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Dr. Martin Luther King’s Continuing Challenge: the Need for a Revolution in Values

January 17, 2017

January 22, 2013


[I have been reposting this for several years on MLK Day because it remains timely and gets to the heart of America’s dilemma. In 2015 American military forces dropped over 26, 00 bombs on Muslim-majority countries. Imagine our reaction if they had one that to us! Ye Americans persist in this fantasy of fake innocence: “what did we ever do to them?” while continuing to invade, bomb, disrupt, undermine other countries and kill thousands, if not millions their people.]

Annual observances of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day tend to focus almost exclusively on the struggle for juridical equality for southern blacks. Since blacks in the south can now vote, serve on juries, use the public libraries, darkling’s cause is now portrayed as over, as history, safely consigned to the past. They ignore his broader vision, his sweeping vision of the ongoing need for what he called “a radical revolution in values.” This year, I thought I would remind everyone of the broad, continuing challenges he issued to America, challenges that still resonate today, that are indictments of the contemporary status quo in America and the world. In 1967 he warned, “When machines or computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme nationalism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” That is from his magnificent speech at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before he was assassinated. All the quotations in this piece are from that speech, which John Lewis and others considered his single best, most substantial speech.

“I knew I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today–my own government.”

(During 2016 the U.S. government dropped more than 26, 00 bombs on seven nations with Muslim majorities. Imagine the reaction if they had done that to us).
“If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read: Vietnam.”
“How can they trust us, when now we charge them [the Vietnamese] with violence, while we pour every new weapon of death into their land?”

The US invasion of Vietnam under a false flag resulted in three million deaths and destabilized all of Southeast Asia, paving the way for the rise of the Khmer Rouge, a bloodthirsty regime ultimately put down by the communist NVA,  not  the “freedom-loving” Americans))
“They must see Americans as strange liberators.” [Said of the Vietnamese but obviously applicable now to Iraqis, Afghans, Libyans, Somalis, etc.]
[On how war is brutalizing and traumatizing American soldiers]: “We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know…that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved.”

“There is nothing but a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering of our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.”
“If we do not act now, we shall surely be dragged down that long, dark, and shameful corridor of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.”

“A nation that continues, year after year, to spend more money on military defense that on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
Not surprisingly, none of these quotes were chosen for the new MLK monument on the Tidal Basin, across from the Jefferson Memorial. A little too much ‘sting’ in them, obviously. But read them again. Who can say he was not a prophet? A prophet for 21st century America as well as for the 20th century. He is a man of the present and the future, not of the past.

A sound recording and the printed text of his 1967 Riverside Church speech can be found at
the entire, detailed exposition of the speech is well worth reading or hearing in its entirety.



Bye=bye Obamacare!

December 9, 2016

Bye-Bye Obamacare!

Bye-be Medicare!

Bye-bye Medicaid!

Bye-bye Social Security!

Oh wait! That last one won’t be abolished. It will just be…”reformed”…”restructured”…”strengthened”..And  “privatized”: the $2.6 trillion  dollar surplus it has generated since 1935 will  transferred to the Wizards of Wall street, the ones who brought up the Crash of 2008, to play Casino Capitalism with. And with Dodd-Frank and all regulatory obstacles repealed, think what unlimited prosperity that infusion of trillions will bring about! As they say in Las Vegas, if you don’t play you can’t win!

We will finally “get off government dependency” and get on corporate dependency which is so much better. You can individually negotiate with the giant health insurers to get coverage. Show them your discount coupons (“voucher”)! It might get you 10% or even 30% off your $500 monthly insurance premiums or  that much of a discount on  your open-heart surgery, or that treatment your children need. The Magic Voucher is your Key to Real Freedom! Think how great that will be!

Donald Trump: What Malignant Narcissism Looks Like

November 2, 2016

“The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior”

Note: This does not pretend to be a formal psychological evaluation. While I am a 30-year veteran mental health professional who has assessed, evaluated,  diagnosed and treated many hundreds of clients and who was for a number of those years particularly interested in the special challenges of working with people with personality disorders, I free admit this is an informal series observations and thoughts based entirely on Donald Trump’s public behavior and is based on public records of his words and deeds.

There is normal narcissism(AKA healthy self-esteem), there is  the attention-seeking show-off always seeking an admiring audience (often harmless & entertaining), there is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (301.81 in DSM-5) where  arrogance, entitlement, grandiosity, exaggeration and pretense, a lack of empathy, a need for constant  admiration and  constant confirmation of his/her superiority, demanding constant stroking of his/her inflated self-image (called ‘narcissistic supplies’), dominates a person’s life and interpersonal  behavior. Ironically the narcissist doesn’t really love himself or herself. They love a false self-image not grounded in reality. They are not self-sufficient lone wolves—they need a circle of fawning admirers. Narcissists rarely seek help from metal health professionals: there is nothing wrong with them, only with other people of failing to see their superiority and uniqueness and failing to appreciate how lucky they are to be subjected to his narcissist displays. Such displays and harangues are often seen as unselfish gifts his audience should be grateful to receive.

Do you know anyone like that?

Then there is Malignant Narcissism when a sever NPD is also infused with traits of malice and of paranoia. These latter traits tend to make the person much more dangerous and destructive. Such a person will see anyone who doesn’t obey him, continually feed her and reinforce his/her grandiosity, as disloyal traitors or vicious enemies. Anyone who criticizes him or her will be seen as a sadistic enemy, bent on destroying him, threatening his status and entire identity. Paranoia often leads to murder and other forms of violent attack, believing they are engaging in necessary self-defense against an imagined threat. Any attempt to get them to question their perceptions gets you labeled one of “them,” the evil conspirators trying to destroy them.

Sound familiar?

“Always seek revenge” is ax central theme in Trump’s book Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life. In public speeches Trump also forcefully advocates trusting no one, especially good employees. “Be paranoid, he preaches. David Cay Johnston recounts a striking example of this behavior in his recent bestseller, The Making of Donald Trump, involving an unnamed female employee he employed for years then fired when she declined a directive from him saying she felt that would be an unethical. Did Trump care about ethics? No. Not content to fire her, Trump brags of waging an ongoing campaign of degradation and malicious depictions of her to others. “I went out of my way to make her life miserable,” Trump boasted.
When someone offends you or annoys you, “Screw them back fifteen times harder!” he crows. At a 2000 speech in Loveland, Colorado, he spent much of his time denigrating former wives and employees, calling one former wife “as ugly as dog” and sneering “I love losers because they make me feel good about myself.”

These are Trump’s own words. His own unforced behaviors. He not only admits to them, and brags about them but he also advocates that everyone do the same, offering himself up as a role model. An insatiable thirst for revenge against real or imagined slights appears to be an organizing principle of his life, one of his guiding tenets.

In his book Johnston makes the important point that Trump’s only real value in interpersonal relationships appears to be blind, total loyalty to him. That is the supreme value: unquestioning obedience and continual flattery. Not only are empathy and integrity missing but so also is respect for truth, ethics, the law, and standards of honesty and common decency. Johnston points out that total and blind obedience to the will of the great leader is the mindset of a mob boss or dictator. Are self-styled “values voters” blind to this?

Megyn Kelly’s “crime” against The Donald was to ask him a question he didn’t want to answer. For that he raged at her for over a week, heaping sneering contempt, a stream of smears, and blatantly dishonest characterizations on her head. When newsmen asked why, he replied that she had attacked him. Therefore he was entitled to defend himself by any means necessary. Paranoid people always claim to be attacking in self-defense against a vicious, unwarranted attempt to destroy them: “I have to bring her down before she brings me down!”

A huge sense of entitlement is another defining trait of intense narcissist. “I have a right to have my own way all the time! If I don’t get it someone is cheating me! I’m going to identify that person and kick their ass!”It is horribly unfair if I don’t get my way all the time. It means I’m being robbed, victimized, deprived of what is rightfully mine!!” Failure or frustration is never acceptable or fair. It is never the narcissist’s fault and never just. While usually unspoken, this underlying attitude usually isn’t hard to detect.

Such personalities arrogate to themselves the right not only to be somewhat of a law unto themselves but to define reality for others. In their minds, they are the final judge of what is truth, facts, evidence, justice, and reality itself. So they believe. Denial is pervasive:

“If I don’t recognize it, it doesn’t exist”

“If you can’t make me confess, I didn’t do it”

“If I refuse to see it is not there (or not real)”

“You can’t possibly be aware of something I am not aware of”

“No one knows better than I do!”

“I have the final word on everything!”

“Racism isn’t racism if I don’t call it that!”

“Lying isn’t lying if I don’t call it that!”

Of course, denial is a dysfunctional defense mechanism. The person is denying reality which does not change the reality. But intensely narcissistic types can be extremely self-absorbed, believing their view is reality itself.  They may seem t o be incapable of reflection or self-questioning. They are only interested in others’ views when those views can be sued to bolster his own.

The flip side of denial is “Whatever I assert to be true is true.”  Passionate assertion makes it true! The world is what I say it is! They recognize no standards of truth or falsehood outside of their own ego. They may act like someone with godlike powers (“God said ‘let there be light’ and there was light” Genesis 1:3). The world has no independent existence. “The world is what I say it is because I say it is!” I impose my omnipotent will upon the world.  This may help us see the overlooked meaning of the title of Leni Riefenstahl’s 1934 Nazi propaganda film “Triumph of the Will.”   The leader’s aggressive self-assertion overwhelms truth and reality and redefines those terms.

There is much more to b said on the subject of malignant narcissism but I will only mention two more characteristics:

“Headline knowledge,” meaning the orator appears knowledgeable, articulate, persuasive and well-ironed until a closer look (and perhaps a probing question or two)   reveals no real understanding, no depth, systematic thought, only bombastic platitudes, slogans, clichés, buzzwords and empty exhortations. Sam Harris has a number of short videos on You Tube analyzing Trump’s thought processes, arguing that how a person talks reveals how he thinks. I recommend them to you.

Finally, intensely narcissistic people often have a love for apocalyptic fantasies of total destruction and annihilation. They may become fascinated win the Book of Revelation or Apocalypse; a book Harold Bloom noted was full of vengeful resentment not love, and devoid of wisdom. goodness, kindness, or affection. They may long for some apocalyptic war, probably beacons they see the world as only an extension of themselves and cannot imagine that he universe will go on after they are gone.

Malignant Narcissism is not a “disease” or an “illness” but a character disorder, a warping and distortion of the personality and character. They rarely want to change, attempts at change often fail, and many mental health experts consider them untreatable.  Prognosis for serious change is poor.

Trump’s politics is another topic for another day. However it is fascinating to understand how much his personality nd character determine his politics

Donegal Descendant

(please excuse my typos. My sight is fading and spell-check isn’t always reliable.).

12/22/16 update: I am delighted to see more and more well-respected psychologists and psychotherapists taking up the theme of malignant narcissism with regard to Donald Trump.  They include Ross Rosenberg, Steven Buser & Leonard Cruz in their book A Clear and Present Danger Dan P. McAdams’ long article in   The Atlantic, and several articles appearing on I can take no credit for their work but it’s good to see others elaborating on what I wrote and saying it better than I can. It is good to know I’m not a voice crying alone in the wilderness.

The point if not to stigmatize Donald Trump with a DSM-V label but to lay bare the psychological drives that always determine his actions much  more than any political agenda or “philosophy.”

Also to resist pressure to “normalize” what is blatantly abnormal and unprecedented.

Lament of the Neo-Confederates

July 18, 2015

“Those Yankees took our slave away and we’ll never forgive them for that! Boo hoo!, Feel sorry for us!”

“Even after the war was over they still didn’t give us our slaves back! That’s no fair!”

“That’s why we have been posing as Angry Victims for 150 years now.
Angry self-pity is our stock in trade. It is the fuel that keeps our engines running, our outrage going. It is what defines us. We have built our whole identity around this [Big Lie] so we can’t give it up now!

“Now you want to take away White Supremacy, the only thing we have left! How can you be so cruel?”

(this is really the heart of the matter)

Southern Ramblings and Rumblings

June 28, 2015

Random, rambling thoughts in the wake of the Charleston church massacre.

Will the walls come tumbling down…finally?

I guess we have to specify which of dozens of walls. No doubt some will crumble, others will be breached but still standing, others will survive apparently untouched…

In the 1964 elections the white South abruptly defected to the Republican Party because the democratic candidate, Lyndon Johnson signed a rather modest Civil Rights bill into law. Shortly after the election I heard a woman active in Bay Area Friends of SNCC asked bob Moses what he thought the “emergence of a two-party system in the South meant” for the future. Moses replied he dint’ think there was a two-party system emerging. The election just “shows the [white] South would rather vote along racial lines than party lines,” that maintaining racial barriers trumps any other loyalty. That much was obvious from the recent election. He was right, right from the start….

Now the Southern Nostalgia Industry stands intellectually and morally bankrupt, unable to hide behind the fig leaves of “heritage” and “legacy.” We have a right to ask any white Southerner who uses the words “legacy” or “heritage”: what exactly is the content of the legacy or heritage you cherish and celebrate? When you eliminate nostalgia for slave society, the Confederate cause, and an ongoing commitment to White Supremacy, what is left to celebrate? I want to know what’s left. Tell me. I’m willing to listen but right now all I can imagine is food and drink recipes—mint julep and various ways to cure and cook pork….

Will commitment to the Southern Strategy hurt the GOP? There is no more denying this is all about racism and White Supremacy. The mask has fallen, no matter how much Fox news, Rick Perry, or president McConnell of the College of Charleston may want to pretend otherwise. The denial has finally broken down.  “If you have to lie to make your point then you don’t have a point,” a wise man or woman once said. They’ve got nothing but lies lieft.

The local college president spoke out against changing street names and taking down statues to KKK men and Confederate leaders, saying it was an attempt to “rewrite” or “erase history.” But was de-Nazification in Germany an attempt to pretend it didn’t happen? Clearly not. Germans don’t pretend the Nazi Era didn’t happen. They just don’t celebrate as their “legacy” and “German heritage.”

As a Westerner, not a Southerner, I don’t want to sound self-righteous.  Plenty of racism and White Supremacy scattered around the whole USA.. Even many anti-slavery whites objected to slavery as unfair competition to free labor but had no sympathy for black people as people.  There were the horrible Draft Riots of 1863 involving lynching in NYC and the burning of a black orphanage. At its inception the State of Oregon banned both slavery and black people from entry. Reconstruction ultimately failed because Northerners were racist, too.  I recently learned that here on the Western Slope of Colorado there were “sundown” signs and ordinances in towns like Montrose and Delta warning any black people to be out of town before nightfall.  This continued through the 1950s at least, I am told.

That said, you would be hard pressed to find a defeated side in a major civil war treated as gently and leniently as the defeated Conferees were. There were not treason trials. All that was demanded of them was promise not to rise up in armed treason against the USA again. And their full citizenship rights were restored. Everyone from textbooks, Hollywood, television to Ken Burns had whitewashed reality—literally whitewashed it– to coddle  the white Southerners’ tender sensibilities and indulge their illusions. Isn’t it time for that to stop?

There Is Noting “Senseless” About The Racist Murder Spree in South Carolina

June 21, 2015


Given that South Carolinian was the birthplace of the Confederacy, where the War of Southern Aggression in defense of Slavery and White Supremacy started and where even today that “heritage,” that cherished “legacy.” legacy is celebrated, glorified, and reaffirmed every day, the killings were not senseless. In context they make perfect sense.

Given that while white America had to finally give up slavery—tardily, being the18th of 20 Western Hemisphere nations to do so– it has never given up white supremacy, and therefore black people must repeatedly be forcibly reminded they are never safe but always vulnerable, even in church, in America, his behavior is in no way “senseless.”

Given that this resentful, feckless young white man, dissatisfied with his station in life, felt threatened by black progress and had his head filled with the nonstop right-wing racist propaganda that hundreds of media outlets spew out 24/7 with the couscous intent of instilling endless fear, resentment,, rage and thirst for revenge, there is nothing senseless about his actions. They ere the normal consequence of the world view he allowed himself to be immersed in.

It appears he was well within the mainstream of his family, peer group, and community in his attitudes, feelings, beliefs. He was not seen as a misfit, as abnormal, extreme or as strange and “different.” He and his mentality fit right in even if his cohorts didn’t act out as he finally did.
Tragically his behavior was thoroughly embedded in a deep-rooted American tradition.

Speaking as old white man and a 29-year veteran psychotherapist and mental health professional, Dylann Roof is no more “mentally ill” than a very large segment of white America is. There is not a case of individual psychopathology. Only people who remain stubbornly blind to the realist of racism and its consequences can belie this was not an act of malignant racial terrorism.

No, there was and is nothing “senseless” about this bloody massacre.

Is the “American Sniper” a Victim?

January 24, 2015

Is a sniper a victim?

Especially if he was a volunteer both for military duty and for training for a well-paid career position as a sniper?

When he becomes dehumanized, sociopathic, cynical, and shallow, mocks his victims as subhuman “savages” and “scum;” and works to impress people by bragging boastfully about how many people he killed without regret, and then solicits our sympathy as a victim of PTSD because readjusting to civilian life is difficult, does he merit our sympathy? Should we perceive him as poor unfortunate one?

Is he a victim? Who are the victims and who are the perpetrators? Is he a victim, a perpetrator? Both? Neither? Ares you sure?

Does he have (any) responsibility for who and what he has become?

Should we admire him? Celebrate him and thank him for his service? Are we in his debt?

On Colorado Public Radio I heard a bit of about Chris Kyle’s book and movie “American Sniper” after I’d already read on the internet about how many inventions, lies, and exaggerations his “true life story” contained.  One military man appeared to defend the film because he too had problems readjusting to civilian life. He defended his hatred and contempt for the enemy as “part of training. Dehumanize the enemy.”

Neither seemed to remember the old truism that you cannot dehumanize someone else without demonizing yourself. It is Christ Kyle not his targets that has become dehumanized. We used to know this. Fifty years ago degrading and dehumanizing others was clearly and easily recognized as revealing how diminished and degraded you yourself have become. “American Sniper” reveals more about Christ Kyle than it does about the people he targettted and killed. I suspect Chris Kyle doesn’t realize how revealing of himself his memoir is. That simple, obvious bit of folk wisdom seems to have disappeared in today’s frightened and angry America.

So many questions….perhaps he release of the movie is a good thing if it causes people to really reflect, really question the conventional wisdom and the surface view…if we cannot distinguish victims from perpetrators we cannot hope to have a moral and fully human understanding of events.

So many questions…

I am trying to start a discussion with this post, so fire away.