Twilight of American Sanity: A Psychiatrist Analyzes the Age of Trump
“Tighten your belt, gird your loins, read this book, and have the guts to see beyond our own delusions. If so, we may be just in time to save the world for our children and grandchildren.”
Twilight of American Sanity is a hard-hitting, pull-no-punches read about our times in the 21st century. Written by a well-known and respected psychiatrist, the text discusses the plights of society and suggests some solutions, albeit difficult ones.
From the very beginning of the text, there is no doubt about the political leanings of the author. He is highly critical of Donald Trump and his cabinet appointees, but this is not the author’s primary focus. He postulates that our current political leadership is the result of ingrained distortions not the cause of them. As a society we simply have been unwilling to see our country as it is, not what we might like it to be. Calling these distortions “societal delusions,” he cites 14 of these distorted beliefs, including:
- The United States can bully other countries into doing what it wants
- Trickle down economy benefits most people when the rich get richer
- There will be a high tech fix for our overuse and pollution of the Earth’s natural resources
- Climate change either does not exist or is not important
Others areas are cited such as overpopulation, healthcare in the United States, American nationalism, the dissolution of privacy, and gun proliferation.
Left-leaning readers will likely cheer and say, “It’s about time that a learned person tells it like it is societally and politically.” Unfortunately, rightward leaning citizens may be quickly put off by the disparagement of the Trump administration, leaving the real message of the book—our societal delusions—unread. This is unfortunate since in today’s polarized political society, the concerns raised will require cooperation and hard work by individuals of all political persuasions.
Prominent sections of the book focus on why Trump won the election and less on why Clinton lost. In an effort to make the book “fair and balanced” the author investigates the mentality and economic state of Trump supporters. He has the gravitas for his assessment to be taken seriously; however, this does not truly make the book politically balanced since a liberal agenda permeates throughout.
As a psychiatrist, Frances looks deeply into the personality of Donald Trump and why his administration has the potential to be disastrous for our country and potentially the world with the following quotes:
- Trump is just a superficial symptom, not the underlying disease—just the clownish face of the sinister and well-organized radical right.
- The Trump appointees are “a rogue’s gallery of fools and knaves.”
- Trump is pleasure principle embodied—reality and truthfulness be damned. He has the attention span of a gnat, the temper tantrums of a two-year-old, the impulsivity and grandiosity of a teenager
Politics aside, this book is a must read. The author deserves significant credit for daring to write a book with marked political themes in these days of acrimony and polarization. Reading the text itself without using a lens of conservative or liberal glasses is difficult because the author’s descriptions are unvarnished (some would say totally biased) and ever present.
As the author suggests, the solutions to our dilemmas do not involve presidential impeachment since the root of our problems lies much deeper in our psyches and our civilization. His suggestions can be accomplished on an individual basis, such as increasing our happiness through finding meaning, acceptance and gratitude in our lives. We all can begin to accept the premise that “less is more” when it comes to happiness and consumption.
Caring for our body and our mental health are perhaps the most important things that will maximize our happiness. On a societal level, Frances underscores the need for cooperation, respect for the environment, solidification of civil rights and acceptance of the premise that we are truly all one family who must work together to sustain nature and our planet.
Similar to looking in the mirror to see who we really are as a person, Frances asks us to do so as a country and the civilization. Tighten your belt, gird your loins, read this book, and have the guts to see beyond our own delusions. If so, we may be just in time to save the world for our children and grandchildren.