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Donald Trump is insane and our republic is sick

October 29, 2021

Before Nero murdered his teacher, Seneca wrote firsthand of spoiled brats who attain great power: “The one to whom nothing was refused will not abide being offended.” Two thousand years later, Yuval Harari observed: “Psychopaths are not very good at cooperation.”

Robert Kahn

By Robert Kahn

Deputy editor emeritus, Courthouse News

Before the Roman Republic collapsed into Empire, Romans had a proverb: “If you put up with the crimes of a friend, the crimes become your own.”

The Republic collapsed into despotism in the two centuries we call 100 B.C. to 100 A.D. Diligent study of this period will show that Donald Trump is insane. He is insane through the same course that drove — or allowed — so many Roman emperors to become insane, including Caligula, Nero, Domitian, Commodus, Elagabalus … and so on.

They all became insane in the same manner — spoiled brats — vanity above all: Inheriting unearned riches and political power led them to believe that they actually deserved Imperium mundi: Power over the entire world.

Seneca provides illustrations of this in his early book, De Ira, “On Anger.” Here are two stories Seneca told, as history.

Harpagus, a Persian general under Cyrus the Great, offended Cyrus by failing to carry out an order. So Cyrus invited Harpagus to a dinner of meat stew, and as Harpagus chowed down, Cyrus had the severed heads of Harpagus’s two young children brought in, to show him what he was eating.

“How do you like your dinner now?” asked Cyrus the Great.

According to Seneca, Harpagus replied: “Every meal is pleasant at a king’s table.”

Harpagus’s reward for this mild reply was that he didn’t have to finish his dinner.

Also in De Ira, Seneca wrote that Caligula (recently dead, and reviled) had murdered the son of a wealthy Roman citizen because the son had a nice head of hair, while Caligula was going bald.

Citizen Pastor begged for the life of his son, but Caligula killed him. Then he had Pastor dressed in flowers and finery, and ordered him to drink a toast to his emperor — who had just murdered his son. So Pastor toasted Caligula and drank the wine.

Why did he do it, Seneca asks — succumb to it?

Because Caligula knew that Pastor had another son.

Friends, Countrymen, Members of Congress: Isn’t it time we stop praising Trump, but bury him?

I’m not a doctor, so am not governed by the American Psychiatric Association’s “Goldwater Rule,” which states that if a doctor has not personally evaluated a public figure, the doctor should not make public statements about the man’s or woman’s mental health.

A fair rule, I guess. But it doesn’t apply to me. After 30 years study of Roman politics and 37 years reporting on U.S. politics, I tell you with confidence: Donald Trump is insane. 

He exhibits all the traits of the worst emperors: overweening vanity; amorality; ruthless pursuit of vengeance upon critics; unearned self-regard; sexual depredations unpunished. I could go on.


Just as this loathsome man shares the ruinous traits of the worst Roman emperors, our nation is showing that it shares, increasingly, the weaknesses that dragged Rome into its own sewers. Cowardice in the public sphere, above all, and the obsequious willingness of millions of supposedly free subjects to bow their necks to a man who is obviously insane.

Trump is a sociopath, a psychopath — “not very good at cooperation.” He seeks the presidency again not for the good of our tottering republic, but to wreak vengeance upon the people this childish brat believes, and tells us, have “betrayed” him. He does this to stroke his own ego: He has no superego. But no ego-stroking is enough for a psychopath, even if the stroking brings him to ejaculation, if only in his infantile, polymorphously perverse mind.

Seneca the Stoic tells us that lasting happiness can come only from reason, virtue and self-restraint. That’s why a psychopath can never be happy.

To listen to Trump, you’d think he’s the unhappiest schlub in America. And he may well be: He brags about it. His entire political platform today is that he is unhappy, and that it’s no fair, and that his followers have to fix that — by any means necessary.

Lacking reason, virtue and self-restraint, the psychopath seeks happiness by inflicting pain upon others: because they failed to provide him the pleasure he seeks but is unable to feel — and never will.

God help us, and the world, if we re-elect this psychopathic pervert to office again: this torturer by proxy, insatiable liar, accused rapist, ignorant man.

Donald Trump is insane. And the Members of Congress kissing his robes are cowards.

Most of the congressmen and -women, governors, state legislators, lobbyists and TV hosts fattening themselves on his unhappiness are not insane — though a few are — but they are guilty too.

(Remember that Trump commanded every member of his Cabinet to praise him at their first meeting? That he fired the head of national cybersecurity for rejecting claims of voter fraud?)

Trump’s sycophantic enablers in Congress and on Faux TV are no better than the cowed official who watched the Persian King Cambyses shoot the official’s son in the heart with an arrow, after Cambyses bragged that he could shoot just as well drunk as sober. (Seneca: De Ira.)

And what did Cambyses’ adviser, the dead boy’s father, tell his king?

“Good shot.”

What a Grand Old Party that was. A party of cowards.

Categories / Op-Ed, Politics

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