Punishment versus pity: We're going to start today with a pair of high-powered confessions:
We've never heard voices in our head. Also, we feel sorry for people who do.
It's hard to feel sorry for Donald J. Trump, so ruined a specimen has he long been. That said, we remember the ways our highest elites fed off his outwardly broken soul for all those long, soulless years.
Was sex with The Donald the best sex you ever had? So these broken-souled losers were willing to ask, on network TV no less. In such ways, they announced the emptiness of their own souls while lining their pockets with cash.
That was long the standard behavior of our exalted elites. It's hard to feel sorry for Donald J. Trump, but as part of a third confession, we'll admit again what we've said before:
We sometimes think of Bob Dylan's endorsement of pity when we observe the lost, ruined way this dangerous, disordered man plays:
I pity the poor immigrantThe song was published in 1968. We offer this assumption:
Who wishes he would've stayed home
Who uses all his power to do evil
But in the end is always left so alone
That man whom with his fingers cheats
Who lies with every breath
Who passionately hates his life
And likewise fears his death
Who eats but is not satisfied
Who hears but does not see
Who falls in love with wealth itself
And turns his back on me.
Dylan wasn't thinking of a literal "immigrant," a person who chooses, or is forced, to leave his homeland behind.
He was thinking of a figurative "immigrant"—a person who, through whatever procedure or means, has wandered away from human feeling, has left his soul behind.
Is Donald J. Trump a "sociopath?" (In theory, quite a few people are.)
In the parlance which has surfaced, is he in the grip of "antisocial personality disorder?" Here's how that disorder is characterized by the leading authority on the syndrome:
Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD or APD) is a personality disorder characterized by a long term pattern of disregard for, or violation of, the rights of others. A low moral sense or conscience is often apparent, as well as a history of crime, legal problems, or impulsive and aggressive behavior.Is Donald J. Trump in the grip of that syndrome? If so, should that be seen as "his fault?"
Antisocial personality disorder is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Dissocial personality disorder (DPD), a similar or equivalent concept, is defined in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD), which includes antisocial personality disorder in the diagnosis. Both manuals provide similar criteria for diagnosing the disorder. Both have also stated that their diagnoses have been referred to, or include what is referred to, as psychopathy or sociopathy, but distinctions have been made between the conceptualizations of antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy, with many researchers arguing that psychopathy is a disorder that overlaps with, but is distinguishable from, ASPD.
Might this situation have stemmed from some organic cause—from something present at birth? Might the situation have occurred because of the way he was raised?
We submit those basic questions in the face of general disinterest. But beyond that:
If a young man starts hearing voices in his head, is that the fault or the doing of the young person in question? Should we regard such a situation as a manifestation of illness?
Questions like these aren't being discussed at the present time. With respect to Donald J. Trump, the mainstream press corps has decided, as a group, that questions of possible mental illness mustn't be discussed.
With respect to our ongoing parade of mass shooters, pundits have quickly fallen in line behind fuzzy variants of the implausible claim that mental illness plays no role in such gruesome events. We'll show you what Maddow said last night once the transcript appears.
Should we "pity the poor immigrant" when he behaves in the ways Dylan described? Our species rarely takes that approach. We're more strongly wired for punishment, anger and blame—and also, for group recitation.
Over the course of the past year, the recitation went like this: Mueller Mueller Mueller Mueller impeachment impeachment impeachment. We were pleasured that way every night.
Now our pundit corps had moved on, to racist racist racist. That's pretty much as far as the thinking goes.
For ourselves, we're disinclined to think that that's the best way to go. We remember the other lyrics we have occasionally cited:
It was all very painlessOne of our hopefuls is running on love, though he also likes to say racist.
When you went out to receive
All that false instruction
Which we never could believe
And now the heart is filled with gold
As if it was a purse
But oh, what kind of love is this
Which goes from bad to worse?
For better or worse, our species is wired to break into tribes and to start reciting. All stories must be simplified—novelized, improved, dumbed down—when a tribe starts to repeat.
Beyond that, we're wired for accusation and blame much more than for sorrow and pity. Gene Brabender put it best many long years ago:
"Where I come from, we just talk for a little while. After that, we start to hit."
Brabender was a big rawboned right-hander—and, as quoted in Ball Four, an anthropological giant. He died at the age of 55, apparently of natural causes.
We've been thinking of [Name Withheld]: [Name Withheld] lived two houses down from us when we were a freshman, then a sophomore, in high school.
He was one year ahead of us in school; we didn't know him well. One day, our mother told us that his mother had asked her if we would be willing to be his friend.
He was a perfectly decent kid, but he apparently pretty much kept to himself. Our mother told us that his parents were worried about his behavior and felt that he needed some friends.
You really can't ask a sophomore in high school to serve as someone's psychiatrist. Beyond that, our mother didn't have the tools to insist that we try to help.
As far as we know, Name Withheld wasn't inclined to violence against other people—but one day, he took his own life. We don't think it was publicly mentioned at school. We don't know if other kids even knew.
Would anyone have been able to help this quiet, outwardly gentle kid? Name Withheld didn't grow up in the era of mass shootings. Today, though, our troubled kids do.
That includes the kids who hear voices, the ones who aren't mentally ill.