I was just on the phone with my husband, who was annoyed at having been ‘forced” to un-friend someone on social media due of their outspoken loyalty to President Trump. This is not the first time this has happened.
Despite his intellect, deeply considerate nature and (what I believe to be insanely over-the-top) general politeness, my husband (I’ve noticed), has recently been losing his shit on a semi-regular basis by participating online in political debates. Strangers, friends, ex-lovers, old employees – the nature of the relationship does not matter. Even family members are not immune to his attacks.
As I’ve mentioned, I come from an extremely religious Southern family. Both the maternal and paternal sides of my family tree hail from strongly conservative backgrounds, whose Mississippi, Louisiana and Virginia roots run crazy-deep. As one might suspect (my being a California sociopath and all), my life perspective and political views don’t typically mesh with those of some of my family members – particularly the ones who prominently feature the confederate bayonet our great-great-grandfather used in the civil war above the fireplace in our country house.
And yet, we co-exist.
Despite our differences, my family members and I have always maintained peace. We value family relations above all. And we have always been respectful of each others’ points of view – no matter how different or sometimes infuriating. That is we did, until my husband started popping off online. And one particular incident has really escalated matters.
Long story short, my husband got into a fight with a complete stranger on my sister’s Facebook wall (I already hate this story) that for some reason angered my cousin, Brian. Now, had Brian called (or even texted) my husband to discuss his frustrations, everything probably would have been cleared up instantly. My husband is quick to apologize if he believes he has offended anyone.
But instead, Brian chose to send a creepy and vaguely threatening typewritten letter to my husband through the mail that was as about as spineless and ineffective as the KKK robe our grandaddy used to keep in his closet. In his attempts to intimidate and insult my husband, Brian just ended up outing himself as a pathetic little bitch. The good news is that my husband never saw the letter. The bad news is that I did.
Since then I have completely severed communications with everyone on my cousin’s side. That the letter wasn’t written to me doesn’t matter – in fact it would have been better if it was. I can handle opposition. I tend to be very analytical and don’t take things too personally. Brian’s mistake is that he came for my husband. And now he ceases to exist – to me anyway.
Severing ties has always been my not-so-secret weapon. As a sociopath, once I turn my back on someone, it’s over. There is no remorse. There is no struggle. I am not mad. I am not not mad. I’m just … done.
My ability to cut people out of my life doesn’t sit well with, well, everyone in my life. I get it. There are people – entire groups of friends and family members with whom I spent years of my life that I simply do not recognize any more. Not “lost contact with,” but actively chose to terminate from my consciousness. It’s like they’re dead – only not even. It’s like they were never born to begin with.
For a long time I valued this ability of mine. I don’t suffer from obligation or the pressure of social graces. When someone crosses me, they’re out. End of story. It’s not an emotional reaction so much as a logical decision.
I don’t hate these people – I just don’t want to spend any more time with them. I’ve always thought this was an ability from which everyone could benefit. Recently, however, I’ve been noticing a similar trend among members of the non-sociopath population … and now I’m not so sure.
Today’s political climate is insane. The nation (and the world) is so divided that there are very few shades of grey. Even easygoing people (like my husband) who would ordinarily never hurt a fly or intentionally insult anyone, are lighting up like Christmas trees in viscous debates and no-holds barred verbal fist fights over politics.
As a sociopath, I have the luxury of detachment. I did not vote for Donald Trump and I am not a fan. I recognize his personality type (no, he is not a sociopath) and it just happens to be the one I like the least. End of issue. That said, I totally get why he won. His personality type is one that resonates with many, many people – in fact, I wrote an entire essay about it a year or so back.
I understand why so many people believe that Donald Trump is a terrible president. But I also understand why so many people disagree. What I don’t understand, is why everyone is unable to communicate about it. People on both sides will argue that it’s because the other side is irrational and crazy. And for sure, there are conservatives who are completely nuts just as there are liberals who are completely nuts. The problem is that these nut-jobs who represent the minority are ultimately defining the majority.
I know a little something about this.
I am a sociopath. Remorse is not something that comes naturally to me. I am frequently described at cold, emotionless and anti-social, and I understand why. I am the first to admit that my personality type is not one that everyone is comfortable with. I am impatient. I am detached. I can be cruel, manipulative, and I have a history of criminal behavior. In short, I am lots of things. But what I am not is a psychopath.
How does any of this relate to politics? I’ll tell you. Psychopaths and sociopaths are not the same. But because psychopaths tend to be more extreme in their behavior, and because the psychological association does distinguish between psychopaths and sociopaths, the two are frequently grouped together. Psychopaths are the bad apples the spoil the bunch. They’re the outliers that make sociopaths look bad. This relationship is similar, it would seem, to Republican and Democrat extremists.
Not every Trump supporter is a racist (although I will admit this argument is getting harder and harder to support) and not every Democrat is a feminist pro-illegal-immigration Hillaryphile (same). And yet because these types of people garner the most attention, all members of both political parties seem to be lumped into the extremist category. But I hate to break it to you: this simply is not the case.
Take me, for instance. I don’t like Trump. But I also didn’t like Hillary (though I voted for her). I found her completely unrelatable and socially ignorant. Still, I am capable of having a sane conversation about it. I have the ability to apply logic to the defense of other people’s beliefs, and can relate to why so many people feel differently. I understand the other side and I am a fucking sociopath for God’s sake. But I think that’s the point.
I am someone who knows what it’s like to be lumped into a category in which I do not belong. I can relate to the frustrations of having to live an entire life unable to get treatment for my personality type because it’s confused with another personality type. And I can empathize with the process of having to lie about who I am for no other reason than because someone might think I am something I’m not.
That’s why I find the behavior of so many non-sociopaths so unsettling. By severing ties with people who do not share the same political views and “unfriending” social media contacts whose beliefs do not mesh with their own, people all over the country are forgoing every opportunity to relate with one another. We are outspoken in our hatred and are making it all-but-impossible for people who might disagree to be honest with us about it.
I know lots of Trump supporters who are afraid to admit it. And I know lots of Southerners who refuse to identify as Democrats. That shouldn’t be the case! Slowly but surely we are retreating into our own social bubbles. And in doing so we are limiting our perspectives of the nation and establishing our humanitarian outlook as selective.
I understand how infuriating it is to have someone disagree – particularly on a matter in which you are so strongly invested. In cases like that, it’s easier just to hate. God, it’s so much easier to hate, isn’t it? Nobody understands this more than I do. But again, I think that’s the issue.
It is much, much simpler to hate the other side than to be forced to empathize. I think that’s the reason the radical views get the most attention. I believe that’s why people seek the most fanatical opponents, and why the most extremist political news stories get the most traction. Because if they didn’t – if more people were actually forced to communicate with the majority of people on both sides of the political aisle – then everyone would have to face a few uncomfortable facts.
People would have to accept the fact that education is a privilege. People would have to consent that racism is rampant. People would have to come to terms with the fact that much of their success was the result of luck – to whom they were born and to what they were born. They’d have to accept that female inequality is still an issue. And that love and acceptance are the cornerstones of Christian values – not judgement and sanctimony.
Love it or hate it, the Trump presidency has provided the single greatest opportunity of our lifetime: the occasion for ideological transparency. Me? I like that everyone is fighting. I like that everyone is being outed – finally! The racists, the elitists, the feminists, the chauvinists, the narcissists – everything is illuminated. There is no more lurking in the shadows. There is no more deniability. All the chips are on the table. But in order to play, you have to show up.
The truth is that life is exponentially better when you choose to engage. And no, I’m not suggesting that everyone go out and rehabilitate a lunatic (present company excluded). But the crux of our division isn’t ending anytime soon. No matter what timeline you prefer, Donald Trump will eventually cease to be president. And when that happens we will still be here – along with our differences and along with our vitriol.
So how do you plan to handle it?
Donald Trump is nothing but a Rorschach test – a psychological projection designed to reveal our triggers. To my husband, Trump represents something that is unjust – his ultimate trigger. So when he engages in arguments, it is that trigger he is fighting – not the person on the other side of the keyboard. So what do you see when Donald Trump appears on the screen? And how do you feel when his words hit your ears? The answers to those questions are the only ones worth fighting for.
From where I’m sitting, a lot of emotional people have been suppressing a lot of emotional reactions. And similar to the way Gozer the Gozarian was able to unleash chaos on the streets of New York, so has the Trump presidency been able to liberate decades of suppression in neighborhoods across America. You know the expression, “It’s not personal, it’s politics?” Well in the case of Donald Trump it’s the other way around.
Donald Trump is not the issue. You and I are the issue. Sociopaths and psychopaths are the issue. Muslims and Christians are the issue. Co-existence is the issue. Empathy is the issue. And if a sociopath like me can be taught the advantages of compassion, then I have a feeling there just might be hope for the rest of you.