Martes, 25 de Octubre de 2016
22:59 CEST.
US Elections

Toxic personalities and environments

Has it ever happened to you that, after having someone over, a fight broke out in the family? Or have you ever worked in a place and – without knowing why, when and how – the people there were engaged in a kind of constant and exhausting struggle?  Have you ever had a boyfriend or girlfriend that set you against your own family and friends? After hearing certain people talk, are you incensed, itching to hit someone, without knowing why and what for? 

For some years now there has been talk of individuals whose "skill" is being able to promote war, misunderstandings, and hostility between parties that, if not for them, would exist in harmony. Unlike the standard personality disorders, or psychopaths, "toxic" people, with personalities that are in some way disjointed, are facilitators, not direct causes, of disaster. They often go unnoticed at first. Such are their masks: it is others who cause problems, and they are the saviors.

The "toxins" are almost always injected into areas with some shortcoming or need, whether individual or social. The readiest example is that of peoples with low esteem, after wars or economic and social crisis; or lovers, who believe that their lover is almost doing them a favor by loving them. The toxin is typically defined by liberating and bombastic discourse that inflames and stirs, and, inducing the most incoherent delirium, incites people to blind action, fists raised. 

We Cubans know a lot about toxic characters because we have personally suffered at their hands over the course of history.  We have been poisoned to the point that we have not even loved ourselves, and sunk to viewing informing on our neighbors, or brothers, or parents, as a heroic act. And an exalted virtue has been to deny God and even relatives abroad, in order to prove politically trustworthy. Our Latin American counterparts have also suffered from similar toxicities. Everything seems to indicate that sickly institutions and ailing self-esteem are the tissues in which the venom spreads.  

Despite centuries-old democratic institutions, in these primary elections Americans may be suffering, for the first time, from a "toxic environment", according to John Kasich. The Republican candidate believes, as do many, that the perpetrator of this social poisoning has been Donald Trump. US presidential campaigns, ever since back when our Jose Martí masterfully described them, are tough, like boxing matches without gloves or ropes to soften them. But these kinds of clashes, sinking to the very lowest level, are unprecedented in the US. Perhaps the only thing like it was a distant Democratic campaign in the turbulent 70s.  

The other unique aspect of this presidential race is that the "toxic candidate" does not even represent, according to numerous colleagues, the Party's conservative values. In a sense, Trump is winning the nomination even as he runs against "classic" Republicanism, though he continues to insist that he is a Republican. This is another trait of toxic personalities: they swim against the current and impose their own rules. And we discover them too late. We do not evade their toxicity, but rather spread it by discussing their discourse, which is highly suggestive; there is always a grain of truth to their simple, direct rhetoric.  And people like that. It seduces them.

The only way to realize that we are under the effects of a toxic environment is to take stock of our own emotions and behaviors. If we are willing to follow certain men to our deaths, and even endanger our own families, those are the first symptoms. No man, no matter how brave or wise, deserves our unconditional surrender, beyond the institution or ideals that he represents. Whoever asks others to give over their hearts to "the cause" bears the unmistakable sign of the toxic leader.

Let's bear in mind that many "good Cubans" were part of the masses that once shouted "To the firing squad!" in cinemas, or at public trials. There may exist a kind of "moral zombie," people who are ethically dead, beating defenseless women and shouting obscenities in front of children. There are no substantial differences in the moral madness between those who attended, out of morbid curiosity, the lynching of blacks, and the guillotining of "counter-revolutionaries" who not long before were considered "revolutionaries." It's just a question of time and dose: less control of the masses  - let them do what they're going to do -and more toxicity.  

In the case in question it was a simple elbowing - dissimulated but with malicious intent - to the face of an African American. It is a devastating image which speaks for itself. The perpetrator, a Trump follower, with a cowboy look, pigtail, vest and hat, might be a "good citizen" who pays his taxes and loves his family. But with his action at the rally in Fayetteville (NC), it was as if he had struck all those who love and respect this country in the face. It is a red flag, warning us that something is very wrong. Hopefully we will take the anti-toxic antidote in time.