OK, so here goes. I’ve been tempted to write about various Big Issue type stuff for a while, but the news inevitably moved on while I was still distracted by what I laughingly call real life, and then it seemed as if everyone was drowning in a sea of think pieces, op-eds, and so on.
Nothing much has changed, to be honest, but it’s simply got to the point where I’m fed up with reading article after article without putting my own thoughts down. They’re not going to be in any way coherent, for which I apologise.
So firstly Donald Trump. Well, where does one start? Although the word ‘start’ seems horrendously out of place given that this a man about whom so much has been written already. I’ve read articles questioning his intelligence, his business acumen, his morals and his mental health. I’ve also heard interviews with Roger Stone and other supporters, read articles about how he is a super communicator, and so much more. Yes, I have learnt more than I ever wanted to about Donald Trump and I’m certainly not going to regurgitate it all here.
What’s got me reaching for the keyboard is the increasing frequency of articles linking Donald Trump to mental illness; not only those spouting the view that he must be mentally ill and therefore unfit for office, but also those saying hey, don’t bring mental health into this, it’s not helpful.
I’m inclined to agree with the latter – you should never diagnose mental illness from afar, and certainly never as an untrained person. Also, enough with the lumping all mental illness in together and making it something that bars you from anything. Having a mental illness does not automatically equate to being unable to raise a family, run a business, or hold public office. There are a lot of people out there living perfectly functionally while also having a mental illness.
Also, it is perfectly possible to be an absolutely despicable human being and not have a mental illness of any sort. It’s called being human, and there’s an extremely wide range of human behaviour. I’ll come back to this in a bit.
I have a lot of sympathy with the view that Donald Trump is simply a white supremacist, and his tapping into a prevailing mood of fellow disgruntled white supremacists explains his success so far in the presidential election. The fact that Milo Yiannopoulos, that renowned proponent of free speech as exemplified by the GamerGater and Alt Right movements (ahem), was a guest speaker at the Republican convention, just goes to show who they think their target audience is. Or partially is. The thing is, I’m not sure that labelling Trump as a white supremacist is helpful either. It makes it still too easy to brush off his particular brand of unpleasantness as something we don’t have to deal with. Because we can put white supremacy in a box and say, ‘not my problem’.
Donald Trump is, I’m afraid, all too human, and that’s what we all have to deal with. We have, collectively, created societies where being a Donald Trump is to be top of the tree; to be entitled to everything, to take without asking, and to spew hate and insults when anyone dares to cross us. In Western societies you tend to need to be male, white, Christian, straight, able-bodied, free of mental illness and of as high a social class as possible to access Full Privilege Mode; in other societies other religions and skin colours may prevail to a greater or lesser extent, but being male and rich generally trumps (!) everything else no matter where you are.
The fact that Trump takes this to extremes may or may not indicate a mental illness, I’m not qualified to judge, but it most definitely indicates a flawed character. The thing is, we are collectively responsible for the way his flawed character manifests itself, and that is what needs to change.
There was a whole load of rubbish spouted about how the Isla Vista shootings were down to mental illness rather than misogyny, how the Orlando shootings weren’t targeting the gay community but simply an easy target, and so on. But really, come on. Deep down we all know that some choices are being made here. Why not shoot up any random nightclub, why choose a gay club out of all the others out there?
If someone attacks a mosque or a synagogue there is usually a reason for that choice. There are many, many other places of worship to attack. The fact is that in the west we have a hierarchy of things that are acceptable to attack. We might be momentarily horrified, but it’s not Us that have been attacked really, but Them, and so we go on with our lives because, on the whole, this system works out for us in the long run. There may be some minor bumps in the road if we’re not top of the tree, but generally we’re OK and are net winners in the game of Some people are more important than Others.
If we don’t stop, reassess, and put our society on a much more equal footing, then these things are going to keep on happening. We are, after all, only human and that includes the best and worst. Any attempt to put this down as a problem belonging solely to a group we can distance ourselves from only perpetuates the toxic atmosphere.
It’s difficult to accept, but accept it we must if we want to live without hate, fear, and conflict.
As a final point, I’ve seen one Trump supporter try to claim that the hateful things he says are simply down to the man suffering from Tourette’s syndrome. It was a desperate attempt to brush aside some pretty awful things said, but let’s run with it for a moment.
If we as a society had no swear words, no words of denigration or hate, nothing in our language to hurt anyone, then all a Tourette’s sufferer would shout out would be random words that didn’t hurt anyone. All they would hear, and therefore all they could randomly shout, would be neutral or positive things.
Just imagine Donald Trump shouting out ‘Tree! Always back up your documents! Donut!’ instead of his usual patter.