National Commentary

A President Weeps For Sociopathy

nfbenton-mugAmong many, this was President Obama’s finest hour. His clearly heartfelt and passionate 37 minutes of remarks from the White House Tuesday left a nation dumbstruck and spellbound.

Even though his gun control reforms are minimal and without a doubt do not restrict the ability of any law abiding citizen to purchase or own a firearm, the mere fact that the president went to the limit of his executive powers in a resolute effort to curb, even if only a little bit, the descent of the nation into behaviors of gun violence should be seen as an epochal turning point.

Either the nation now seizes upon this singular moment to begin the heavy lifting task of wresting the corridors of power in America away from the blackmail of the gun lobby and its big monied backers who enjoy chaos, or, if nothing really changes, this could be the inflection point spelling the end to the viability of our democratic experiment altogether.

Earlier, a similar moment arose from the unspeakable horror of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre three years ago, but when nothing happened as a result – nothing happened as a result! – President Obama, invoking that slaughter of innocents with tears rolling down his face, gave the nation one more chance Tuesday.

It exposes once again what is the singular mental illness bedeviling American culture in 2016. The experts call it “Antisocial Personality Disorder,” and it produces what is common known as “sociopaths.”

These are people who, at the heart of it, are incapable of experiencing empathy with respect to other persons, pain inflicted upon them, or remorse. According to Dr. Matha Stout’s bestselling book, The Sociopath Next Door, the Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us, the condition afflicts “one in 25 ordinary Americans” who “secretly have no conscience and can do anything at all without feeling guilty.”

“Stout details the havoc sociopaths wreak on unsuspecting individuals, marrying for money, backstabbing co-workers, or simply messing with people for the fun of it,” wrote Sara Eckel of Salon.

Taking a broader look at what has become of American culture, however, it is as if the inmates, the sociopaths, have taken over the asylum, or that our culture has become predisposed to reward sociopathic behavior such that it is spreading its influence to infect the behaviors of many more than a mere four percent of the population.

Does this explain Donald Trump? Perhaps, but only as one manifestation of what has sadly taken over much of the leadership and rank-and-file of an entire major political party in this country.
The enemy of the sociopath is empathy. The preferred victim of the sociopath is a highly empathetic person. The sociopath knows almost instinctively how to spot such persons and feed on them.

As the “personal empowerment” movement of the 1970s was unleashed upon American culture to subvert the potent civil rights, feminist, gay liberation and anti-war movements of the 1960s, varieties of cultish brands of ideologies arose aimed at rooting out empathy as a personal weakness in favor of an alternative sense of self rooted in a form of fantasized Nietzschean emotion-free “superman.”

After World War II, it became paramount among the circles of the elites in this land to stamp out the residue of the Roosevelt presidency’s social and labor reforms and turn the nation away from a strategic alliance with the Soviet Union in favor a “Cold War.”

This effort took the form of assailing Hollywood script writers and playwrights, to effectively unleash a reign of terror against empathy, itself, as the target. The FBI singled out the 1947 film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the Hollywood, 10 were blacklisted, and the campaign spilled over into Washington, D.C. itself with the McCarthy hearings.

In the wake of this came the continued crusade to insist as acceptable overriding themes in TV and the movies only family-centered or localized morality, on the one hand, and a sociopathic self-centered individualism and rejection of empathy, called “postmodernism,” on the other.

This is the cultural sickness that President Obama’s exhibition of empathy Tuesday has now challenged us all to take on.