“How seldom we recognize the sound when the bolt of our fate slides home.” – Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs
The Dark Tetrad in psychology is defined as a person who exhibits a combination of: psychopathy, Machiavellianism, narcissism, and sadism. In 1964, Eric Fromm defined evil in his book, “The Heart of Man”, as “the most severe pathology and the root of the most vicious destructiveness and inhumanity”. He named this psychiatric condition “malignant narcissism”.
The thin cruel line that separates what we consider normal social behavior from criminal psychopathy has for the last four decades been an indistinct, gauzy border in American politics. And as we have watched our politics become increasingly racist, militarist, and sadistic, what is feared is that, like 20th Century Europe, we are sliding home toward fascism. Some have recognized the sound, but many others have been willing to consign their own autonomy, their own identity as individuals, to a criminal enterprise known as the Trump Administration. Why has the federal government refused to use its resources to stop over 100,000 American deaths from the current COVID epidemic? Why have police departments strayed away from serving and protecting, and, instead, slipped into murdering innocent civilians? And why has our federal government imprisoned brown-skinned children in cages, instead of providing them safe homes until their refugee status can be resolved in the courts?
The late Jeffrey Epstein, a friend and peer of Donald Trump, has been memorialized in a TV series entitled, “Filthy Rich”, that suggests that Epstein’s primary business was female trafficking and blackmail – not the financial brilliance he is credited with on Wall Street. It appears that his shrewdness was merely a front that mirrors Trump’s own imaginary financial acumen. For four years we have been puzzled over the fact that Trump’s six bankruptcies did not land him in prison for fraud, strip him of his assets, or at least curtail his business activities. How can such a man end up still “Filthy Rich” and not in jail? Trump defaulted on his massive loans to numerous banks; he routinely breached his contracts with businesses that provided goods and services to his companies; and he even refused to pay his attorneys – those who defended him in lawsuits brought by those he had cheated. How did this financial pariah inveigle his way into the Oval Office of the United States? He answered this question in his own words: “I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” And then he grabbed American democracy because…. we let him do anything. And today we’re dying by the tens of thousands for one simple reason: Donald Trump likes it. Yes, he’s incompetent, and yes, he’s a wannabe fascist, but most of all, it’s because he’s a sadist. He likes it.
“He lives down in a rib cage in the dry leaves of a heart.” – Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs
Jeffrey Epstein’s life appears to have been comprised of grifting, blackmail, pedophilia, and female sex trafficking – behavior that yielded infinite wealth and power to a man who clearly resided in the world of The Dark Tetrad. There is nothing ambiguous about who he was. He was evil. He was a man who displayed serious mental illness, beginning in his 20s.
But Epstein and Trump share some behavioral and tactical similarities that are all too obvious: They both recruited poor young women to America by dangling the “Supermodel” card. Whether it was Epstein recruiting Victoria Secret models among the young girls who lived in the dead-end trailer parks that surround Palm Beach, or Trump with his modeling agencies and beauty pageants – these guys played hard in the not so exclusive club of female trafficking. The cover was sheathed in a patina of extreme wealth, power, and respectability. They broke into the sex trafficking business, camouflaged as fabulously wealthy businessmen – no gaudy gold chains, no track suits. These guys wear bespoke suits and conceal themselves among the lions of Wall Street, the moneyed class of Palm Beach, the lawyers and politicians who own our country and its politics. When Trump’s protection racket failed Jeffrey Epstein – when his Secretary of Labor, Alex Acosta, finally had to throw in the towel and stop using his office to protect Epstein, all was revealed in its revolting, sadistic splendor. At being branded a pedophile Epstein defended his honor and class by saying, “I’m not a sexual predator, I’m an ‘offender’ … It’s the difference between a murderer and a person who steals a bagel.” Epstein was merely a man who stole a bagel; Trump is a man who also seems to like them on “the young side”. The lives of little girls do not matter. The lives of poor people do not matter. The lives of perceived losers do not matter.
And we have all changed because of this Dark Tetrad. The hourglass of Conservatism is now inverted to represent profligacy and intransigence – where elaborate self-regard now dictates how and when we shall dispense mercy. And in government, the veil has been dropped with a palpable swoosh, as the deranged now pose as avatars of normalcy. We observed the strange, weary look of boredom on William Barr’s face as he sanctimoniously released the hounds upon peaceful protestors in front of the White House, cutting a path through democracy – a path proudly described by Donald Trump as though it were “a knife cutting through butter”.
“It rubs the lotion on its skin. It does this whenever it is told.” – Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs
The chill of amorality has seeped into the very fabric of our nation. A black man’s neck, a slumbering woman executed in her bed, a virus consuming everyone who touches a stranger. These are our realities now, and our survival will be a function of how well we understand the currents that direct them.
We’ve all acted as though we’ve been reading Foreign Affairs Magazine for the last 4 years, pretending that Donald Trump is a Republican in a difficult job running the world. His peccadilloes have been dismissed as the forgivable indiscretions of an otherwise powerful leader – a man who will fight like Ali, lead like Lincoln, and speak decisively for the working man. But all along we’ve been buying headlines screaming: Woman Killed by Fur Coat that Comes Alive, Cow Gives Birth to Baby Boy, The Moon Walk Was Faked – nothing but the concocted insanity of The National Enquirer at the checkout line in every grocery store in the nation – and the inanity of Fox News.
More than 60,000 mental health professionals signed a petition to remove Donald Trump from office due to his pronounced mental instability under the rubric of The Duty to Inform. But it was too late because he had compromised us all. One half of America is lost in a sea of what Eric Fromm described as malignant aggression. He writes: “Malignant aggression can also serve as a form of sadistic control. Examples can be seen in brutal dictators such as Stalin and Hitler, in genocide, and I would include psychopaths.”
By October, America will have suffered over 200,000 deaths to a disease that was eminently preventable had the government, controlled by Donald Trump, simply used its resources to stop its progression. Unfortunately, for the elderly, for those with limited access to healthcare, for those with comorbidities like diabetes, and those with absolutely nothing wrong with them, he stood back and refused to help. Why? Because he likes it.
“Good-bye Clarice. Will you let me know if ever the lambs stop screaming?” – Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs
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