Beware the Psychotrump

Beware the Psychotrump
Carol Caldwell

Ninety-six percent of normal human beings are born with the moral compass we call a conscience. This gift is such a given that we "don't think about it at all," as the poet John Ashbery wrote, "unless we think about it all the time."

When most of us tune into our conscience it is because we understand that we have crossed the line between decent and not decent acts, that we have hurt or harmed another person. We truly regret taking advantage of someone and anguish over it. A niggling conscientious conundrum is the beginning to making amends for thoughtless, mean, or shameful words and actions. Such offenses often hurt us as much or more in the midnight hours as those we have wronged.

Would you be shocked to hear that the other 4% our fellows come into this world without a conscience and will never develop such a thing? One in 25 Americans, as psychologists, neuroscientists, and law enforcers will attest, can be diagnosed as sociopathic (the original term was psychopath.) The most clear cut definition of both words is this: people who are not bothered in the least, nor feel the first pang of guilt from committing unconscionable or even criminal deeds. For us to see things from their point of view, sociopaths and psychopaths read us as aberrant and cannot comprehend why we would wring our hands over besting another.

In her well-documented book, The Sociopath Next Door, psychologist and writer Martha Stout makes the definitive statement that many Americans admire the sociopaths at the top of our winner-take-all culture. The DSM IV Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders terms sociopathy as "antisocial personality disorder." The indicators listed under that heading are as follows: people who show these symptoms fail to conform to social norms. They are deceitful, manipulative, impulsive. They can be irritable and argumentative; they show reckless disregard for the safety of self or others. Sociopaths are consistently irresponsible, cheat on tests and lie on their resumes, can be facile and charming, seductive and attractive. They show no remorse for hurting, harming, or even doing away with others. As Martha Stout points out, sociopathy is a disease that those who evidence it feel no dis-ease whatsoever about the grief they visit on others. One chilling factor shared by these dangerous players is the giveaway in their eyes: the eyes are cold and dead. No one at home.

In the dark days leading up to the coronation of Donald J. Trump, official nominee of the Republican Party for President of the United States, national broadcasters failed the viewing public perilously by not calling the pretender out for his bullying taunts and unconscionable blather. They're sort of doing it now, but too late for the harm done to the country. Broadcasters and their multicorporational holding companies have engorged hundreds of millions of ad dollars reveling in Trump's Hannibal Lecter special, thrilling to huge ratings as they showcase the bloviating socio's antics 24-7.

Proud of yourselves? Doesn't really matter any more, does it? Nothing matters to the sociopath or his billionaire sponsors. No blame, no guilt. While Walter Cronkite gently weeps in his vault at the Museum of Broadcasting.