Where Have I Heard This Before?

Alan Zendell, March 20, 2017

Echoes of déjà vu and familiarity have been bouncing around in my head for almost two years now. Today, I happened across a brochure from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, titled ODD, or Oppositional Defiant Disorder.


The brochure states that the most common behaviors associated with ODD are defiance, spitefulness, negativity, hostility, and verbal aggression. I knew I’d seen those things before, along with lack of respect for others, insensitivity to people’s feelings, and a less than casual relationship with the truth. It’s not that my memory was failing; it’s been thirty years since I had adolescents living under my roof.

From the moment Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president, twenty-one months ago, the image that most often popped into my mind after watching one of his rants was that of a petulant five-year-old throwing a tantrum, superimposed on memories of older children who always found someone else to blame for whatever went wrong in their lives.

Do you remember how your teenagers reacted to being caught doing something they knew they shouldn’t? There may have been a dozen eye-witnesses, all reporting exactly the same story and irrefutable physical evidence all pointing in the same direction. Were you shocked to hear, “I didn’t do it” and “They’re all lying”? And honestly, in the face of all that evidence to the contrary when you looked into those earnest, unrepentant eyes pleading for understanding, weren’t you, too looking for every excuse to believe them?

And even when you had no choice but to accept the obvious conclusion, didn’t you fervently believe clichés like “bad actions aren’t the same as bad kids” and “they’ve learned their lessons” and most seductive of all, “have patience, wait and see, they’ll grow out of this phase”. Fortunately, that was most often true when we were dealing with fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds. But as more and more people are coming to realize, seventy-year-old men don’t change. They are who they are.

Imagine a sixteen-year-old boy hauled before a Board of Education review board, sitting in plain sight of everyone texting offensive comments to his friends. Now imagine a sitting president watching his FBI and NSA Directors testify before Congress. He hears them refute every charge he has made against his political enemies, and during their testimony he tweets more delusional nonsense which the news media run on crawl lines at the bottom of the screen showing the hearings. Which image looks worse?

It’s interesting that Trump’s latest tweet storm, while the testimony was in progress, occurred after Gallup announced that his approval rating after almost sixty days in office was only 37%, with 58% disapproving. The fact that only 5% of the people polled couldn’t make up their minds is as damning as the approval numbers. To put that in perspective, no President in the history of approval ratings has ever seen his numbers drop below 50% after sixty days until now. And that was before the hearings. I’ll go out on a limb and wonder what his rating will be tomorrow and the next day.

I started this blog with the intention of being objective. I continually hear people say, “Give him a year and see what he can do.” But they were the same people who said political campaigns are vicious and horrible, and once he’s in office you’ll see a change in his behavior. The reason he hasn’t been given the benefit of a honeymoon period is that his behavior has been so awful. Outside of his core base, the rest of America is becoming more horrified every day. Just like in the campaign, policy and the real issues America faces have been drowning in Trump’s cult of personality. We can’t wait for him to grow up.

We really can’t afford to wait even a year. By the way, Happy Spring.

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