So once again, I found myself tearing through a political nonfiction book. I think this might be a regular Friday thing, just briefly touching on a quick read. As the title suggests, this volume deals with the 45th president of the United States of America. I still can’t get used to writing that. Anyway, this book is not the work of one, nor two, but twenty-seven authors. Most of them have backgrounds in psychology or psychiatry, but there are others, such as the person that helped Donald Trump write The Art of the Deal, Tony Schwartz. Now, I picked up this book somewhat on impulse, not knowing what to expect. While I certainly have my concerns for the future of the United States, a country that I love, under Trump’s “leadership”, I also have concerns whenever I start to see mental illness enter the picture. As a person living with mental illness, it makes me nervous whenever some sort or tragic or dangerous event happens, because I don’t know if it will turn into an honest discussion about the state of mental health care in the United States, or if it will just throw the mentally ill under the bus to get out of talking about more serious issues. Just as there wasn’t one author writing this compilation of essays, I find myself with a few different feelings about the different parts of this book.
A few of the authors attempt to diagnose Trump from afar with anything from narcissistic personality disorder, to ADHD, to dementia. While I see the merit of discussing the possible causes of Trump’s behavior, the point seems a bit moot. If Trump would be unwilling to undergo any sort of testing or treatment, as they do claim, then I just don’t see the point of attaching a diagnosis to it. I can’t agree with James Gilligan more, as the title of his essay is “The Issue is Dangerousness, not Mental Illness”. However, the attempts at backseat diagnosing Trump fall into the background once the book moved onto one of the more fascinating and important parts: The Trump Effect.
Now, I’m young enough to only have really witnessed two presidential transitions. Technically, it was three, but I’d be hard-pressed to tell you any real details about the Clinton/Bush transition. I was still in elementary school during the Bush/Obama transition, so I can hardly claim that my sixth-grade mind cared much for a nuanced analysis of the American political climate. Still, I remember that there was an air of general excitement and hope. If not that just…boredome in a way. We had a new president, and things were business as usual in America. But I can’t help but wonder what a sixth grader would think of this transition. The third part of the book describes the anxiety, fear, and trauma that came along with essentially everything that’s happened since Donald Trump went down that escalator. Frankly, as someone who was feeling a whole lot of really complex and difficult things around that time, It was strangely comforting to hear that these feelings coming from not only my circle, but from people I’ve never met and probably never will. Unity through fear and anxiety isn’t the best, but it’s unity all the same.
So, what did I think about this book? I think it’s worth a read, no matter where you stand on the political spectrum. If you’re afraid or outraged by recent events, I think you can find some solace in people with similar feelings, and the general idea that there is a way to get out of this mess that we’re in. If you’re a supporter of Trump, maybe reading this can help you see why people like myself feel the way we do. Maybe you can see that it’s not an issue of being a sore loser, or not “giving Trump a chance”. I’ve never believed in “My country, right or wrong.” I’ve never thought that speaking out against forces that endanger the very safety and human rights of the citizens of the United States and the world is somehow patriotic. In fact, I think that fighting for everything that is good, and standing for what is right despite the political lines that we’ve drawn, is why we don’t need to make America great again. It’s great now, it’s always been, but it’s in danger.