I’ve been struggling to find the words to write how I’m feeling recently. I know I should be engaging with the recent worrying events in the world but I have found myself avoiding the news, turning off the radio and trying not to click on the numerous stories about Donald Trump dominating my Facebook feed. I want to fall asleep and wake up in 4 years time when hopefully this is all over.
The thing is, I know Donald Trump intimately. I know how his fragile sense of self is built on a tower of grandiose nothingness – with him at the top and everyone else underneath. I know how his hatred of difference is driven by his secret real fear that he is actually not the man he proclaims he is. I know about his need to puff himself up so much that you could almost burst him with a pin – all this so that we might not notice the little boy that lurks within who doesn’t believe in himself at all. I know him because I lived with a narcissist for 18 years and I am terrified of what he might be capable of.
It’s tempting to laugh at Donald Trump. His ridiculous belief that he is the greatest, sexiest and most intelligent man to walk the planet would be laughable if he wasn’t the President of the USA and if it didn’t remind me of other infamous historical bigots. People have inevitably likened him to Hitler but Trump’s grandiosity is far more reminiscent of Mussolini who liked to boast of his superhuman athleticism and intellectual superiority. My ‘A’ level history teacher presented Mussolini as a comedic figure in European history, a buffoon who couldn’t even orchestrate a successful invasion of Abyssinia but did get the trains running on time. It’s almost easy to forget that his army of blackshirts terrorised and executed anyone who did not agree with their new political doctrine as he rose to power on a tide of hatred and fear.
It was also tempting to laugh at my Dad at times, my own personal narcissist who terrorised us on a smaller scale. For some reason known only to himself, my Dad had decided to remove the banisters from the stair case in our family home. Perhaps it was trendy in the 80s to have bizarre open plan stairs, but in any case, it just meant that he fell over them frequently whenever he was pissed, often landing on our poor dog. I would sit in the kitchen and giggle with my Mum about the ridiculous claims he would make in the heat of an argument. Not only had he played rugby for England but he had surfed on the great barrier reef and saved colleagues from being eaten by tiger sharks in Thailand. In the face of my exceptional academic performance he would often declare how intelligent he was, telling me that I took after him, despite his total lack of academic qualifications and his ongoing inability to pass his sergeant’s exam. On the day I got my ‘A’ level results (straight As), he couldn’t even bring himself to say ‘Well done’ but instead responded with the news that Newcastle United had won that day too.
At one point, in a fit of delusional paranoia, my father decided that his secret activities when he had served in the SAS meant that the IRA were now pursuing him, hence the need for us to check under the car with a mirror before we opened the doors. The sight of my father crying on the floor in a fit of drunken self-pity brought on by this imagined threat (he’d never even seen active service in the army as far as I knew) made me laugh too. What else could I do? Yes, it was easy to laugh.
However, he also served up episodes of violence on a regular basis and soon our conspiratorial giggles in the kitchen would turn to tears as we sought to protect ourselves from his rage. I once told him to ‘Shut up’playfully when we were playing a board game which was the biggest mistake I could have made. I kicked myself as it became clear I had lit the touchpaper and could only wait until his fragile ego exploded all over us once again. I had dared to speak to him in the way he regularly spoke to us, and even in jest, I had to be taught that it was unacceptable.
I recognise so much of my father in Donald Trump because they share the common traits of narcissism, which while amusing are also dangerous. A propensity for grandiosity, the ability to argue that black is white in all seriousness, and the belief that you are truly a special human being, are easy to spot. I laughed in secret at my Dad, just as people are laughing at Trump’s orange tan and ridiculous hair. His bizarre insistence that his inauguration parade was the ‘biggest one ever’ is just a demonstration of how twisted his view of reality is. I used to wonder if my Dad believed his own lies and I concluded that he genuinely did. The fact that Trump lied about his inauguration crowd isn’t the worrying thing, the fact that he believes his own bullshit is what we should be scared of. My father was a dangerous man but he didn’t have the nuclear button at his fingertips and could only wreak havoc on a small scale to those around him. Trump’s presidency is like waking up and finding out that my Dad is now in charge of the whole world – a prospect which is truly terrifying.