Friday, January 08, 2010

Reflections in a Dark Room - Part 1

Charles Addams once drew a wonderful cartoon showing a hall with facing mirrors, a man is looking into the mirrors with an astonished look on his face because far, far down the infinite regression of mirrors… someone is peeking back. These days I’m not sure which one I am.

The American Psychiatric Association’s definitive handbook, the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fourth Edition, Text Revision”, best known as the DSM-IV-TR says this:

Individuals with this Cluster B Personality Disorder in their actions regularly disregard and violate the rights of others. These behaviors may be aggressive or destructive and may involve breaking laws or rules, deceit or theft.

Diagnostic criteria for 301.7 Antisocial Personality Disorder

There is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others occurring since age 15 years, as indicated by three (or more) of the following:

1) failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest

(2) deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure

(3) impulsivity or failure to plan ahead

(4) irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults

(5) reckless disregard for safety of self or others

(6) consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations

(7) lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another

Diagnostic criteria for 301.81 Narcissistic Personality Disorder

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

(1) has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)

(2) is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

(3) believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

(4) requires excessive admiration

(5) has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations

(6) is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends

(7) lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others

(8) is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her

(9) shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

If you think I mean to apply these attributes to Obama, you’re right. I’ve consistently referred to him as a “narcissistic, sociopathic sock puppet”. Apparently I’m out of fashion amongst the psychologically-correct, it seems he’s a “narcissistic, antisocial sock puppet” nowadays… mine sounds better and I’m going to keep on taking literary license and use it.

I and many others (especially at NoQuarter) have made something of a second career out of lambasting, deriding and skewering Obama about his lack of affect, his self-reverential sermonizing, his cowardly self-glorification, his tendency to treat his ‘friends’ like used condoms once he’s gotten whatever he wanted from them and his baseline con-man mendacity.

Feels good to be right when everyone else was wrong, doesn’t it? It’s nice to see the new respect in your friends’ eyes and hear it in their voices, tacit acknowledgement that they know they were wrong and you were right. It’s good when people come up to you shaking their heads and saying: “Man, you called it!”

Not getting those righteous kudos? those apologies for not listening to you? those accolades to your perceptive good judgment? …yeah, me neither…

In fact a curious phenomenon has shown up. I keep getting into mini-confrontations with people who were committed Obamabots all through last year’s political fracas.
These confrontations frequently take the form of a continuing debate, as though the other person were responding to an accusation or criticism they think I made about Obama. It’s like they’re having an internal debate with ‘me’ and, having scripted ‘my’ lines for me, they are now answering the script. I’m not instigating these rants or encouraging them, they are sui generis but it’s been enlightening and, in a small way, reflects what I see going on in the larger political and cultural world.

All this fall there has been a steady stream of bewildered, shell-shocked media flacks and so-called ‘netroots’ types wandering in out of the wilderness with stricken looks on their faces, trying to reconcile their messiah fantasy with ugly reality.

Some of them (very, very few) now get it – they understand that they were made fools of by a cynical machine politician – yes, I know, that really isn’t ‘getting’ it but it’s as close to reality as they’re ever going to manage.

Some of them are saddened that, in this day and age, even the greatest of men cannot strike the fetters of our bondage to the past - whatever that means.
Some of them ‘see’ that the entrenched opposition is implacable in its determination destroy ‘the work’ and prevent Obama from attaining the goals he spoke of so eloquently for us, do you remember the speech where he… [blah, blah ,blah]

Many times this takes the form of the ‘reverse rant’: they’ll pick a current topic, like Sarah Palin’s book tour, and start off with a spittle-flecked indictment of SP’s stupidity, incompetence, mendacity, etc., etc. and then segue into a sequential cri du Coeur about Obama’s failure to do “X” or “Y” ending with a blame-a-thon that begins with vast conspiracies and usually narrows down to ‘right wingnuts” or ‘redneck racists’ or both, with the subtext that I must be one of them because I thought that Obama was an incompetent sociopath with fascist tendencies back in 2007 and said so.

A lot of them can’t do it, they were so ‘in the tank’ for Obama that they will cast about for anyone, anyone, else to blame, I saw an impromptu panel on ‘Morning Joe’ (Dec.31, 2009) including: Tom Brokaw, Donny Deutsch, Harold Ford, Jr., David Gregory, Arianna Huffington, Norah O'Donnell, Jon Meacham and Tweety. All these worthies came to the sage conclusion that ‘white racism’ was responsible for Obama’s problems.
White racism apparently gave all our money to the banksters, reinvigorated the Afghan war, forced us to create a health-’care’ bill without the ‘care’ part and has been running a bowing and scraping “America Apologizes’ tour all over the globe. ‘White racists’ also, it seems, determined that the terrorist defense network did/did not work, that we will/will not close Gitmo, can/cannot wind down the Afghan war, will/will not limit bankster bonuses. ‘White racists’ demanded that Nebraska be exempt from Medicare payments, that women be exempted from Medicare (or any other ‘-care’) benefits, that LBGT folks are second class citizens after all.

Pretty powerful, these ‘white racists’…excuse me: the ‘bitter people, clinging to their guns and religion’, have to get my euphemisms straight.

The thing is: a year on, Obama is a known quantity. For good or for ill he has defined himself by his actions (and inactions) in his first year in power. No one, now, can claim ignorance or hide from the truth.

The fact that we knew it a long time ago and shouted it from the rooftops doesn’t change the ugly reality that he’s firmly in power now. Which brings us face to face with the larger question: what’s the problem?

The answer is: Obama is not the problem – we are.

More in Part 2

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