Paul Andersen: Caligula in the White House
Somebody needs to check the plumbing in Trump Towers. Lead pipes, for sure. How else to account for the demented antics of the president?
The New York Times is equally concerned. An editorial last week suggested that Donald Trump is just plain nuts. A clinical diagnosis isn’t necessary, assured the Times, because crazy people have always held positions of power.
The proof that certifiable lunatics have infiltrated leadership roles lies in the fact that humanity is courting its own extinction through the combined threats of nuclear annihilation, climate change and the Trump presidency.
The early Romans had to cope with a similar problem. One of their emperors, Caligula, suffered dementia and developed a sensational track record for strange behaviors that deeply concerned the Roman senate.
At one point, Caligula wanted to nominate his horse as a senator. Seriously. His favorite horse, Incitatus, was to assume a seat in the Roman senate until the emperor realized that Incitatus would be uncomfortably stabled in the confining halls of governance.
Caligula eventually built Incitatus his own horsey house, complete with a marble stall and ivory manger where he and his mount no doubt carried on like Wilbur and Mister Ed.
Naming a horse to the senate isn’t really so far-fetched considering that clueless, amoral Republican U.S. senators — co-conspirators of Trump — while they aren’t horses, are certainly asses.
But Caligula was no laughing matter. Instead of having a big, red nuclear button on his desk, Caligula had command of Roman legions and the military power of the greatest empire the world had ever known.
What Trump and Caligula have in common is self-deification — believing they are gods. Caligula insisted he be addressed as a god. In Rome, he had the heads of statues of gods removed, with likenesses of his own mortal head stuck on in their place.
In 39 AD Caligula led military campaigns as far as the Rhine and the English Channel, but instead of actual fighting, he preferred theatrical displays. At one point he ordered his troops to “plunder the sea” by filling their helmets with shells.
Caligula became known for saying, “Remember that I have the right to do anything to anybody.” He amused himself at the expense of high-ranking senators by making them run for miles in front of his chariot. He flaunted his affairs with the wives of his allies and was rumored to have had incestuous relationships with his sisters.
To assuage concerns of his fitness for office, Trump recently submitted to a physical examination and quipped to reporters: “It had better go well, otherwise the stock market will not be happy.” Trump’s measure of a successful presidency evidently rests solely on the Dow Jones.
Trump’s doctor called him overweight (i.e. fat), but unfortunately failed to proffer a psych evaluation. Meanwhile, various psychoanalysts have agreed that Trump personifies the “malicious narcissist,” described as follows:
“Often grandiose, and always ready to raise hostility levels, the malignant narcissist undermines families and organizations in which they are involved, and dehumanizes the people with whom they associate,” according to Wikipedia.
“Narcissistic personality disorder is often equated with the selfie-loving, shallow boaster who wears on your patience. Their behavior and mood are often dependent and driven by feedback from their environment. The impression they wish to make and the intense guarding of their fragile self-esteem are strong determinants of their actions and thoughts,” says Psychology Today.
Still, Caligula was more of a nut case than Trump, and he showed it by literally wallowing in luxury — “rolling around in piles of money and drinking precious pearls dissolved in vinegar.”
A leading psychotherapist agrees, stating that the president is not crazy but simply malevolent: “He’s a menace, an amoral clown, a mean, power-hungry bully — and, apparently, a perfect fit for the times.”
The Romans finally tired of Caligula. At a sporting event, a group of guards attacked and stabbed the crazed emperor more than 30 times. The senate ordered his statues torn down and restored the republic to more or less sane leadership.
If he wants a second term, Trump should take a lesson from Caligula: avoid lead pipes, pearl daiquiris, divine aspirations and sporting events.
Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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