Casting out myself

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Narcissus of the Greek myth slowly wastes away. Refusing to look away from his reflection in the pond, he dies of thirst and starvation.

The myth assumes that the pond is placid. There are no ripples. But what if a storm troubles the waters, rippling the pond –something like a virus that does not notice Narcissus’s need to see his own reflection in the pond.

Narcissus mutters to himself until, at last, his voice falls silent, except for Echo, repeating his words, forgetful of what she had surrendered to his power: the confidence and beauty that come only from within.

Teach me, like you, to drink creation whole
And, casting out myself, become a soul.

- Richard Wilbur, “The Aspen and the Stream,”
Advice to a Prophet (1961)

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 12, 2020.

The Resignation of Donald J. Trump, Part II

The Unacceptable Risk of Impeachment

Second in a four-part series on The Resignation of Donald J. Trump by john M. Miller. Graphics and links have been added by Views from the Edge.

President Trump must be convinced it is in the nation’s interest and his own personal interest to resign the presidency. Having made that brazen assertion, it must be noted it is totally impossible under current circumstances that will happen anytime soon.

narcissism2As was stated in the first of this series of four essays, our President has a very serious personality disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is the most commonly used sourcebook to designate and describe various mental diseases and abnormalities. Its enumeration of the symptoms of narcissism is clear and lengthy.

Donald Trump fits every single one of those symptoms in astonishing and easily quantifiable detail. He constantly exhibits severely narcissistic behavior.

One of the primary characteristics of narcissists is that they are fully convinced they are rarely and perhaps never wrong. Because of that terribly unfortunate characteristic, it is almost certain that Mr. Trump would never resign anytime soon. From his standpoint, why would he? Why should he? He is convinced has done nothing wrong. Any narcissist who does no wrong does not resign, ever, especially if he is Donald Trump.

If the nation refuses to recognize and affirm that the President must leave office, and soon, we place ourselves in grave danger. Do we consciously intend to do that?

Not long ago the columnist Charles Krauthammer renounced his membership in the Republican Party. He did so, among other reasons, because he finds it incomprehensible that the GOP itself has not renounced Donald Trump for his “pathological need to display dominance.” Charles Krauthammer has been a lifelong Republican and is a very gifted political thinker. If someone such as he takes a position such as this, it is a vitally important statement, whether or not anyone agrees with its essence.

By no means is there presently a sufficiently widespread resistance to the President’s conduct in order for any person or group of people to persuade him to resign. But what about impeachment? Might he be found guilty in a constitutionally-provided impeachment trial?

The Four Major Presidential Investigations

Section 4 of Article II of the U.S. Constitution says this: “The President, Vice-President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes or Misdemeanors.” A two-thirds vote of both Houses of Congress is required for conviction in an impeachment trial.

There are at least four important investigations being conducted regarding potentially impeachable actions of the President before or after being sworn into office.

170608104254-07-comey-testify-0608-exlarge-169The FBI, under its then-director James Comey, was already conducting an investigation of activities by Mr. Trump before his election. It has not divulged the nature of that investigation.The President fired Mr. Comey precisely because of the existence of that inquiry, and a new director was named. The FBI is continuing its investigation. At some point, presumably, they shall publicize their findings.

In addition, within weeks of the President taking his oath of office, the Senate and the House Intelligence Committees started looking into what were alleged irregularities by the President with respect to his dealings with foreign governments, particularly Russia. Since each of those committees has a majority of Republican members, and since Donald Trump is a Republican, understandably neither committee is working at the swiftest possible pace. If they discovered and could prove that the President had violated any laws, it is difficult to imagine that they would immediately report their findings. For their own protection, The Republican committee members would drag their feet as long as possible.

170518_ASSESS_Mueller.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2In the meantime, Congress named Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to look into possible breaches of law by the President. As soon as Mr. Mueller was designated as Special Counsel ( not Special Prosecutor, as in the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton), Mr. Trump has threatened on numerous occasions to fire Mr. Mueller. Thus far the President has reluctantly followed very powerful advice not to do that because of the potentially disastrous political fallout it would almost certainly evoke.

It is unrealistic for any citizen or elected government official to imagine that any of these four investigations will rush to judgment. They might not be ethically inclined to do that if the one being investigated was a low-level clerk in a government department accused of wrongdoing, let alone the President of the United States. None of these investigations, as thorough as they may be, is likely to turn up anything of legally verifiable substance in the next several months or for the next year or more. The wheels of justice, with very good reason, grind exceedingly slowly.

Furthermore, if any of the four investigations were shortly to recommend an impeachment trial of the President, it would never succeed. Republicans, and perhaps some Democrats as well, would see to that. Such a result would further solidify the unshakeable conviction of the fiercely loyal Trump base that an evil cabal of enemies are conspiring to scuttle the attempts of a genuine reformer who is seeking to re-establish a true government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

lead_960If things are bad now, they would be infinitely worse in the event of a failed attempt for an impeachment trial. The uproar of the Trump base would be deafening.

Narcissism 165639-170250Unless or until key leaders of Congress and the most respected members of the President’s Cabinet convince him to resign, he shall not give up his office. His narcissism will surely prevent that. Meanwhile, every day everyone in the news media spends inordinate time and space covering the latest unpredictable actions of Mr. Trump. His huge (“’uge”) ego can never receive too much of this attention, negative as it may be. Why would the sufferer of such an extreme personality disorder voluntarily relinquish the continual coverage in which he luxuriates?

The Unacceptable Risk of the 25th Amendment

Ah, but what about the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution? Does it not offer an alternative means of removing a President from office, other than by resignation or impeachment?

Indeed it does. Its first three sections address a presidential vacancy by death or resignation, and how the Vice President constitutionally is then empowered to assume the office of President.

It is the Fourth Section of Amendment XXV that offers a Congressional alternative to removing a President if he neither dies nor resigns. Reading the Constitution can be fascinating, but it also can be befuddling. Section Four of Amendment XXV is one of those befuddling parts. After some mystifying, muddled language (you can read it for yourself), it says that Congress must “determine by a two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

164868-kjnsdvdgvIf the wheels of justice grind slowly, the wheels of Congress to remove a President for being “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” for medical reasons would grind inordinately slowly. And if extreme narcissism is the unfortunate condition which is purported to render Mr. Trump incapable of continuing as President, trying to employ Amendment XXV right now would be an unimaginable disaster.

Suppose that any of the ongoing four large-scale investigations into presidential wrongdoing were quickly to conclude that in fact the President had committed high crimes or misdemeanors. Even more unlikely, suppose they decided his criminal actions were the result of his mental derangement. There is far too little political or ethical support currently for Congress to initiate the politically treacherous procedure whereby the President might be found unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.

There is an undeniable political polarization which has paralyzed Congress for far too many years. Any effort presently to remove the President by constitutional impeachment provisions or by Amendment XXV would be doomed to acrimonious failure, and would only further polarize the electorate. That would be particularly true among those who continue to support Mr. Trump to the greatest degree possible.

Many congressional Democrats would be delighted for partisan political reasons to seek the President’s removal from office on the basis of his being mentally unable to fulfill his office. They believe it could assist in their next re-election. For precisely the same partisan political reasons, many congressional Republicans would do everything they could to prevent the removal of the President by means of Amendment XXV, because they believe their resistance to the effort would enhance their own re-election. That indicates how partisan all of them are in their thinking, and how little they are considering what is best for the country.

Far too many professional politicians perceive the Trump presidency as a purely political issue. It is not. It is a constitutional issue. There is an increasingly rapid growing threat afoot to undermine American democracy.

Donald Trump, Abdel Fattah al-SisiUnder Donald Trump, we are all witnessing the USA turning into a dictatorship. However, too many of us are too distracted by the daily news cycle to admit that alarming truth. We are becoming a Russia, a China, a Syria, a Turkey, a Philippines, or a Venezuela. Yet we steadfastly ignore the obvious trend because of our daily distractions and our cowardly timidity.

How can we exit this potentially if not actually catastrophic situation?

  • John M. Miller, August 3, 2017

[John Miller is a writer, author, lecturer, and preacher-for-over-fifty-years who is pastor of The Chapel Without Walls on Hilton Head Island, SC. For Views from the Edge readers, John is a personal friend, ministerial colleague, and author. We share the same alma mater.] 

 

The Resignation of Donald J. Trump

This first installment in “The Resignation of Donald J. Trump,” a four-part series by John M. Miller, is published without comment. The photographs have been added.

I. The Presidential Personality Disorder.

DSMThe Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is, if you will “parson” the expression, the Bible of psychiatrists and psychologists. Here is what it says about the narcissistic personality disorder:

“The essential is a Personality Disorder in which there are  grandiose sense of self-importance or uniqueness; preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success; exhibitionistic need for constant attention and admiration; characteristic responses to threats of self-esteem; and characteristic disturbances in interpersonal relationships, such as feelings of entitlement, interpersonal exploitativeness, relations that alternate between the extremes of over-idealization and devaluation, and lack of empathy. The exaggerated sense of self-importance may be manifested as extreme self-centeredness and self-absorption.”

No one familiar to any American citizen could more completely fit that description than the President of the United States of America. Donald J. Trump has a serious personality disorder. He exhibits it on a daily, often on an hourly, basis. His actions are classic examples of narcissism.

Mental health professionals declare narcissism to be one of several personality and mental disorders. Not all psychiatrists agree that a personality disorder is a form of mental illness. However they do agree that narcissism is sufficiently abnormal that it can be classified as a mental disorder.

narcissus-caravaggio-300x363Narcissists seek attention. They crave attention. For them to feel fulfilled, full-blown narcissists believe everything going on around them must be about them. If anyone or anything else is the focus of attention, they feel diminished and thwarted. Because that behavior is so aberrant, it is categorized as a mental disorder.

The United States of America and the entire world are in a burgeoning crisis because of the increasingly erratic behavior of the American President. We are being led, and far more frequently misled, by an utterly unpredictable human being. His unpredictability is the result of his narcissism.

It is an extremely provocative statement for anyone to claim that the American President has a mental disorder. That is particularly true when an elderly preacher with little formal training in psychology is the one making the claim. Yet for more than half a century this elderly preacher has observed many parishioners and others who were narcissists. All of them were relatively harmless. Donald Trump is anything but harmless.

It is amazing that millions of American voices have not joined in a cacophonous chorus of citizens who also have unhappily identified the sober and somber condition of our President. His actions verify that he has a severe, and rapidly growing, mental disorder. Recently Charles Krauthammer wrote that the President has “a pathological need to display dominance.” Would that other widely-read columnists would also join their colleague in his accurate assessment.

Why isn’t there a much more widely acknowledged demand for steps to be taken to overcome the grave threat facing us? Many newscasters are concerned, and Democrats in Congress are nearly apoplectic. Yet the American people as a whole thus far are passive bystanders. The danger facing us because of the President’s flawed perception of reality is as great as it was in World War II or in the Cold War, although it is a very type of danger. But we are still a nation of Neros, fiddling while Rome burns. And remember: It was Nero himself who set Rome ablaze.

Every day the President lights matches and throws political bombs both large and small. His rants and tweets and insults indicate his instability, but there is no concerted movement to force him to resign. Why?

The basic explanation for our hesitation is that our nation has never been in a situation like this before. The President declares himself to be the greatest President since Abraham Lincoln. He claims to have passed more legislation during his first six months than any previous President. These and many other such statements are undeniably delusions. They are not the mere braggadocio of a television reality-show host; Mr. Trump honestly believes these statements. His most zealous supporters apparently also believe them.

During the past century, several other narcissistic men like Donald Trump crossed the stage of history, leaving a huge and bloody swath behind them. Four such fellow narcissists were Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Saddam Hussein.

President Trump is determined to remake America in his own image. That is what narcissists with unlimited political power invariably do. Power goes to the heads of the all-powerful. Hitler became Nazi Germany, and Nazi Germany was Hitler. Stalin became the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union was Stalin. Mao became China, and China was Mao. From the 1970s through the 1990s, Saddam became Iraq, and Iraq was Saddam. People who seek complete political power may not have been narcissists before they initiated their lofty seizure of total control, but they become extreme narcissists during the pursuit.

Almost all narcissists are content to seek attention on small stages, because that is where they live. Gigantic narcissists seek attention on a huge stage. And in the process they require opulent palaces and dachas and country or city or beachside estates to keep them satisfied in their narcissism.

Let us be clear. This is no attempt at this point to equate President Trump to the aforementioned four infamous dictators. His behavior up to the present is not nearly as draconian as theirs. But I am suggesting it is inevitable that a particular kind of personality disorder when yoked with growing or unquestioned political power can exacerbate that disorder into an enormous and potentially disastrous mental imbalance.  That is the tragic and dangerous path our President is quickly traversing.

Dictators rarely begin their political careers as dictators. They are shrewd enough to realize that totalitarian power must be seized carefully and slowly. Eventually, however, care and a leisurely pace are jettisoned for a complete seizure of all the authority the state is able to command.

Any authoritarian who is utterly inured to the sufferings they cause their own people is, by definition, a severe narcissist. The history of totalitarian regimes is the history of unlimited narcissism in the pursuit of unlimited power.

Probably no two of the four autocrats herein cited had exactly the same kind of personality disorder as Donald Trump. By their very nature, personality disorders are likely completely individualized. Nevertheless, by their behavior authoritarian autocrats manifest a distinctive kind of illness which apparently afflicts only those who are given or who acquire unrestricted political power.

Donald Trump is no more to be blamed for his mental disorder than are people with physical illnesses to be blamed for their maladies. The President deserves compassion and sympathy. He is not an inherently evil man, though that is what many of his detractors think. Nor did he choose in his early years to become cantankerous and a deliberate promoter of chaos, though he is extremely cantankerous and chaotic. But he displays those qualities because of his personality disorder, not because of any carefully considered choices. In truth, it seems that few or none of his choices are carefully considered, which is another glaring index of his illness.

It is easy to denigrate Donald Trump, but one should not denigrate someone suffering from a serious personality instability. His daily behavior verifies the magnitude of his malady. However, when the most powerful man on our planet is afflicted with what clearly should be widely perceived as a dangerous mental imbalance, something must be done to rectify an intolerable situation.

To say that the President is mentally unstable is not to say that he is an unable person. He is incredibly able, amazing able, astoundingly able.

In a fairly narrowly circumscribed but very successful strategy, Donald Trump became a partisan political genius, like many other such previous narcissistic political geniuses. He is demonstrably a master salesman, having exhibited the art of the ultimate political deal by becoming President of the United States. He has astonishingly solidified what he loves to call his “base.” And he closed that “deal” over the year and a half that he campaigned for the Republican nomination as President, the three months he campaigned as the Republican nominee, and the six months he has served as President. Over eighty percent of those who voted for him are still extraordinarily enthusiastic about him.

That unflagging support is an enigma to the 60+ percent of the population who now disapprove of his performance as President. Still, it is the positive proof of his extraordinary political acumen that his base has scarcely lost one scintilla of their zeal for their man.

We need to remember, though, that the same phenomenon was observed in the millions of Germans, Russians, Chinese and Iraqis who were so committed to Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Saddam during their bloody reigns of terror. No one can seek and maintain total power in an authoritarian state without strong endorsement from a sizable percentage of the population, even if the support is based on unmitigated fear.

The Multiple Firings, Dictatorial Decisions,

and the Beleaguered Jeff Sessions

The many people who have already been fired in the Trump Administration is an example of how serious his illness is. Literally no one in his right mind would fire so many key people in such a short span of time, and for such spurious peccadilloes, unless his judgment had become badly impaired. It is not a brain tumor which has caused this behavior, but it is surely the result of an impairment in his brain, namely, his major personality disorder.

The President demands complete loyalty from everyone serving “at his pleasure.” If he detects the slightest disloyalty, even if his assessment is completely mistaken, the “offender” is gone. There is no point in listing the names of the many people who have unceremoniously been ejected from the Trump administration. Nor is there any purpose in trying to guess the reasons for any of the political bloodletting. No reason was needed, and usually no plausible one was offered. If the President suspected disloyalty, the person was out.

No completely sane leader of any organization would dismiss so many key members of that organization in so short a time. It is obviously disruptive and demoralizing to everyone in his administration. Unfortunately, very talented irrational people often do become leaders of organizations, but irrationality and effective leadership are always in constant conflict. To allow such behavior in the chief executive of the United States government is politically and organizationally irresponsible. It is not a reality show the President is overseeing; it is the American government.

_93836096_037486020-1The number of presidential executive decisions, apparently made in consultation with no one, is incomprehensible. The volume of the rumblings in the White House and throughout the various federal departments is rapidly growing. The military have been caught off guard and have been deeply embarrassed several times by ill-conceived presidential orders. The entire federal government and bureaucracy are constantly forced to wonder what shall happen next.

Those who have remained loyal to the President firmly believe it is his carefully considered intention to act as he does. They imagine that he wants to keep everyone in suspense. His presidency is, he proudly informs us, “a new kind of presidency.” That is a statement no one would or could dispute.

But it should be obvious to everyone that Donald Trump does not carefully consider anything. He acts solely on impulse. By all accounts, he does not devote much time to study reports or recommendations, including his daily intelligence reports. Nonetheless, with cavalier disregard, he instantly makes decisions which affect not only the policies of the USA, but of our allies and the entire world. He has frequently undercut time-tested policies which have been in place for decades, without even attempting to explain why he did it. He just does it. It is what narcissists do.

When he was the CEO of his own corporation, living by his own rules, he had the authority and the unrestrained ability to do such things. As President of the United States, this bizarre behavior guarantees nothing but enormous political apprehension and uncertainty. It cannot and must not be tolerated.

Mr. Trump’s incurable narcissism is surely the subconscious explanation for his bizarre actions. He knows he shall be excoriated in the news every hour of every day on the 24/7 news networks, except on Fox, his and his base’s favorite news network. He loves Fox and detests the others, but if the others are decrying his every move, he is ecstatic, because they are criticizing him. He must be the center of every controversy in order for his giant, fragile ego to be nourished.

Bad coverage is always preferable to no coverage for a narcissist, and he guarantees himself bad coverage. If everyone is talking about him, he is happy, regardless of what is being said.

The President’s treatment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions is an incomprehensible example of the President’s skewed behavior. For weeks he has been berating him and accusing him of being disloyal. And he does this to the first major politician to endorse him early in the Republican primary campaign. It is inexplicable — except that it isn’t.

170720142106-26-jeff-sessions-life-and-career-gallery-super-169Mr. Sessions will probably refuse to resign. If so, the President may fire him. Mr. Sessions and the United States Congress are well aware that could foment a constitutional crisis. Apparently Mr. Trump does not understand that, nor does he seem to care.

No stable, even-tempered, thoughtful, rational person would do the things Donald Trump continues to do every single day. Only an unstable, ill-tempered, thoughtless, irrational person would do that. A mentally healthy person would never act the way our President acts repeatedly and frequently.

The man is mentally unstable. There is great peril for the nation if we allow the current situation to continue. Four years of this presidency are unimaginable. Mr. Trump must resign. We, and he, have no other alternative.

But Donald Trump being Donald Trump, how shall that ever happen?

  • July 29, 2017

John Miller is a writer, author, lecturer, and preacher-for-over-fifty-years who is pastor of The Chapel Without Walls on Hilton Head Island, SC.

Future installments are:

The Resignation of Donald J. Trump: II – The Unacceptable Danger of Impeachment

The Resignation of Donald J. Trump: III – Only GOP Leaders Can Convince Mr. Trump to Resign

The Resignation of Donald J. Trump: IV – The Twitter-in-Chief

 

 

Trump: a conversation in France

Donald trump hand

The proprietor of a small shop in a small medieval town in France engages the American visitor in friendly conversation. He asks what’s happening in the U.S. He wants to know whether Donald Trump really could be elected president.

He explains that he has a brother who’s a narcissist. “Every time I see that finger pointing on TV, I see my brother,” he says with a cringe. I share his cringe.

I later ask a psychotherapist about the hand – the strangely pointed finger with the circle made by the thumb and ring finger. Notice, he said, that the circle is closed. There’s no room for disagreement. The finger sends the same message.

Lesley Stahl’s “60 Minutes” interview in Mr. Trump’s apartment in Trump Tower last night was worth its weight in gold. One couldn’t help noticing that the chairs on which Lesley, Mr. Trump, and Mr. Pence sat were gold-plated.

Gordon C. Stewart, non-partisan observer, author of Presidential Disorders – A Voter’s Guide 😇, Chaska, MN, July 18.

 

Burners

Verse – Burning Man (A Negative Acrostic)

Burners all must have real money,
Unless they will win the draw.
Rich folks flock to wear the funny
Nighttime costumes, whites will all
Imitate the best black dance moves,
Not that many blacks are there…
Get the best rental motor homes,

Make plans, we have time to spare
Art’s in our homes, our museums:
Narcissistic, not a care…

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, August 31, 2014

Steve attended Burning Man 2014 in Nevada this past week. Steve’s 71, had the money to go, but shared a tent.  He wrote by email “I did accapella singing, heard great jazz, rode on an art car (see the burningman.com web site). I would only go back in an RV… For the quiet, AC, & clean toilet & shower.”