I don’t remember any of the equations of my college economics classes; The only business I have ever run only has one employee and has yet to net six digits; And I certainly don’t know how to get rid of terror without endangering innocent people and leaving a gaping societal hole for, well, terror.
But there is one thing I do know as it relates to politics: the realities of human motivation and behavior.
In my work in private practice, hospitals, and prisons, I have studied microcosms of families and macrocosm of cultures, especially those who are financially, relationally, and motivationally-struggling. I have studied those individuals who comprise the groups that hurt and that are hurting, who are angry and even dangerous; the people who might commit crimes or become addicted or pathologically violent or psychologically or logistically unable (or sometimes mentally unwilling) to gain employment.
I didn’t become a psychologist because I have hippy dippy world views. I have hippy dippy world views because of what I have seen in my work as a psychologist. I don’t have hippy dippy world views because I am more generous and caring either. I have a hippy dippy world views because I selfishly want our world to stay safe and financially stable for myself and my family.
I was born into an upper-middle -class, Midwestern, fiscally and socially-conservative family. We didn’t hand out money to “beggars” because “they will just buy alcohol with it, and they should just get a job.” One time, after an older family member was mugged In Milwaukee, I heard another family member use the n-word in anger. My high school had all white kids, so, “obviously,” no drugs. Crime and drugs and unemployment and school drop-out and abortion and homosexuality were CHOICES that other people made, people who were simply “less than.” I KNOW hate and divisiveness, both subtle and overt.
(Never-mind the prison, substance addiction, jail, unemployment, and uninsured-and-unwed pregnancy right in my own immediate family. Seriously, never mind it. Those drains on our economy and uses of our taxes didn’t count.)
It is one thing for many of our citizens to harbor this categorically superior world view and to use words like “thug” and “pig.” It is another for our leader to subscribe to it. Our commander in chief cannot overlook realities for the sake of comforting simplification and, sometimes, maintaining a fragile ego.
Years ago, when my then-five year old witnessed a mugging at the mall, he remarked, without a hint of categorical, us-vs-them superiority and complete curiosity, “Did that guy not have a mom to teach him not to steal?” to which I answered, “maybe not, or maybe he has a disease called addiction…. Or maybe he…..Or maybe he……”
The world is not well-served when even children, let alone leaders, disrespect and dismiss the complexities of people.
Last month when my son, now almost 8, noticed a homeless man’s glaucoma-blue eye, he asked me to give him his sandwich and explained to his brother that he probably couldn’t afford a doctor to get his eye fixed and now he can’t work. I didn’t explain that the man’s eye was probably the tip of the iceberg or say anything about ptsd or other invisible ailments, but I did say, “I’m proud that you try understand people with dignity” to my son.
We could place our hands over our ears and blind-fold ourselves to icky complexities of humanity. We could become so scared that anger and hate instead of effective strategy prevails; We could use force and power and threats and operate from a place of irritation and disgust and even drop huuuge bombs. It feels good to think the solutions are so simple.
But humans are not so simple. Humans don’t change -or build another country’s wall- by being chastised, bullied, or intimidated. They don’t even change all that much with terrific and great deals.
I do not support Trump, not because his character is consistent with a certain distasteful personality composite that I well-know, but because his world view of myopic, categorical superiority and disgust for others will only possibly give birth to positive and lasting change if by accident.
It is not within such a man to attempt to thoughtfully and accurately understand the problems of people so that they can be meaningfully solved-
A man who does not condemn violence and actually justifies it for reasons that make sense to him is a rash and destructive leader. He does not seem to know (or care?) that respect is a condition for motivating people for positive change.
A man that publicly insults women and places way too much emphasis on appearance as if it is relevant currency, takes the concept of women’s value and status back to the dark ages. He does not seem to understand (or care?) how alienation backfires when it comes to positive change.
A man who posts ridiculously racist statistics on his social media and fails to immediately say “I don’t need the KKK vote, no thanks,” even if he HAD never met David Duke, is truly devoid of decency and empathy. He absolutely does not understand (or care?) that positive change requires trust, or at the very least, an effort to gain understanding.
A man who unapologetically lashes out in a childish and frankly hurtful way when he feels he has been disrespected, has no problem alienating a population for the sake of “winning.” He seems to be capable of losing track of the goal of positive change for the sake of petty defensiveness and stubborn “victory.”
A man who grossly misunderstands the reality of Mexicans crossing the border and misses an opportunity to constructively discuss drug/weapon trafficking by making a boldly racist statement…..certainly does not get the problem itself let alone how to effectively shape policies toward positive change.
A man who then DEFENDS and justifies and explains away all of this, is a man who simply does not get people enough to do anything other than cause more division and upheaval.
And I wonder if such a man even understands that many of our country’s important domestic issues cannot be resolved by the few tricks he has in his back pocket (intimidation, force, manipulation, criticism, lies: the arsenal of the classic narcissist) or if he even has the capacity to call on the awareness that is required for change; Does Trump get all of this?:
Unemployment benefits and welfare don’t happen because of lazy thrill and simple ability to live off the government. They happen because of the realities of motivational, economic, psychological, and logistical barriers (much more-so than even the barrier of addiction). People only attempt certain goals when they think the outcome would be worth the effort, when they think they CAN.
Barriers to education don’t happen because of laziness and stupidity. Fines on truancy won’t make a dent in the fact that Johnny is so fixated on the domestic violence he just witnessed and his survival needs that that he isn’t hearing anything the teacher is saying.
Addiction doesn’t happen because “bad people” make “bad choices” or even because “bad people” bring drugs to our country. People who are in emotional hell would rather not feeling at all, even if they are gambling with their lives. And and people with certain neurochemistry can’t even take a prescribed pain pill without opening Pandora’s box of hopeless addiction. And how many can afford treatment?
Shootings don’t happen with regular occurrence because of mental illness and the solution isn’t more threats of citizens shooting bad guys- They occur because sociopathy is on the rise due in part to the decline in cultural human connection, increase in fear-conditions and sociopaths can fucking buy a gun at Wal-Mart.
Abortions don’t happen because of lack of religion or lack of morals or lack of sex-ed. Abortions mostly happen because of the hope of erraticating shame and gaining connection, belonging, and approval, through unprotected and impulsive sex and the sometimes insurmountable challenges that would-be parents would face.
Terrorism and other psychopathy is rarely inborn. The perfect storm of cultural and economic conditions have make it possible for such a base and detached-from-humanity ideology to take hold.
Mexicans aren’t a threat to us because they take “our” jobs when they’re apparently not busy being criminals. Whether it’s our southern neighbors or our own citizens, we will all remain threats to each other- our safety, our educations, our sobriety, our paychecks- as long as there are attitudes of “us vs them.”
The desires for safety, belonging, and respect will never go away, and the desperate ways of managing and fighting for these needs will never stop just because force is applied. The conditions of emotional frailty and psychological limitations will always exist in humanity, and actually become exacerbated when populations are judged and dismissed and we when we lose sight of the fact that we belong to each other.
For these reasons, a mindset of superiority, a stance of empty grandiosity, and behaviors which are impulsively disrespectful, although they sound powerful and effective, will simply make matters worse, both locally and abroad.
From, the hippy dippy psychologist who radically accepts the human condition and who thinks people have no business holding up an anti-abortion sign unless they are also foster/adoptive parents and also that people who want to build a wall might do better to read up on the very mixed economic effects of illegal immigrants and if concern exists about drugs and jobs and education and crime, again become a foster parent or roll up your sleeves and help with this.
*(I mean, yah, the lies and empty ego-bolstering bother me, but a lot of politicians do that without messing things up too badly. And yah, the 35% tax on Chinese imports and $12 billion wall and statements on handling terrorism strike me as short-sighted and more harmful than good. But I’ve never expected any politician to agree with me completely on every single policy, and good luck getting some of this stuff though congress anyway….)