In the movie, “Animal House,” there’s an iconic scene where a pledge is being initiated into his fraternity, and, after each vicious hit with a wooden paddle, cries out, “Thank you, sir! May I have another?” Although many of us laughed at that scene, it wasn’t funny. Abuse of any kind, especially by someone in a position of power, is never funny given its lasting and traumatic impact on the victim.
That particular scene is even less funny now given that Donald Trump spent four years in the White House and the last two years at Mar-a-Lago abusively wielding political power and traumatizing our country in the process. He wasn’t the commander-in-chief during his presidency, he was the abuser-in-chief.
Many Trump supporters say those of us who are anti-Trump suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS), an accusation meant to demean us into thinking we’re the irrational ones given how negatively we view the former president. I would counter that by saying many of us who are anti-Trump don’t suffer from TDS but from PTSD, Post-Trump Stress Disorder. People all over the country, even some who were once enthusiastic supporters of the former president, are tired of the sideshow and exhibit many of the symptoms of trauma associated with having been under such toxic leadership.
Trump’s abusive style of leadership traumatized our country in four main ways.
First, Trump traumatized our country with his ignorance. He came into office profoundly ignorant with regard to the Constitution, the rule of law, national security, climate change, racial injustice, infectious diseases, economic recovery, international relations and numerous other matters of grave importance related to fulfilling his duties as president. And because he was more interested in reading putts than his daily briefings, Trump never learned anything in office.
Trump traumatized our country with his incompetence. Lauding himself as a successful businessman, something he never was or ever will be, Trump was grossly incompetent when it came to developing and implementing policies that left Americans better off. Trump’s administration was the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, and his utter incompetence as a leader left us much worse off as a country. As the Lincoln Project ad, “Mourning in America” put it, we are “weaker and sicker and poorer” because of Trump’s grossly incompetent leadership.
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Trump traumatized our country with his insanity. Mental health experts have been trying to warn us for years that Trump is malignantly narcissistic, sociopathic, sadistic and delusional, four psychological maladies that clearly made him unfit to be president. Trump’s unbridled psychopathology is what led him to repeatedly tell the “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was stolen and malevolently point his supporters at the U.S. Capitol to overthrow democracy. Our country is still traumatized by this particular act of insanity on Trump’s part.
Last, Trump traumatized our country with his immorality. Because he’s a sociopath, Trump has no moral code or conscience. Nothing other than narcissistic self-interest guides his every action. He is a pathological liar, serial cheater (wives, taxes, vendors, even golf), and shameless grifter (Trump University, his “charitable” foundation, the 2016 inauguration committee, fundraising). Trump is one of the most immoral presidents we’ve ever had, something that has embarrassed us around the world and traumatized us as a country.
Our country simply cannot afford a president who has even one of these characterological defects. Trump has all four. Only the most politically delusional person would want someone this ignorant, incompetent, insane and immoral to lead our nation, and they wouldn’t be doing it out of a love for their country but an unquenchable thirst for staying in power.
The most concerning thing right now is that Trump is considering another run for the presidency and a large number of so-called conservatives are thinking about supporting him. As if he hasn’t caused enough damage, Trump wants the political power of the presidency back in his hands so he can traumatize our country further with his abusive style of leadership and stay out of prison a little longer.
It would be foolish for us to look to any government agency or political party to keep Trump from being president again. Two impeachments didn’t get it done. The Jan. 6 committee isn’t likely to get it done. And the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago isn’t likely to either. Trump is much too slippery to ever let the cost of his malevolent actions come due at his own expense.
No, this one’s on us. Regardless of our political affiliation, we must withhold our support from any person who would presume to abuse and traumatize our country the way Trump did. If we don’t put a stop to someone as deeply disturbed and dangerous as the former president, we are the problem and fundamentally saying, “Thank you, Trump, may we have another.” And, this time, we might not recover.
Thurman is a psychologist and author of “The Lies We Believe.”