Sunday, July 10, 2016

How Naïve We Were

How naïve we were to believe that electing a black president would bring an end to racism in America. While one part of our country celebrated this historic milestone, another part simply dug its heels in and moved racism into the closet.

Racism has deep roots in American culture, in families, among co-workers, and in communities. To give up racism is to give up family and friends, to risk rejection. To do so requires bravery.

Thanks to Donald Trump, racism has been allowed out of the closet. In a bizarre rendition of “I’m OK, you’re OK,” Trump has absolved racism by proclaiming political correctness incorrect. In this climate of hate, is it any surprise that black men are being shot by police for minor infractions, or in some cases, for no infraction at all?

At a personal level, racism is a way of compensating for one’s low self-esteem by using ethnic scapegoating, or in its more passive form, stereotyping. Fear plays a role, as well. It is human nature to fear people that we perceive as being different from ourselves. In a country as ethnically diverse as the United States, this presents a daily challenge for those with limited cultural interaction: they see the enemy everywhere. Older American cities still maintain neighborhoods with distinct ethnic lines drawn between them. Residents of white neighborhoods presume that ethnic groups prefer to live with their own. But did they ever ask them?

The way forward for America will take generations. It will take brave people willing to risk friendships and reputations, willing to challenge family members at those holiday dinners, and willing to reach out to people they might have once considered alien.

Yes, electing President Obama was a milestone, and re-electing him was a validation. But this was by no means the end of racism in America.

Illustration by artist Shepard Fairey

Saturday, January 9, 2016

What makes Donald Trump tick?

While Americans focus on the candidates' policies during the 2016 presidential primaries, Donald Trump is one candidate that deserves closer scrutiny. His brazen proclamations on every imaginable subject have left both conservatives and liberals scratching their heads and asking the same question: What makes this guy tick? In order to answer this question, it is necessary to look beyond the issues and instead look at what drives the man.

For years, Donald Trump has been a virtual self-promotion industry. Every addition he has made to the world has his name emblazoned on it—in extra large letters—lest we forget. It's hard to think of another American billionaire who does this, other than the traditional naming of a university building, museum or hospital. Trump claims to be the smartest man in the room but only speaks louder when smart people challenge his thinking. He has little capacity for self-deprecation or empathy and can't stop bragging about his accomplishments. So what's going on here? Check out this informative description from Wikipedia and see if you recognize any similarities:

"Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder in which a person is excessively preoccupied with personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity, mentally unable to see the destructive damage they are causing to themselves and others."

People with NPD have one central mission in life: to gain the admiration of others (also known as Narcissistic Supply), and they will do whatever's necessary to achieve that end. Even when addressing a friendly audience, a person with NPD will endlessly brag about how smart, successful, and accomplished they are. Some people with NPD do indeed become successful, but they can only enjoy their success through the admiration of others. Their success can be short-lived if the endeavor that brought the success later conflicts with the admiration mission. A person with NPD will go down with the ship if necessary to maintain the flow of admiration.

When Donald Trump says he's going to make America great again, what he's really hoping to do is create a lifetime supply of admiration. Without it, he has little sense of self-worth—even with his billions.

People with NPD can be quite compelling, especially when they control the conversation. It's a kind of performance art, and new audiences can be readily drawn into it. Eventually, though, the audience will see through the charade, and the "actor" will have to find a new audience. The prospect of losing one's audience is a source of perpetual anxiety for people with NPD. Fortunately, for Mr. Trump, he has a new audience every day during primary season, lessening the chance that they ll notice the chinks in his armor.

Those with NPD tend to group others into one of two categories: great people, and the worst people in the world. Great people are the ones who admire them or make them look good by association. The worst people in the world is everyone else. There is no grey area. One can witness Mr. Trump making this distinction regularly.

Donald Trump chooses his policy positions based on which ones bring him the greatest amount of admiration. That’s his criteria. The more outrageous, the better. This explains why many traditional republicans find inconsistencies in his platform. To them, he’s an unpredictable wild card.

It's very important that the American public understands what drives Donald Trump. It's not just greed or a desire for power—it's a mental illness. As president, his decisions would continue to revolve around his quest for admiration, a very risky proposition for our country.