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OPINION

Commentary: Coping with Trump traumatic stress disorder

Bill McCann
Contributing columnist
President Trump speaks during a rally protesting the electoral college certification of Joe Biden as president, Wednesday in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

My friend Vic thinks he has symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. He’s retired military, but his PTSD symptoms are not from the trauma of war, he says. It’s trauma from enduring the chaotic presidency of Donald Trump.                  

I’m not surprised. Many friends and acquaintances have complained that Trump caused them to feel added stress, worry and anger over the past four years. Trump shattered norms, danced around the Constitution, failed to lead, and tweeted lies with impunity. It took a toll. Some friends stopped watching the news. Others quit social media to avoid viewing Trump’s daily antics or avoid arguing with trolls who defended him. One said her hair was falling out. Another had anger issues with the TV. I call it Trump traumatic stress disorder.

I also found myself shouting at the TV when Trump appeared. His mouth was moving, so I figured he was lying. I often turned off the TV to avoid him and lower my blood pressure. I stopped engaging with Facebook trolls because maybe one of them lived nearby and owned an AR-15. I grew to hate the color orange. I’m not kidding.                                                                                                            

No matter how much we want Trump to go away, we know he won’t. And now we are learning the health damage Trump has done to Americans isn’t limited to his botching the COVID-19 pandemic. In interviews with Salon last year, Dr. Seth Norrholm, a neuroscientist and expert on PTSD, suggested Trump’s bad behavior resembled that of a domestic abuser. As a result, many Americans have symptoms similar to PTSD. While soldiers and others have developed PTSD from specific traumatic events, Trump-induced stress has been ongoing, especially for those who keep up with current events, according to Dr. Norrholm. Consequently, many of us could face long-term mental health issues, including anger and mood disorders.                                                                                                  

When I was a kid, my uncle, who fought in World War II, would dive behind the couch when a car backfired. I asked my mom why. She said he was shell-shocked from the war. I don’t pretend to have anything approaching the trauma my uncle and untold millions of service personnel, accident victims, and others have experienced over the decades. But it bothers me how Trump slithered into my psyche.             

I thought the stress would end when Joe Biden was elected president. Initially, I was relieved, exuberant. Then I stressed all over again watching reruns of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection incited by Trump. And again when I watched and read stories of trauma suffered by members of Congress and their staff when they feared for their lives during the insurrection.                                                

The national alert sent Jan. 27 by the Department of Homeland Security worried me too. The warning said domestic terrorists, with grievances “fueled by false narratives,” including the presidential transition, could mobilize to incite or commit more violence.                                                                            

I similarly stressed over the case of Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who got voted off two House committees last week for spouting outrageous conspiracy theories, and for indicating support for killing prominent Democrats.                                                                                                  

The problem is Looney Tunes Greene is not alone. There are numerous conspiracy-mongering Republicans scurrying around Congress. Nearly all House Republicans supported keeping Greene on the committees. Hours after the MAGA mob riot at the Capitol, 147 congressional Republicans voted to mess with Biden’s rightful election based in part on false allegations of widespread election fraud. Fortunately, they failed.                                                                                               

Meanwhile, millions of Republicans, including most members of Congress, continue to back Trump, even as his failed presidency has left behind a massive mess for Biden to clean up. Absent real Republican leadership, the radicals are becoming the party’s voice. That’s not good for Republicans or our stressed-out nation.                                                                                                                           

Bill McCann is a political columnist for the Bastrop Advertiser.