In His Final Days

I have been counting. I started four years ago. Others who knew how he behaved also counted. Some people counted days, some months. I counted weeks. Two hundred eight weeks. I marked off each week in my calendar as it passed. I watched as he told his lies and ignored reality starting with the number of people who attended his inauguration. I counted the time because I had seen what he did to so many people who worked for him and wondered how long until it fell apart for us all. I know several contractors who have been hurt by his abusive business patterns. I saw how in the past he declared bankruptcy six times to avoid paying workers at his properties.

I then watched as he made claims about his ability to make a country great but did absolutely none of the heavy lifting needed to add constructively to society. But he arranged to stuff his pockets with money taken illegally from the government. I watched as he acted impulsively on the international stage. I watched as he played golf at least 300 times since taking office, or cheated at it, instead of working to contain a pandemic. And then I watched the anarchy the chaos he encouraged for more than four years take over the Capitol and threaten the seat of democracy.
Despite ethical guidelines not to hypothesize about an individual’s psychological conditions, much less a diagnosis, mental health specialists warned about what would likely happen with a malignant narcissist leading the United States. It did happen. Their warnings were realized. And it is not yet over.

Donald Trump has been called many things in his life, bully, grifter, carnival barker, philanderer and a failed reality television star just to name a few of the milder labels. But he is so much more. Look at the history of his behaviors and moods. He has broken rules, told lies, acted with impulsive abandon and displayed no concern for others. His only focus is self-aggrandizement and more cash for himself. While that may seem like a malignant narcissist he is so much more. He is deceitful, irresponsible, manipulative, angry and hostile. He is by turns irritable, discontent, bored and aggressive and lacking personal restraint. Put together he displays what the popular media calls the traits of a psychopath or someone with an antisocial personality. Psychopaths are abusers.

He has all the traits of an abuser. He grooms his victims with promises that are hopeful and uplifting telling them, telling us, that he can improve our lives and saying what he believes we want to hear. But his words are mostly lies. Like an abuser, once he has established a relationship, he turns aggressive. No amount of fealty to him is sufficient. He is always demanding more and threatening if he does not get the loyalty he orders. Followers are not likely to track their abuser in lockstep. A small percentage do, however.

When the Republican members of Congress refused to impeach him, they exhibited the behaviors typical of abuse survivors that stick to their abuser’s playlist. They excused and defended his aggression. They attacked and condemned those who made the case to impeach. And some learned to mimic his abusive behaviors. Ted Cruz comes to mind. Cruz was one of Trump’s biggest foes. Now Cruz is making political calls directly from Trump’s playbook. Cruz is not the only one. This is not to excuse them for they can choose a healthier approach. But they do not because the pull is to the power they find so enticing. The cadre of abusers has grown and that portends ill for not just the US but all democracies. If it can happen in America it can and will happen elsewhere.

In his very last days, Trump remains as dangerous as he has ever been. At this moment we are finally seeing a few chest beaters among the political class, as if that excuses their lack of resolve for so long. Still, there are others who remain protective of him.

It is a dark day for the United States and it may yet yield many, many more for abusers have their followers and they are intent on maintaining their power regardless of the cost to those they harm.

About the Author
Dr. Michael Salamon ,a fellow of the American Psychological Association, is an APA Presidential Citation Awardee for his 'transformative work in raising awareness of the prevention and treatment of childhood sexual abuse". He is the founder and director of ADC Psychological Services in New York and the author of numerous articles, several psychological tests and books including "The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures" (Urim Publications) and "Every Pot Has a Cover" (University Press of America). His newest book is called "Abuse in the Jewish Community: Religious and Communal Factors that Undermine the Apprehension of Offenders and the Treatment of Victims."
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