Before I get into the meat of my post, I have one request from everybody when talking about this president. Stop saying, “Can you believe he said ____?!?” Yes, yes I can. As I’ve said before, unless that phrase is followed by, “I’m sorry to all the people I hurt, and I realize that I’ve been so wrong”, nothing this president says surprises or shocks me. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still disgusting and disturbing, but it’s not surprising. I feel we’re wasting too much energy on, “A president can’t/shouldn’t/won’t ____.” This is who he is. He’s not going to change at this late date. He’s been spouting hateful shit all his life, so do not act shocked now. It’s amazing how many people, mostly white, were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt or said it was just an act. Many of us minorities knew exactly who he was from day one.
This relates to the post of the day because of what happened with the USS John McCain–side note, it’s really distracting to my brain that it’s named that because I keep thinking they’re talking about the senator for whom it was named (and his father)–and this president’s reaction to the news. When informed that the USS John McCain had been in a collision and ten naval officers were missing, this president replied, now famously, “That’s too bad.”
The reaction and backlash were swift. “How could he say that?” “Omigod! He’s sunk even lower than I imagined!” All the responses were in this vein, which was very annoying for reasons mentioned above. I know we’re all still clinging to the notion of how a president should and shouldn’t behave (and, by the way, this president has shown how much of that is tacit and not explicit), but get the fuck over it. We have to deal with the way things are, not how we think or wish they should/would be.
My formula for figuring out what this president is going to say on any given topic: What is the worst thing I can think of him saying, and then what’s even worse than that? Double that, and it’s close to what he’s actually going to say. Look, I’m not saying don’t be outraged at what’s happening in our country–I’m just saying it’s a waste of your emotional reserves to be continually shocked and surprised by what this president says. Some people are addicted to the outrage, though. I felt that when I’d see people ranting about Morning Joe day after day. Dude. You don’t have to watch. Also, it’s who he is. You know that!
I realize the president is different in that we can’t (or rather, shouldn’t) just turn him off and pretend he doesn’t exist. Still. We need to accept that he is an ignorant, thin-skinned, bullying, narcissistic, incurious, cruel, sociopathic asshole in order to better deal with him. There is no better side to him. There is no deeper layer. He is exactly as he appears, and we would do well to remember that.
That said, I can explain his ‘that’s too bad’ response in a logical fashion. Don’t worry, I’m not making excuses for it, and the reason actually makes him look even worse than he already does, but I know why he said it. Buckle up. It’s going to take me a while and a lot of backstory to say what I need to say.
When I was younger, I had a problem with dissociation. I’m not going to get into all the whys and hows, but I will say that I wasn’t allowed to express any negative emotions. In addition, everyone else’s (my parents) emotions were more important than mine for different reasons. As a result, I learned to swallow my emotions, to deny them, to dissociate from them. After twenty years of that, I was so good at it, I had no idea what I was feeling or what I should feel.
Example. Let’s say a good friend told me, “Minna! I have some news.” I would go on high alert because this is obviously important, but I didn’t know which way I was supposed to go with my emotions. Then, she would say, “I got a new job.” My brain (at lightning speed): New job. That’s a good thing. She’s probably really excited about it. I should show that I’m happy. Then, I’d paste a smile on my face and tell her great it is and how happy I am for her with a hug thrown in for good measure.
I had to do this any time an emotional response was called for. It’s gotten better over the years, and it’s easier for me to respond to news over text than in person, but it’s still there. I still have to do a rapid calculation as to how I need to respond, but at least now it’s there, deep inside me. I credit taiji with helping me get more in touch with my feelings even if I still have miles to go.
Side note: It’s one reason I like music so much. It can cut through all the chatter of my brain and speak to my heart. Even the cheesiest songs can make me sob at the drop of a hat, and for years, it was all I listened to. Cheesy, depressing music. I guess you could have called me emo, but I felt every trite lyric. It’s because I had no connection with my own emotions. Music gave me an excuse to feel, and I took it every chance I could.
“That’s great, Minna,” I can hear you say. “But what does that have to do with this president?” I’m getting to it; be patient. And, how funny that you call him ‘this president’ the same way I do.
I was very adept at hiding the machinations I had to go through in order to make my responses appear natural. I doubt anyone other than those nearest and dearest to me would have been able to tell that I was not genuine in my responses. I was quick, and I did it all in my head. I had it down to a science, and I could process it in less than five seconds. I’m also a psych major and have spent most of my life in my head, so I’m pretty aware of many of my issues and flaws.
In other words, I learned how to compensate for my shortcomings, but I had to be aware of them in the first place. Otherwise, I would have come across as a creepy sociopath, which I may be, but there’s no reason to show it. I’m not a sociopath, by the way, but I still have problems with emotional cognizance.
Which brings me to, sigh, this president. I always heave a big sigh when I think about him because I can’t fucking believe we went from President Obama to…this.
I don’t drink or do drugs, but this president sure makes me wish I did copious amounts of both.
Anyway. We all know this president is a narcissist. I am not shaming people with mental issues by pointing this out. He is a textbook case of narcissism, and I need to mention it in my explanation about his off-putting answer to the USS John McCain crash. Unlike me, he’s always believed his emotions are the only ones that matter. Ever. Whatever he thinks or feels is correct just because it’s what he thinks or feels. He doesn’t need any other validation because everything is always about him. That’s the base tenet of this president that rules everything he does. It’s always all about him. He has simpering sycophants that lick his shoes and tell him his shit don’t stink twenty-four/seven. He’s used to always being right, and any feeling to the contrary is ruthlessly squashed. His ego is simultaneously enormous and incredible fragile.
This was all fine and dandy when he was a businessman and a reality star. Both encourage narcissism and sociopathy is a feature, not a bug. Now, you put such a man in a position that calls for a healthy ego, but also humility. It also requires delicate diplomacy, the willingness to engage and cooperate with other countries, and ideally, the ability to show empathy and compassion. I don’t have to tell you that this president has none of those qualities and that he is grossly unqualified for this job. I feel a stirring of pity for him, but it’s quickly overshadowed by how much harm he’s doing to this country and around the world.
Imagine being told all your life that you’re exceptional and the best and your shit don’t stink. Then, you’re thrust into the spotlight, and you’re constantly being told how much you suck. It would be hard on anyone, but especially so for a raging narcissist. Remember, he feeds on being told how great he is. Indeed, his staff have to give him folders of positive news about himself as a way to keep him motivated. Now, he can turn on the news at any time, or hop onto Twitter at three in the morning, and be deluged with a constant stream of people telling him he fucking sucks.
Which he does. Don’t get me wrong. It’s all warranted. I’m just trying to get into his head a little bit (ugh). His whole world is crumbling around him, and the only thing he can do is double down on what he knows. A cornered animal is at its most dangerous, and I think he’s reaching that point.
So. Back to the USS John McCain. This president doesn’t care about other people. He’s a sociopath, remember. But, he knows that he’s supposed to at least nominally care about the troops. Even he knows that, though he no longer even tweets condolences for our fallen troops. He knows that the correct response to hearing about the collision is shock and horror, but it’s not in him. A natural disaster to him is the golf course at Mar a Lago being shut down for reno, and he can’t play for a weekend.
Now. If he had been told this was an important skill to have when he was a young child, and if he had been made to work on it throughout his life, then maybe he would be able to display a semblance of a human emotion now. If he had had to work on himself throughout his life, maybe he’d actually FEEL an ounce of real human emotion now. But, since he’s been given a pass for his whole fucking life, he’s been caught flat-footed, and he can’t pretend for the life of him.
The minute I read about what happened, I knew it was because he couldn’t come up with the appropriate response quickly enough. Again, I’m not offering this as an excuse but as a reason. It doesn’t say anything good about him, and it proves yet again that he’s not fit to be president, but at least in this, I can understand why he did what he did. Which is, ugh, gross. I need a lie-down now.