A Mentally Ill Man Ponders Whether Donald Trump Is Crazy

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 3.618% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So there’s been a lot of talk lately about whether Donald Trump is actually crazy – the specific form of mental disorder varies depending on who’s talking, whether it’s narcissism or senility or sociopathy or what-have-you.  But basically, it all comes down to the fact that Donald keeps saying dumb things that torpedo his campaign, and is speaking in increasingly loopy and erratic sentences.
Maybe he’s not fit to be President.
And I have such, such mixed feelings on this.
To start,  I hate armchair diagnoses.  Trying to determine what Trump’s mental health is through the lens of the media is never going to be accurate – and, in fact, seems to be an accumulation of biases.   (Just as the right-wing Hillary armchair diagnoses of bad health is largely an eruption of Hillary hate.)  I despise Trump, and I find him to say monstrously stupid things, but trying to determine his actual state of mind from this obscured distance in the furor of a media campaign is a mug’s game.
Then there’s that ugly conflation going on – many people see Trump as dangerous, and their go-to is “Dangerous people are all mentally ill!”  Which is something you see all the time with shooters – if some mass murderer has been to a psychologist, you betcher ass it’s going to show up as an explanation sometime, because to a frightening number of people, “Dangerous” means “mentally ill.”
Which is partially a lack of distinction.  There are types of mental illness that make people a hazard to other people.  But part of the issue is that we throw any deviation from the norm into one big bucket that says “crazy,” and then label that bucket as “dangerous people.”  I know lots of people who suffer from depression and bipolar diseases who don’t harm anyone but themselves.  In fact, it’s probably more likely that these mentally ill people will be harmed than they’ll harm, as people with severe issues often fall into abusive relationships with people who use their insecurities against them.
So what I feel is going on here is that people can’t possibly imagine Trump doing and saying all these horrible things unless he’s mentally defective on some level.  Which, you know, maybe?  The issue is what you consider to be “mentally ill.”  A frightening number of serial killers are lucid, in-touch and control enough to know how to give answers that manipulate both press and psychologists; the only thing that really separates them from normal people is that they, you know, kill innocent humans.  Maybe that’s insanity.
But that route’s kinda slippery, because I’m not sure “evil” is the same as “insane.”  It feels uncomfortably to me like we’re going the old homosexuality route, where we look at someone who has different preferences than we do and labelling them insane.  Homosexuals and trans folk were – and are, in many circles – considered to be mentally ill just because they don’t want what most people want.  You could say that someone who doesn’t want a single-payer health plan has no empathy and therefore has a mental illness.  Eventually, that definition swells to “anyone whose brain doesn’t come to the conclusions that I have arrived at is insane.”
Which I’m not a fan of.  I’m the guy who’d look at some people and say, “Yeah, they’ve got it all together, except they’ve decided eating human beings is a legit call.”  We can lock away criminals without smearing them all with a loose diagnosis of mental illness – some people have different moralities but aren’t handicapped by mental drawbacks, which means, yes, we need to jail some sane people for doing shitty things.
But not every burglar is insane.  Some people are just dicks.
Yet in this whole “Let’s not tar the mentally ill with Trump” issue, one of the things that I dislike is the way people imply that we can’t ask whether Trump’s potential mental illnesses would interfere with his job.  And some arguments I’ve seen seem based in the idea that mentally ill people are good, functioning people and you shouldn’t ask questions like “Can a mentally ill person be President?” because it hurts the mentally ill.
Which I also dislike, because it seems to erase the idea that a mental illness is actually a drawback.
Look.  I would be a shitty President, because of my mental illness.  I break down under the wrong kinds of stress.  I sometimes retreat for days, not wanting to talk to anyone.  I need drugs to handle my anxiety for events that are out of my control – which, you know, is pretty much what being a President is.
I don’t believe in stigmatizing mental illnesses, but I also dislike the counterpush to imply that all people with mental illnesses function well.   No.  It’s a drawback, and if you can not have a mental illness, I’d highly recommend it.  If I had a way to get rid of this depression, I would.
Which is not to say that every person who has mental illness is unfit to be President.  Abraham Lincoln infamously suffered from severe depression – and that’s an armchair diagnosis I feel can be made fairly in retrospect, as his moods were well-documented – and he was a great President.  He kept it together despite his depression to be what I’d argue is America’s best President ever, a true hero for those of us whose brains betray us.
Yet on the other hand, we have Ronald Reagan.  And people didn’t want to discuss Ronnie’s senility during the election, because you can’t accuse an old man of being senile, that’s rude – yet going back through the history books, you’ll see that Reagan became increasingly forgetful, masking his incompetence with humor, drifting away from the Presidency to leave America as a pitched battle between his three advisors.
Maybe he didn’t have senile dementia back then, but his bad memory was an issue that affected all of us.
So I think it’s relevant to ask whether a Presidential candidate is mentally fit to do the job.  That’s appropriate.  A President has to be smart and alert, and if they can’t perform to the duties of the office, they shouldn’t be elected.
But I wish we could do it without framing it so poorly.  Donald Trump doesn’t have to be mentally ill to be unfit for office – there’s also plenty of people who are sane by all diagnoses whose temperament or work ethic make them a poor choice.
You don’t have to diagnose Donald to find him unfit.  The reasons why he constantly contradicts himself are opaque to us in the churn of the moment- but what matters is that he does contradict himself, and if that worries you, then don’t vote for him.  We don’t have to assign his increasingly meandering and incoherent sentences to a specific attribute – we can simply say, “I don’t want someone who does things like that in office.”   If he constantly hurts people, we don’t have to claim he’s a sociopath, we can just point out that a President shouldn’t have a vast history of stiffing the people who work for him.
And yes, that applies to Hillary too.  You can have valid reasons to believe someone unfit for what is a monumental task; you can also do that without branding them with names that are both inaccurate and unnecessarily target other people who share those illnesses.
And that’s all.
 

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