A new friend whose son is deeply engaged in learning about and caring for snakes passed along to us a cautionary tale his son had told him. A woman had taken to napping with her pet snake, a constrictor, sharing the bed with her. It stretched out beside her, and she seemed certain it loved her in the way a dog might. Our friend said his son assured him the snake did not love the woman or feel any affection for her whatsoever but was more likely sizing her up as potential food. One can hope only that either the snake stopped growing or the woman wised up before it grew big enough to strangle and swallow her.
A snake is a reptile and, the son explained, cannot love. It does not feel affection, is not capable of loyalty. It simply is not in the nature of a snake to care about a human except as threat or food source (one way or another).
After casting her vote not to convict, Senator Susan Collins explained that she believed Donald Trump would have been chastened by his impeachment and so have learned a lesson. Trump rejected her suggestion as offensive nonsense, insisting he had done nothing wrong and had no lesson to learn. It is not in the nature of Donald Trump to feel remorse, accept correction, or care about either the law or the well-being of others.
Our current president is said to be a malignant narcissist, and that mental illness is said to be incurable, at least currently. The descriptions I have read of malignant narcissism seem to fit disturbingly well. He does seem incapable of empathy with other humans, and he does seem to see everything in life as being all about him and only him or else irrelevant. The very idea of remorse for something hurtful he has done offends him.
In the final confrontation between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort, J. K. Rowling’s protagonist and chief antagonist, Harry warns the Dark Lord to try for some remorse because Harry has seen what Voldemort will become if he does not. The Dark Lord exclaims, “What is this?” and then makes his move to kill Harry. For him, remorse is unthinkable. It is not in his nature but contrary to all he has become as he has grown less and less human and more like a snake.
Donald Trump is a human being, not a snake, but seems to lack the most essential human qualities and capabilities. He evidences no empathy and, therefore, no compassion. Everything is continuously and embarrassingly all about him, and he requires constant and extravagant praise upon which to feed his ego. He exalts revenge as though it were an honorable virtue and delights in it.
Theologically, I must insist Trump is not beyond redemption, even if the psychiatrists are correct that his condition is (currently) incurable. I can pray for his healing even though seeing how healing can come is far beyond me. What I think is clearly dangerous is to imagine that, by experience or his own conscience, he will learn to be a better man and a better president. He will not. His condition is tragic, but for now the tragedy is not his alone but our nation’s and, because the United States wields so much power, also the world’s. Therefore, my prayers for his healing must come second to my prayers for our deliverance from his power.