Two people much in the news recently -- Republican Presidential Candidate Donlad J. Trump and drunken vehicular manslaughter teenager Ethan Couch -- would appear to have much in common, when it comes to their basic psychological profiles. Both might well be termed "peas in the Affluenza pod."
In case you remain unfamiliar with Affluenza, it is an unfortunate term coined by a Texas psychologist to describe the condition where an excess of wealth and a deficiency in understanding basic human obligations leads to an alleged failure to understand the differences between right and wrong, i.e. between proper and very improper conduct. This novel "Affluenza defense" was used by his lawyers after teenager Ethan Couch killed four people, and injured many others, while driving drunk with three times the legal alcohol level and with traces of many drugs in his system hours after the fatal accident. It was claimed that Couch did not know what he did was wrong.
The judge in the Ethan Couch case, who later took early retirement, shocked the nation be sentencing him only to ten years probation providing he completed rehab and behaved properly during that period. After a video surfaced showing now-eighteen Ethan Couch at a drunken beer-pong party, he and his charming mother held a "going away" party and then skipped to Mexico, where they were found after ordering pizza on their cell phone. She has been returned to Texas, while Ethan Couch continues to fight extradition, for now.
You might ask what all of this has to do with leading -- for now -- Republican Presidential Candidate "Billionaire" Donald Trump, so consider similarities:
1) Both Couch and Trump take it as a given that their family wealth permits behavior not allowed to those of lesser affluence. After the fatal accident, Couch told his friends that his family would "handle things" without his having to suffer any real consequences. Trump's way of handling things is to make the most outrageous and abusive statements as his entire campaign, because he believes he has every right to do so, and because his knowledge is so very limited. Indeed, Trump calls himself "a winner", claiming that those who practice civil discourse are all "weak losers" -- and being a self-proclaimed winner supposedly allows Trump the right to invent his wild fantasies and to state outright lies as the truth, over and over again, ad infinitum.
2) Both Couch and Trump totally fail to understand that actions often have consequences which are not under under their control, and indeed are likely to haunt them for the rest of their lives. Even though the vagaries of Texas juvenile law may allow Couch to escape serious consequences of his fleeing the country and thus violating his probation, he cannot escape the callous way he killed four innocent people, and maimed others, haunting him for the rest of his life. Nor can Trump escape the callous way he has demeaned the entire political process in the United States, stooping to such low levels and behaving so obnoxiously that he has no respect outside of his misguided supporters.
3) Both Couch and Trump display many characteristics of sociopaths, who indeed cannot distinguish between right and wrong, cannot make sound fact-based judgments and decisions, and cannot behave in any appropriate manner relevant to situations-at-hand. For a teenager like Couch, years of therapy might lead to his rehabilitation -- at least, one can hope for this outcome. For Donald J. Trump, however, as he glories in his juvenile and rude behavior, one can only hope that 2016 will see the Republican Party come to its senses and reject his candidacy for the presidency, the sooner the better. And, while we are at it, America needs to reject the "Affluenza" theory once and for all: wealth is no excuse for bad behavior; if anything, obligations on the wealthy are higher because they have the capability to do more for society, not less. Think: Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.
Eugene Elander has been a progressive social and political activist for decades. As an author, he won the Young Poets Award at 16 from the Dayton Poets Guild for his poem, The Vision. He was chosen Poet Laureate of (more...)