While many of us remember our childhood as a carefree time of fun, friends and family the real objective of childhood is preparing us for a productive life conforming to the mores, morals and expectations of our society. While different subsets of our broader society have varying mores and expectations, the basic morals are the same. These are reinforced by our family, our schools and our religious institutions. Through this process we are prepared to take our place in society. Often, those who have not learned these lessons end up in prison. Yet, there are others who have chosen to live by their own selfish need- fulfilling set of rules who manage to function on the outer boundaries of law and accepted behavior. While they don’t necessarily break the law, their wealth and power enable them to pursue an amoral existence based primarily on self-gratification. It is an existence in which truth is fungible, facts are variable and self-aggrandizement is the goal.
Donald Trump is a narcissist with a never-satiated appetite for self-aggrandizement. His behavior, throughout his life, has been fueled by the need to amass power, money and fame. HIs march to success was never hindered by questions of right and wrong. As long as the action taken brought Trump money, power or fame it was justified. If blocking blacks from renting apartments in his buildings helped, in his mind, to maintain the status of his property, it was fine. If questioning the place of birth of a sitting president provided him with notoriety, fine. If belittling political opponents in nasty and salacious ways helped him to achieve his victory, fine. If lying moved him closer to success either in business or in his quest for the presidency, fine. If cheating individuals out of payment with false claims worked for him, fine. If bullying and taking advantage of those weaker worked in his favor, fine. If falsely accusing the press of lying and creating “fake news” works for him, fine. If purposely misrepresenting the facts to satisfy a false narrative works, fine. If creating an environment that validates hatred and discrimination helps to rally his base, fine. This is the behavior of an amoral individual who has been placed in the position of moral authority. As a narcissist he is simply unable to see a world beyond himself. All that exists revolves around him. He is the sun and all else are the planets. They are his to manipulate as he chooses.
The first month of Trump’s presidency has been marred by behavior that is unfitting and unacceptable. However, being aware of who he is and what he stands for, we should not be surprised. He has defamed and denigrated the press, the judiciary and some of our closest allies. He has made statements that have caused our allies to question the strength of their relationship with America while he has obsessed about his victory, falsely claiming that it was the greatest since Reagan. His rollout of the Immigration Executive Order worked for him, by helping him look tough and fulfilling a promise to his base, but was clearly immoral at its core. His statement on the observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day, omitting any mention of Jews played to his base but insulted an entire community. His lack of public concern regarding a major uptick in anti-Semitic acts during the past month until he was pushed into a statement shows a lack of awareness of anything out of his immediate orbit. The fact that there was no statement after the deadly attack at a mosque in Quebec adds to that perception. His connection to Putin and Russia remain an open question.
Trump’s supporters have continued to tell us to not go by what he says, but rather by what he does. Based on that directive, we all have much reason for concern. This is a man guided only by his own selfish needs. We need to place the fulfillment of those needs in jeopardy . We need to make it clear that his behavior comes at a price, one that he is not willing to pay.