Thursday, October 13, 2016

Toxic Trump

The recent "debate" in St. Louis between Clinton and Trump was, because of Trump's behavior, more like a brawl, one that I was unable to watch to the end. It was embarrassing.

That up to 40 percent of Americans might support a man clearly unbalanced by narcissism, sexism, racism, and lies as well as ignorance is alarming.  Soon it will be over.

A valuable perspective on his "locker room talk" came today in the New York Times in a piece by Jared Yates Sexton. It touches on a topic, masculinity, that has long preoccupied me both in my fiction and earlier in my teaching.

Sexton's point is that the so-called locker room talk that demeans women is a manifestation of the fear many men feel: fear of inadequacy, rejection, and (I should add) of women as controlling.  Although most men outgrow these fears, many, like Trump,the Highchair Child (as Maureen Dowd called him), never do.

Many men, with limited knowledge of the world, facing complex foreign and economic issues, take refuge in a compulsive or toxic masculinity of tough-guy domination because social forces threaten their belief that they alone control their fate.  They feel overwhelmed by the political reality and so react negatively.

The author goes on to point out that such compulsive masculinity and its posturing causes men to suffer more than they realize. I am reminded of the fine book by Frank Pittman, Man Enough (based on his years of treating wounded men who fear that they are never quite masculine enough).

This approach certainly does not excuse the vile behavior of someone like Trump but it helps us understand how troubled men like him really are, how insecure and frightened. And where there is fear, there is often anger. And hatred. And violence.

Seeing this enacted on the national stage instead of a discussion of issues that concern the world is horrifying.  Soon the election will be over. But Trump will no doubt continue to rant and rave. If only people would stop listening to him and giving him the attention he craves.

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