Sunday, July 30, 2017

That Idiot's State of Mind & Ours

For some mental-health practitioners, the ethical debate is a distraction from a larger point. In a forthcoming book called “Twilight of American Sanity,” Allen Frances, a professor emeritus at Duke University Medical College, argues that the more urgent concern is unravelling the national psyche that brought our politics to this moment. Frances told me, “We need to be looking in the mirror to see what’s wrong with us that would allow someone who is so unsuitable for the Presidency to rise to the highest and most dangerous office in the world. Trump’s psychology is far too obvious to be interesting. You don’t have to be a psychoanalyst to understand Trump. He’s the most transparent human being who ever lived. Giving it a name doesn’t explain it or change it.”

As Trump rages in the White House, the country has settled into a summer numbness. The protests have grown less frequent; the country has escaped to the beach; the latest cell-phone push notifications from news apps no longer produce a skip of the heart. Diagnosing that sense of permission and paralysis is an urgent problem, Frances said. “The instruments for dealing with Trump are political,” he added. “Psychological name-calling is an impotent avoidance of our responsibility as citizens, and it represents a failure to try to get insight into us, which is much more important.”

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