Sunday, 8 January 2017

When Criticizing Trump, Let’s Stick to Behavior

This is an excellent post on why armchair-diagnosing Donald Trump with a mental illness is not helpful. I particularly appreciate the point that drumming up fear of the other is the *last* thing we want to do when Nazis have already been emboldened and are coming out of the woodwork.

When we’re operating in a society where literal fucking Nazis are feeling emboldened, legitimizing fear against another “other” only makes them stronger. Attempting to weaponize mental illness stigma against Trump is a failing strategy. “He’s crazy” isn’t going to be the silver bullet that will finally bring him down; it’s more likely to ricochet and kill some innocent bystander.

All the behaviors that lead people to think Trump is mentally ill are reprehensible on their own. They’d be reprehensible whether they were related to mental illness or not. As dyrbert points out, if they weren’t enough to sway people away from Trump on their own, they’re not going to be enough when linked to mental illness.

The “Trump is crazy” spiel reminds me a lot of the “Emperor Has No Balls” statues, depicting Trump as fatter than he really is, with a small penis and no testicles. Yes, I’ll admit I got a vindictive kick out of public mockery of Trump, whose inflated ego knows no bounds. But it didn’t really affect him. It just made fun of fat people and people with small penises, neither of which have anything to do with how qualified someone is to run the country.

It’s not like there isn’t enough terrible behavior there to criticize.  The dude  is a misogynistic bully whose comments supporting Russia over US intelligence are borderline treasonous. (I’d argue that asking Russia to hack Clinton in the first place was legitimately treasonous, even if he was joking.) He’s an unprecedented threat to US democracy.  But when we talk about his balls or his mental health status, we get sidetracked into areas that not only add nothing substantive to the conversation, but increase stigma toward whatever group is being made fun of.

The only discussion of mental health that relates to Trump that I’ve seen as helpful is less about his sanity and more about his effects on ours: how to deal with gaslighting, coping strategies from folks with mental illnesses, or the ways electing an admitted sexual predator re-traumatizes sexual assault victims. Likewise, a discussion of narcissistic *behaviors* and strategies for addressing them could be worthwhile. Discussion of whether Trump actually has NPD is only appropriate for him and a mental health professional actually treating him. (And if he does have a therapist, heaven help that poor soul.)

The key thing here is that, whether Trump is mentally healthy or mentally ill, there is no mental illness that forces you to assault women, stiff your contractors, or torpedo a company’s stock with a tweet. Nor does the size of his belly or his penis have any relationship to his being in Vladimir Putin’s pocket.




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