside the third world. 

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Islamic theocracies in places like Saudi Arabia and Iran are slightly better as far as quality of life than impoverished third world countries (most people have access to modern technology and generally have at least the basic necessities for survival), but are still rigidly authoritarian states that tolerate no dissent from the national religion and Sharia law. These regimes especially fear feminine power — a power which draws from the higher human values of empathy, altruism, and inclusiveness — and so women have been oppressed and denied a voice.    The rulers of such nations are always men, and they rule with an iron fist.   Toxic masculinity, where power, wealth, violence, and complete control are lauded as virtues, ensures that the “feminine” is kept silenced and where qualities associated with the feminine are dismissed or even considered evil (in medieval times, these qualities were usually associated with witchcraft).   Keeping women in line and obedient safeguards against the risk that the power of the feminine could ever threaten the hypermasculine regime’s control.

The Enlightenment.

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While these harsh conditions used to exist in the West during medieval times, since the Renaissance and Enlightenment they have gradually been discarded.   Since then, the West has come to embrace rational thought and democratic, humane values over superstition and religious intolerance — and has changed their beliefs and laws in keeping with that.   The recognition that science (over religious dogma) is about truth and secular and higher education is valid and desirable, coupled with the idea that different kinds of people can and should learn from each other — and that difference is not something to be feared but something to be celebrated — paved the way for western countries to establish new policies that greatly enhanced the quality of life for all their citizens.  Policies that recognize that each human being is intrinsically valuable and worthy (instead of valued only for what they own or the power they wield) and should therefore be nurtured and encouraged to develop their full potential instead of punished and controlled for attempting to assert that potential has led to greater happiness, prosperity, and longevity for almost all people who live in those societies.  This recognition by the west that the “feminine” is as important (or more important) to the advancement of humanity as the “masculine” is the foundation for democracy, the most spiritually advanced and humane form of government that currently exists.

“Manifest destiny” and the roots of American tyranny.

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America was, unfortunately, founded at least partly through the invasion and oppression of the native people who lived peacefully and sustainably on this continent for thousands of years.  This unpleasant reality has always hindered us as far as advancing in democratic values as easily as other western countries have been able to do. There has always been that undercurrent of violence and intolerance of the “other” that has darkened our path to true progress — even though our Founding Fathers did everything they could when writing up the Constitution to protect against tyranny, whether religious tyranny or some other form of it.

Since the Enlightenment, this reality has been concealed, even to ourselves.  We have convinced ourselves America is the most advanced, prosperous, and humanitarian democracy that ever existed, a concept known as “manifest destiny.”   We have long believed we are the one shining example of morality, liberty, and prosperity to the rest of the world — and that they should follow our example (even if by force at times).  But the reality is, while we lurched toward democracy with the rest of the west,  we were never a true democracy.   We have always been more hubristic and narcissistic than other countries, believing ourselves to be morally and in every other way better than anyone else, but it’s proven to be a slippery slope that has led to the serious problems we are facing right now.    In fact, our narcissism and belief in “manifest destiny” is causing us to slide back into a more medieval, almost feudal, type of society.   We are being sucked into a moral vacuum that was formed by our fear of the “other” and the feminine strengths that, for at least a while, forced us to face those fears and attempt to toss them on the ash heap of history.   The Roman Empire fell for the same reasons we are now.   In fact, America’s system of government was based on ancient Rome, and just as the ancient Romans did, we are eating ourselves alive with our wrongheaded belief that we are the rightful Masters of the Universe and should be treated as such by the rest of the world.

True democracy cannot exist when there is a moral vacuum where feminine qualities and higher human values that recognize all humans are intrinsically valuable are dismissed, ignored, or oppressed.   Toxic masculinity and “strongman” policies are, ironically, born in a crucible of fear.  Fear leads to nationalism and tribalism, which leads to hatred, which inevitably results in violence, oppression, and even tyranny.  The undercurrent of terror and superstition that has always existed in America is poisoning our fragile democracy, which never had a chance to fully flourish and become what it could have been.  Other western countries are far ahead of us in this sense, and now we are falling even farther behind.   We can no longer even pretend to be the “shining light on the hill” to the rest of the world, and to do so would only make us even more laughable to the developed world than we already are.

For over 240 years, in spite of our issues with narcissism, we were still able to make much progress — but we never let go of our need to regard ourselves as superior and make others treat us that way.  And because of our prosperity, our enviable technology, and our comfort with great power and wealth, other countries  did in fact look up to us as the rightful leaders of the free world.   Yet most of this was their perception — that being nothing more than an acknowledgement of the glorified image we wanted to project — not the actual reality of things.    No other western country ever had any concept of themselves comparable to “manifest destiny.”   The erroneous belief that we are “best” and should be admired and emulated by the entire world has kept us from developing sufficient humility to be able to empathize and take care of each other, never mind those “foreigners.”  Humility — the opposite of hubris — is necessary for the development of the feminine and the humane in any society, and that is why other western countries have had a much easier time adapting to true “social” democracy and the concept that good governance means “we’re all in this together” and not “I’ve got mine, screw you.”   Power and wealth has become more important in America than compassion and inclusiveness, and probably always was, if truth be told.  Democracy and unbridled, unregulated power cannot coexist. Since the days of Reagan, the idea that deregulated power and unlimited wealth trumps compassion, inclusion, and humanity (demonized by the right as “socialism”) has increased exponentially.

Our experiment with democracy.

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“Spirit of America” by Norman Rockwell (1894-1978).

For a relatively short time — from sometime in the 1940s through the late 1970s — we experimented with social democracy.   Following FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society, American life and prosperity improved immensely for most (though racism and sexism were still issues, no one anywhere had really recognized those things as problems yet — reform was to come later).   The middle class grew and poverty diminished greatly, though it was never completely eradicated (and probably can’t be anyway).  Still, the uniquely American concept that some people were “better” or more “deserving” than others by virtue of their wealth, social status, or what they owned were still the true measures of human worth, even though this remained hidden or denied during those decades where we experimented with real democracy.  The truth is, we were never entirely comfortable with democracy.  Reaganism came as a relief to many people who feared the kinds of changes democracy could bring about.   Reaganism also began the slow unraveling of our developing, but still fragile and easily derailed, progress toward a more fair and humane society.  Forty years later, we are confronted with the terrifying spectre a near- fascist regime whose moral bankruptcy, brutality, ruthlessness, and lack of any semblance of conscience and empathy seems to have no limits.

We all know (or should know) how Reaganism eventually morphed into Trumpism, so I won’t detail the whole story of how that happened here.  Trump is not really the problem, nor would his immediate removal stop the hemorrhaging.   Trump is merely a symptom of a very deep and pervasive problem we have always had and that has become cancerous in the past four decades.   Other western democracies don’t have this problem, at least not to the extent America does. Because humility and “feminine” values (seen by tyrants as “weakness”) are not anathema to them, and narcissism and hubris hasn’t taken over their concept of themselves, they have always been more immune than we are to backsliding into tyranny.  That doesn’t mean it can’t happen in other countries, but it is less likely and their far right factions wield less power.  Our own fear and narcissism is destroying us from within.  We are regressing.

America is no longer a first world country.

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We have arrived at a point where we are not far ahead of places like Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Russia. While these are not third world countries in the strict sense, they are second world theocracies or dictatorships where the common people have no freedom (though they may be told they do and believe they do), lies are passed as the truth, history is rewritten, the free press is replaced by state propaganda,  and fair elections are either outlawed or a sham, dissent is punished, journalists are jailed, and the “different” are ostracized or even eliminated.   Such regimes have a number of things in common: oppression of women, criminalizing perceived “immorality” (homosexuality is an almost universal example in all these regimes), general intolerance for outsiders, an emphasis placed on buildup of the military,  police states, suppression of the arts and humanities, disdain or hatred for scientific thought, silencing the free press, revisionist history, the merging of religion and state, and state propaganda (whether religious or not) that passes itself off as “education” (in Communist regimes, atheism is treated as the state “religion”).

Lies are their currency; truth is always the enemy. Compassion is seen as weak and toxic masculinity (violence, controlling others, harsh punishment) is seen as “strong.” Higher human values — gentleness, inclusiveness, empathy — are not just regarded as weak, but sometimes as outright evil.   Such regimes are prone to constant wars and violence. Poverty is a given.  The wealthy few rule.  There is no middle class and it is not possible for a person to move upward from one class to another.  The “values” that are rewarded — wealth, power, total control — are often aided and abetted by authoritarian religion whose beliefs dovetail with the regime’s hypermasculine values.  American evangelical right-wing Christianity has much in common with radical Islam and organizations like ISIS.  In theocracies, whether the state-sanctioned religion is Islam, Christianity (so far, we have managed to avoid a religious theocracy here, but it existed during the Middle Ages and in Puritan times), or something else, there is no separation between religion and state and the leaders rule over the masses with an iron fist.  Any deviation is not tolerated.   As I mentioned earlier, this was par for the course during medieval times, but this form of governance was discarded by Europe hundreds of years ago when rational thought supplanted superstition, tribalism, and fear.  America, though denying it, was never able to completely let go of it.

Looking in the mirror.     

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Trump did not cause our decline, but through his hyper-masculine “strongman” words, actions, and tweets, has emboldened those who have always secretly wished for a return to authoritarian, medieval-like conditions and have never been comfortable with democratic values because such values demand we accept those who are different or more vulnerable than we are.  It also demands we embrace so-called feminine values, and that we recognize that every human being is intrinsically valuable. To be able to recognize the value in all people requires empathy, a quality that may be lacking in many Trump supporters, or seen as a “weakness” by people — usually men — who cannot accept any feminine softness within themselves.

But the proverbial phoenix rises from the ashes.  Fortunately, those of us who believe in true democracy and embrace higher human values over base ones like wealth and power greatly outnumber those who do not.   Trump, as bad as he may be, has done one very good thing:  he has provided a mirror for us to see ourselves as we really are, and how sick a nation we have become.   Sometimes the cure for cancer is painful, sometimes more painful than the disease.  Trump has  woken us up from our complacency and our apathy — which, had they continued, would have allowed the incipient authoritarian regime to take full control.   Though unwittingly, he gave us a window of opportunity to recognize the truth and finally take action against the horror that faced us.   Had Clinton or someone else been elected, we might have missed the opportunity.   There would have been no Resistance movement, we would have continued to sit home during elections,  and the thoroughly corrupted new Republican party would have continued to consolidate power and increase their stranglehold on our democracy without us ever realizing it until it was too late.    The cancer America is battling would have metastasized to the point that our destruction was inevitable.   Yes, Trump is extremely dangerous and yes, we could still self destruct just like the Roman Empire did, but I think with things having happened as they did, such an outcome is actually less likely, even as close as we are to destruction now.

The future. 

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We have a long and difficult journey ahead, if we are ever to liberate our country from the jaws of fascism and return to the democratic, humanitarian values that leaders during the WWII and postwar years recognized were necessary for us to thrive and become a real inspiration to the rest of the world, instead of a flashy sham of one.

There may be war. It’s inevitable people will die.  No revolution ever occurred without bloodshed and great sacrifice. We can’t be cowards and just wait for things to change, because they won’t on their own.   Inaction is death.   America’s soul is in the balance: do we want democracy or tyranny? The choice is ours.

5 Ways Christian Patriarchy Harms Men

One of my favorite Christian bloggers talks about the ways patriarchal Christianity actually harms men.

Please comment under the original post.

Jesus Without Baggage

It is easy to understand how Christian patriarchy harms women, but it might not be so clear how patriarchy harms men. Patriarchy is a religious belief in which women must submit to their husbands, who are heads of their homes, earn the money, and make all the decisions—while their wives support and submit to them. In effect the husband is boss.

Patriarchy believes God created men and women with rigid gender roles and that the Bible describes those specific roles (see arguments against patriarchy in the links at the bottom of this page).

Patriarchy puts men in charge at home and church. Men are empowered while women are disempowered. So, with such privilege, how can patriarchy HARM MEN? There are at least 5 ways, and I am sure there are more. During this series, a number of both men and women readers addressed this issue. Some of their anonymous contributions…

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Narcissistic abuse in Trumpistan.

Much has been written about Trump’s toxic psychology, specifically his malignant narcissism.  In spite of The Goldwater Rule (an agreement between mental health professionals to never diagnose someone they have not evaluated), so egregious is 45’s bad behavior that thousands of mental health professionals are breaking their own rule and speculating that he does indeed suffer from both Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Psychopathy/Antisocial Personality Disorder (the non-clinical term is “malignant narcissism” when both disorders appear together).

But the problem isn’t limited to Trump.  Our “president”  (I’m sorry, but I refuse to refer to him as president without adding scare quotes for irony) has surrounded himself with a cabinet full of people as entitled-acting and seemingly lacking in human empathy and devoid of conscience as he is.   If they are not sociopathic themselves, they are enabling cowards who keep making excuses for Trump’s horrible behavior and the toxic, abusive things he says.   Some seem like programmed robots with no minds of their own, and others actually seem terrified to ever criticize or disobey him.

As for Trump’s pathologically loyal supporters, they really do seem unreachable.   No amount of logic, facts, reason, or even appealing emotionally to their “better angels” seem to move them.   Like Manson’s young followers who continued to defend Manson’s evil behavior and insane beliefs even to the point where they were willing to murder on his behalf, to his supporters, Trump really could “shoot someone on 5th Avenue” and they would not budge from his side.    When presented with facts — even outright proof that their views are wrong — I’ve noticed a tendency for Trump supporters to double down on their pro-Trump beliefs (for example, if science has found that climate change is real, they will tell you that scientists are liars or are misinformed).   Much more so than his opponents, Trump supporters seem to resort to personal attacks or angry outbursts, and, when that fails, they will cut you off from further discussion, even blocking you on social media so they don’t have to engage with you further or have their views challenged.

There’s two other situations in which you see this unholy trinity of egotistic authoritarian leader, sociopathic or sycophantic lackeys and enablers, and followers who seem to have no ability to think or act for themselves:  in religious cults and in political dictatorships.   Trumpism resembles a cult, and in fact it is one.   Trump uses the same Machiavellian mind control tactics on his followers and those who carry out his bidding that cult leaders and dictators do.

I do believe we are being tested, and Trump is the logical conclusion of where we’ve been headed since at least the 1970s.   His election signals that we have reached rock bottom and are being forced to be accountable — or self-destruct.   If we are being tested, then it follows there is a solution, but it’s imperative that we do not allow ourselves to ever normalize what is happening or become so beaten down emotionally, mentally, and spiritually that we feel like there’s nothing we can do and succumb to the abuse — and yes, it is abuse.

The first step in fighting encroaching totalitarianism (let’s not mince words here because that’s exactly what this administration wants to install in place of democracy) is knowing the nature of the beast that threatens us, but to do that, we need to name it.

This is narcissistic abuse.   It’s just as incapacitating, soul-destroying, creativity crushing, sickness-engendering, trauma-inducing, and crazy-making as the kind wrought on us by malignantly narcissistic parents, teachers, “friends,” relatives, lovers, and spouses.

But it’s a lot worse than that.   It’s worse because it’s narcissistic abuse on a massive, nationwide, possibly worldwide scale.   Unlike a toxic family or workplace or marriage, it’s a lot harder to go No Contact when the leader of your country is an abuser.   In fact, going No Contact may not even be possible, should WWIII, enslavement, or internment in modern day concentration camps come to pass.  This is not hyperbole or conspiracy theory:   if things are allowed to continue the way they have been going since January,  a high-tech feudalism, modern day replay of Nazi Germany, or even a Christian Taliban with Old Testament law replacing the Constitution will be our new reality.

Because what we are enduring is narcissistic abuse writ large, the same terminology and lingo used by narcissistic abuse survivors to refer to abusive parents, coworkers, lovers, friends, bosses and spouses certainly applies here as well.

So I’m going to present some of these narcissistic abuse terms, define them for those who aren’t familiar with what they mean, and use examples of how they are being used by this administration in their attempts to control us, beat us down, and eventually destroy us.

Gaslighting.

Gaslighting is probably the most well-known term used by narcissistic abuse survivors, and can now be seen in many articles about Trump as well.   The term “gaslight” is taken from the 1942 psychological thriller of the same name, in which an abusive, sociopathic husband attempts to make his wife believe she is going insane by telling her she is imagining noises in the attic, the gaslights in the house going on and off by themselves, etc. when he is actually the one doing it without her knowledge.    Gaslighting someone is an insidious and cruel mind control technique intended to make the other person question their own observations and beliefs, and even reality itself.

Trump gaslights us all every day through his demonization of the press (it’s all “fake news” and journalists are “enemies of the people”),  liberals and Democrats, people who refuse to give him the worship he craves, and the truth itself, which he insists is a bunch of lies made up by the “lying media.”   Hitler did the same thing, calling the media “lugenpresse,” which literally means “fake news.”    He gaslights us by telling us that his abusive words and rhetoric are just “honesty” and that “political correctness” (avoiding abusive language and unfair policies) is the real evil that must be done away with.   The intention is to wear those of us who value the truth down mentally and emotionally, while at the same time normalizing and encouraging those who pacify him and believe or deny his lies.

Divide and Conquer.

Divide and Conquer is a technique in which a cult leader or other sociopath in a powerful position deliberately sets people or groups against one another, the end result being that once a large group is fighting among themselves, they are easier to control or unleash abuse on without them really being aware of what is really happening.

Divide and Conquer can be seen in this administration, in which Trump encourages aggressive and violent behavior by the supporters who attend his rallies against reporters, people of color, and non-supporters who disagree with Trump or his policies.

Language is a powerful tool and Trump uses it to divide and conquer.   Non-whites, Mexicans, Muslims, Democrats, and other groups Trump dislikes are dehumanized through language which normalizes aggression and violence against them.   “Rough them up,” he says when speaking about reporters, and then later defends himself by saying he’s “joking” (which is a form of gaslighting).    No other president has ever used language so destructively to deliberately encourage hatred and division, but it’s common among sociopaths and malignant narcissists like Trump.   It foments hatred among his supporters against “the Other,” and they begin to normalize aggression and violence, even acting out on it or threatening civil war against Trump’s enemies, since Trump seems to think it’s okay.    When a nation is divided in this manner, they are weakened and less unified, and thus easier to control and terrorize.

Projection.

Malignant narcissists have extremely fragile egos, and therefore cannot tolerate any criticism.  Deep inside they are actually painfully aware of where they fall short, but this will never enter their consciousness. Should you ever call them out on their faults, be prepared for them to retaliate against you or target you for abuse.    To defend against the knowledge of their own faults coming to awareness (thus destroying their image of themselves as perfect), they will project their worst traits onto others rather than admitting any fault in themselves.  The fact that they have an uncanny way of blaming others for the very things they themselves do indicates that subconsciously, they know where they fall short.

Trump’s projection onto others is most obvious in his tweets, in which he regularly blames others for things he himself is doing, or accuses others of having character traits he himself possesses.   Thus,  it’s others who are weak, who are obstructionists, who lie, who are “very bad people,” who are disloyal, who are not nice, or are “bad hombres” — never him.

Flying Monkeys.

Flying monkeys is another term borrowed from the movies — in this case, “The Wizard of Oz.”   When the Wicked Witch tried to keep Dorothy from getting to Oz by targeting her for torture and death, she enlisted the help of an army of flying monkeys to do her bidding.  At the end, after Dorothy accidentally killed the Witch, we finally found out the flying monkeys were really the Witch’s slaves and were actually grateful to Dorothy for freeing them.   In real life, flying monkeys may be lesser narcissists, or just normal but weak-willed people who are codependent to the abusive leader and become the leader’s enablers and cheerleaders.  Sometimes they are not aware they are being used as flying monkeys, especially if the leader has convinced them that the targeted person or group is the real enemy and they are the ones being victimized (see DARVO, below).

Trump uses his cabinet members, his family members, and his supporters, including the people who attend his rallies, as flying monkeys to normalize and defend his hateful rhetoric and policies that will hurt the rest of us, including the flying monkeys themselves, who seem like they’re brainwashed.   This was already discussed in the second paragraph of this post, so I won’t go into more detail here.

DARVO

DARVO is an acronym that stands for Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.    It’s common for narcissists to deny saying or doing something, but then attack YOU for accusing them, thus making themselves out to be the victim, and YOU as the one who is doing the abusing.  It’s a form of both gaslighting and projection, with the added technique of feigning victimization to garner pity and support.

Trump is always playing the victim, complaining about how it’s always others who are obstructing him or lying about him, or who want to take him down.   One of the most infamous examples to date is when he addressed a graduating class of the Coast Guard and proceeded to whine about how he was the most persecuted politician in the history of our nation.   By making himself out to be the ultimate victim (and of course making everything about him and ruining these graduates’ special day), he also diminished the experiences of other politicians, war heroes, and former presidents who had suffered far worse.

Scapegoating.

This term is self-explanatory.  It comes from the field of family dynamics.  Malignant narcissists (and sometimes substance abusers such as alcoholics, who tend to have Cluster B disorders) almost always select a scapegoat to project the lion’s share of blame onto and thus the scapegoat becomes the designated carrier of toxic shame that the narcissist refuses to own.  In a family headed by one or more narcissistic parents, one child may be selected to be the family scapegoat.  That child is blamed for everything that goes wrong in the family, and is told repeatedly they are stupid, worthless, evil, ugly, crazy, or bad.  They are punished more than the other children, even when they did nothing wrong.  Their achievements are dismissed or even treated as something bad that must be punished. The scapegoat may also be bullied and abused by siblings, who act as the parent’s flying monkey(s).   A scapegoated child tends to enter adulthood with depression, low self esteem, a pervading sense of danger, and other psychological problems that tend to reinforce their role as scapegoats even as they move beyond the family.   Because scapegoats aren’t quick to defend themselves, are fearful and lack self esteem,  predatory personalities seem to be able to smell them out and proceed to dish further abuse and rejection on them.

Scapegoats are usually the most physically or emotionally vulnerable, the most sensitive, or most thoughtful individuals in a toxic family or other group, and/or they are the whistle-blowers or the truth-tellers who refuse to become flying monkeys or enablers of the narcissist.   Ironically, in a toxic family, they may be the most emotionally healthy individuals.   Malignant narcissist parents or other leaders wish to silence anyone who tells the truth or blows the whistle — or who is a constant reminder to them of how dangerous and toxic they really are.    Narcissists hate the “weak” and vulnerable, and they also hate those who tell the truth and expose them for what they are.     They may also scapegoat those who disagree with them or criticize them.

Every week, it seems that Trump has a new scapegoat.   While mainstream or liberal reporters and journalists (the truth tellers and whistle blowers) and groups of people who are not white, male and Christian seem to receive the lion’s share of his abuse and vilification, from week to week, Trump also targets a new individual — almost always someone who he perceives as being critical of him or obstructing his harebrained and wrongheaded policies.   Obama is a constant target, since his very existence threatens his fragile ego  (it’s obvious to me Trump hates Obama for having the temerity to be both more popular than he is and black), but he has also targeted Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, and John McCain, as well as former and current insiders like Sean Spicer, Mitch McConnell, James Comey, and Jeff Sessions for abuse, which he usually metes out on Twitter.

Blame-Shifting.

Similar to projection and DARVO, blame-shifting is when a narcissist or sociopathic person refuses to accept or own blame and instead shifts responsibility onto someone else.    Malignant narcissists will never ever admit wrongdoing or say they’re sorry, because to do so is admission that they are less than perfect and that is intolerable to them.    The abusive husband who makes excuses for beating his wife (“she asked for it because of her nonstop nagging”) is shifting blame onto his wife instead of owning the fact that beating her was wrong.

Trump is constantly shifting blame to others.   Not once during his entire 8 months in office has he ever apologized or said he’s sorry for anything.   He’s made a lot of mistakes, some pretty terrible — but it’s always someone else’s fault.     When his unpopular and unconstitutional policies fail to pass, it’s never his fault — it’s always the “Obstructionist Dems,” Mitch McConnell, the “FAKE NEWS” lying to the people, or whoever the villain of the day happens to be.   He even makes excuses for the deplorable behavior of some of his white supremacist supporters, as he did when he said there was violence on both sides in Charlottesville — which there wasn’t.   In so doing, he also sent a clear signal to his white supremacist and neo-Nazi supporters that Trump was okay with their particular form of terrorism (running a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a young woman).

Splitting.

People with Cluster B disorders tend to think in terms of black-and-white, us-versus-them. There are NO shades of grey, NO mitigating circumstances, NO ambiguities.  If a malignant narcissist has decided you are “bad,” there is NOTHING good about you.  You might as well be Satan himself.   If you have been labeled crazy, you are a word salad blabbering lunatic fit to be put in a straitjacket and locked up in the loony bin until the day you die.    If you have been deemed an enemy, you can NEVER become a friend, nor do you have ANY redeeming qualities.   Since you will inevitably disappoint the malignant narcissist, eventually he will turn harshly against you.

This is called splitting, and Trump does it all the time.   Trump is incapable of seeing how complex people are, because he has zero insight into himself or any curiosity about human nature.   If someone insults him, they couldn’t just be having a bad day, because Trump lacks the empathy to be able to put himself in someone else’s shoes.   He would never consider that they might be right, either, because doing so would be intolerable to him.    Insult Trump and you become the Enemy — fair game for dehumanization, vilification, and retaliatory abuse.   There is no in between.  If you are not loyal to him, you are Other — and Other is always very bad.

Devalue and Discard (D&D)

After a period of love-bombing (see below), in which you are the most perfect, wonderful, loyal friend or ally ever (because to the narcissist, you are either ALL good or ALL bad),   you will inevitably (because you aren’t perfect) do or say something that hurts the narcissist’s feelings or causes him narcissistic injury.  Once that has happened, they will turn on you like a pit viper and will proceed to make your life hell.   In relationships, this may be the point at which the person who yesterday showered you with roses, candlelit dinners, and love letters now refuses to take your calls and blocks you on Facebook.

Trump has done this with many of his staff members, who were once confidantes and allies, and who he now attacks and vilifies because they failed to be “loyal” to him or were critical of him in some way. To Trump, other people are objects to be used or to provide narcissistic supply (worship and adulation), not imperfect human beings with both good and bad points.

Love-Bombing.

This is the initial phase of a relationship with a narcissist, in which you are the most perfect person in the world, but really you are just a mirror reflecting back to them what they want to see in themselves.  Once that image is tarnished (because you found fault with the narcissist), the abuse and/or devaluation begins.

Trump employed love-bombing during his campaign, when he made all kinds of promises that “only he” could fix.  He promised “healthcare for everybody” when his real agenda was to give a huge tax break to the wealthy while taking healthcare away from the most vulnerable, which included many of his own supporters.   He promised lots of new manufacturing jobs, a border wall that “the Mexicans would pay for,” and all sorts of other things that he had no intention — or capability — of turning into reality.  The only thing he’s kept his promise on is his neverending war on political correctness, but that’s turned into a war on anyone who dares criticize or question him.

Narcissistic Injury/Narcissistic Rage.

When you point out a narcissist’s faults or failures, he will enter a state of narcissistic injury — which means he is suffering a massive blow to his ego.  Most people, when hurt, have a healthy enough sense of self that they will deal with the emotional blow honestly — by talking about it, admitting their feelings were hurt, making a joke about it, or just telling themselves it really doesn’t matter and trying to move on from it.   But a malignant narcissist is incapable of making a joke or moving on or God forbid, admitting their own vulnerability.  Because their sense of self is so fragile (and is really just an overlay for the emptiness within), the only way they can feel good about themselves again is to attack you and deflect blame.   This is called narcissistic rage.   Narcissistic rage can take many forms:  gaslighting, outright verbal or physical abuse, threats, triangulation (secretly ganging up with others against the perpetrator), splitting, bullying, blame-shifting, deflecting, denial, the “silent treatment,” and D&D.

Trump displays many or even most of these behaviors whenever he perceives someone or some group has insulted him.   You can see it in his face and body language when he’s enraged.  His lips purse, his whole body goes stiff, and his eyes narrow and turn almost black with hatred and spite.   He’s frightening to look at when he’s in the midst of narcissistic rage, which is often.  I won’t list examples here because there are simply too many.   Trump is paranoid and constantly battling real or imagined enemies.   Eventually, everyone becomes an enemy to Trump.

False Self.

Narcissists have  a very fragile sense of self and feel empty inside.   To compensate, at an early age, they develop a “false self” — a kind of mask that shows others what they want you to believe they are.   If this mask is threatened or attacked in any way, they risk their “real self”  (the vulnerable and insecure child the mask hides) being exposed.   This is why you cannot criticize a narcissist. Rather than listen to you and agree you may have a point, they will  fight you to the death to maintain their image of perfection.    Being seen as vulnerable or defenseless is simply too frightening to them.   That’s one of the reasons they hate the vulnerable so much — people they perceive as “weak” fill them with shame of that which they need to hide.

A false self can take many forms, but for a classic or overt narcissist like Trump, it’s usually invulnerable and appears tough and self assured.   If the mask isn’t challenged, this type of narcissist can appear to be very competent and confident.   Some male narcissists, especially if they’re highly malignant like Trump, maintain a mask of toxic masculinity.   Trump admires dictators and “strongmen” types like Vladimir Putin.  He admires authoritarianism and political tactics that intimidate, terrorize, and oppress vulnerable populations.   I don’t know the details of Trump’s early childhood, but I’ve heard his father was emotionally abusive and empathy and kindness were not qualities he valued in a male child.  Only financial and material success were valued and rewarded.    I wouldn’t doubt it if Trump’s desire to please such a difficult and unloving father is at the root of his narcissism and the “strongman” style of his false self.

Fear-Mongering.

Narcissists and sociopaths, in order to gain control over others, often resort to instilling fear and even terror in their subjects.   Cult leaders, some religious leaders (especially fundamentalist leaders, whether Christian or Muslim), and dictators (as well as abusive husbands and mean bosses) are all known for this.   They threaten and bully.   They demand obedience and “loyalty” — or else.   They believe their bullying behavior makes them seem strong and invincible, but anyone who needs to resort to threats and schoolyard bully tactics to get cooperation and support is pathetically weak in character and devoid of any real strength.

Trump bullies others and makes veiled threats against his opponents all the time on Twitter.   He demands loyalty and calls people names.   Many of his staff members seem intimidated by him and almost afraid to be honest or do the right thing.    I sometimes wonder what he has threatened them with if they fail to cooperate.

Worst of all, Trump also tacitly encourages bullying behavior by his supporters against his opponents by failing to criticize their violent actions adequately or at all (Charlottesville), and by “jokingly” encouraging terrorist-type behavior and violence against his detractors at his rallies.   But Trump is not joking.  He is quite serious.  Malignant narcissists are incapable of any real humor.

Obfuscation/deflection.

Another tactic malignant narcissists use to deflect blame or avoid responsibility is obfuscating — confusing the issue or creating chaos.   Trump does this in a variety of ways, but all are intended to instigate chaos or create a new crisis that serves to obfuscate (hide) something he wants to deflect attention away from (such as the Russia investigation).   Every day, some new drama comes out of this White House.   Every day, he’s fighting with someone else, threatening someone, or someone else has quit or been fired.  It’s like a reality show from hell.

All the constant drama is intended to create chaos and confusion, and keep both his opponents and supporters off balance.   Leaders like this can be extremely dangerous because they are likely to incite something serious (like nuclear war with North Korea) in order to deflect negative attention away from themselves and their dishonest, unethical, or illegal activities. I don’t know about you, but I don’t care for the idea of being nuked because a petty and childish old man’s ego was wounded.

Another way narcissists obfuscate is through a special kind of “word salad” in which nothing they say makes any sense, although on the surface it may seem to.   They leave you feeling confused and scratching your head, wondering what the hell they really meant by what they just said.   Of course, if you question them or force them to make their message more clear, they will blame YOU — for being stupid or not understanding.