Chicago (Special to Informed Comment) – While the plague rages, the economy crashes, and millions of jobless Americans just lost unemployment benefits, President Trump and his slavish cult descend further into madness. Their mental aberrations are acted out as reactionary behavior that embraces racism, fascism, the confederacy, and a delusionary denial of the pandemic. As the horror of 2020 progresses, I feel like I’m living in an inescapable episode of Black Mirror — a four-year, national nightmare where rational judgment has been dangerously subverted and reality has been largely rejected by the 40 percent, who still support Trump. Seeing this ridiculously large minority engage in frenzied, inexplicable Trump-adoration induces both a rising dread and psychological meltdown in the rest of America as the election draws closer.
Aided by Fox news and the right-wing echo chamber, Trump’s daily expression of his contemptible psychopathology — in tweets and “press conferences” — creates a collective state of mental sickness among his cult members who believe his disinformation. Since the pandemic’s start, Trump has repeatedly denied it, downplayed it, and denigrated socially responsible actions. Automatically regurgitating Trump’s talking points, his puppets have lost their personhood, autonomy and ability to think for themselves. “Mentally unwell leaders influence their followers to behave the same way,” says Yale psychiatrist Dr. Brandy Lee. “The president’s cult is like a mental disease spreading across the country.”
Trump resembles the feline parasite Toxoplasma gondii: he hijacks the brains of his host-fans, compels them to act in his self-interest, and controls their behavior with bad, self-destructive ideas that are contrary to their rational judgement. Most significantly, he mocked and disparaged mask-wearing as weak and anti-Trump. In the world’s worst coronavirus response, the single biggest mistake was the failure to wear masks. Though Trump recently tweeted a picture of himself wearing a mask, everyone knows he was coerced into it by his advisors to manipulate the media into saying he “changed his tone.” After six months of vilifying mask-wearing, no one believed him.
At the next “coronavirus briefing,” Trump returned to anti-maskism by promoting a pediatrician minister who denounced mask-wearing while advocating the ineffective, dangerous drug hydroxychloroquine as a Covid cure. Trump claimed he was “impressed” with the pediatrician despite her views that alien DNA is used in vaccines, that vaccines make people non-religious, and that gynecological problems like cysts and endometriosis are caused by people having dream-sex with demons. Most concluded that the demon-seed doctor is probably not a more reliable expert when it comes to infectious disease than Dr. Anthony Fauci. After his administration futilely trashed Dr. Fauci for two weeks, Trump pathetically whined about how Dr. Fauci is more popular than him. To most of us, this behavior further documented Trump’s infantile idiocy. Yet, the 40-percenters still support him and continue to act out like lunatics.
A screaming “covidiot” recently accosted my wife and her brother who were enjoying a pleasant walk through Northwest Chicago. From across the street, an alleged adult called them “Stupid!” for wearing masks. This might seem like a minor incident, but it’s indicative of the mentally unstable jerks who are so disturbed by mask-wearers that they routinely mock and intimidate them. Yet, the world view of these deranged people was not disturbed when anti-mask Texas representative Louie Gohmert (aka the dumbest man in the House) got infected. Their attitude remained unfazed when former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain died of Covid-19, after attending Trump’s Tulsa Rally — a kind of Coronavirus Jonestown, where devotees happily drank the Kool-Aid: no masks and no social distancing while yelling spittle into each other’s faces.
The paranoid president and his minions turned mask-wearing into a cultural signifier that, to them, indicates Trump-hatred, socialism, and liberty-repression rather than safety, social empathy, and good health practice. Acting as if controlled by a mind parasite, Trump cultists often freak out when store workers — enforcing common sense — ask them to mask up, like these two berserk people in Texas. Another person erupted in a frenzy and destroyed a display rack of N-95 masks because the sight apparently drove her crazy. A group of organized anti-mask protestors demonstrated against mask-wearing inside a Florida restaurant and then harassed their neighbors. This video compilation shows an anti-masker threatening violence and one who believes mask-wearing is a “crime against humanity.” This is truly bizarre, bewildering behavior and manifests a collective nervous breakdown encouraged by the President’s demented, yet contagious impulses.
The 40-percenters’ support continues unabated even as Trump’s malignant narcissism coupled with obvious neurological and behavioral decline worsens daily. Symptoms of physical deterioration are obvious. His standing balance is shaky; his navigating of inclines is hesitant and unsteady; his whole upper body must move to turn his head. “When sitting, he is always crouching, leaning forward with his legs spread apart,” says neurologist Dr. James Merikangas, professor of neuropsychiatry at George Washington University. “This abnormal posture and problem with balance suggests a degenerative brain problem in the frontal lobes.”
His physical problems underscore Trump’s unnerving mental deterioration. For four years, we’ve watched him slur words, appear sedated, sniff loudly and frequently as well as confuse words (paraphasia), such as “oranges” for “origins.” Objective observers point to increased incoherence, thought fragmentation, and psychopathic nonsense such as when he said, “Doctors running into death just like soldiers running into bullets. It’s a beautiful thing to see.” My guts twist whenever he speaks.
Along with testing failure, the president’s malicious, selfish insistence upon prematurely reopening the economy — carried out by red-state governors — has helped make the US the world leader in infections (over 45 million) and deaths (over 154,000). With school openings, he’s doing the same thing — demanding in-person classes with no national plan to do it safely. He echoed the alarming falsehood of education secretary and Trump stooge Betsy DeVos — an unqualified billionaire religious zealot, who said, “More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don’t get it and transmit it themselves.” This is not true.
One of the first school districts to reopen failed to get through a day before partially shutting down after a student tested positive on the first day. More than 200 Georgia kids tested positive after attending summer camp. None were required to wear masks. Though Trump doesn’t care if their kids get Covid and bring it home to infect them, Trump-loving parents still approve of the job he’s doing. Apparently, they believe it’s better to die on a ventilator than admit that Trump is a danger to their children, themselves and the country. “Trump is impaired, mentally unwell to the extreme, detached from reality and, yes, he does seem like a bumbling fool,” says Yale psychiatrist Dr. Brandy Lee. “But Trump has a massive following and he controls the Republican Party and his frenzied irrational followers. Those people are the keys to Trump’s power.”
Trump’s apparent dementia does not make him a fascist, he is a fascist with dementia. His deteriorating psyche partly results from the pandemic pressures that reveal the reality of his incompetence, weakness and sheer stupidity as well as his slipping poll numbers. This makes his cruel pathologies worse and therefore more dangerous. Like a rat in a cage, he strikes out against the racial justice movement by sending war-clad goon squads, brandishing M4 assault rifles, into Portland to create chaos, kidnap protestors in unmarked minivans, and attack moms with tear gas. He’s threatened to “surge” this invasion into other Democratically-run cities, like Milwaukee, Detroit and Chicago.
Trump used the tax-payer funded US military as props in his political theater of the absurd to create video images that would be streamed by Fox and edited into campaign ads. Influenced by alt-right Nationalists like Fox host Tucker Carlson and xenophobic child-cager Stephen Miller, Trump hopes to secure the votes of white suburbanites by scaring them to death. He can’t run on the economy because he destroyed it, he can’t run on his response to the virus because it’s a disaster. Like a 1950s segregationist, he is running on hate and fear. In coordination with the invasion of Portland, Trump celebrated rescinding Obama-era fair-housing rules by tweeting: “People living the Suburban Lifestyle Dream” will no longer be bothered by “low income housing built in their neighborhood” — a statement so egregiously racist that it should have been sent with a burning cross emoji. Apparently, this excites the racists among the 40-percenters.
This summer of death, anxiety, and rage have swept up armed, fanatical Trump supporters who march on state houses, challenge Black Lives Matter protests, and chase internet rumors of an “Antifa” threat. Emboldened by Trump’s “Liberate” tweets in April, right-wing groups such as the Washington Three Percenters, Proud Boys, and American Wolf have held rallies to promote Covid conspiracy theories and declare their gun rights as well as appeared as counter-protesters at others’ events. At an Idaho Black Lives Matter protest, some waved confederate flags, displayed Nazi symbols and shouted “heil Hitler” and “white power,” reported the Idaho Statesmen. This is “part of their effort to normalize the presence of armed paramilitaries on the streets, which is a remarkably disturbing turn of events,” said Devin Burghart, president of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. No longer fringe elements, they’ve moved from backwoods training to on-the-streets activism in defense of Trump. They raise the loathsome specter of violent reaction, and even civil war, if he loses the election.
Undemocratic to his core, Trump stokes these deranged, bigoted cultists by continuously insisting the election will be fraudulent, fixed, and rigged. Without any constitutional authority, he suggested last week — right after the announcement of the worst GDP plunge in US history and right before the funeral of voting rights defender John Lewis — that the election should be delayed. If nothing else, Trump has revealed that our democratic norms are fragile and flawed so we cannot dismiss this dangerous dictator-talk as the impotent ravings of an isolated lunatic. Over four years, the unthinkable has happened and been rationalized by GOP enablers and that intractable, infuriating forty percent.
My own mental stability is shaken by Trump and the virus. Given my age and pre-conditions, I’m worried about my health and wonder when I’ll be able to hug my daughter and even see my New York-based son in person, rather than on my laptop. The hateful GOP has hypocritically re-embraced fiscal austerity after their trillion dollar tax giveaway to the 1%, so I’m concerned about the precarious finances of some friends and family. With the pandemic spreading like wildfire, I’m fearful for my teacher friends and family members pressured to hold in-person classes.
Over all of this, the election looms like a monstrous, murderous storm. Along with many others, I’ve got a queasy feeling of impending doom that increases when pundits predict Trump’s sure defeat, as it encourages complacency. He will burn America down rather than lose. Lacking confidence in Democrats’ resistance, I wonder whether foreign interference combined with voter suppression, polling place reductions, postal service slowdowns, lawsuits, outright cheating, and even violence will condemn us to four more years of cruel horror and tyrannical madness. This frenetic uncertainty is exacerbated by the shameless sociopath in the White House whose irrational, ignorant, delusional, self-aggrandizing rants continue non-stop — the prime catalyst for the national nervous breakdown.
There’s only one remaining anti-Trump treatment: take action to eradicate him. Young and old must stay in the streets, make phone calls, flood the internet, aggressively register voters, fight voter suppression, and, in November, electorally humiliate Trump and his cult out of political existence and simultaneously be prepared to march on Washington and force the contemptible maniac out of the White House if he won’t leave.