Steve’s prized possession is a picture of him shoulder to shoulder with trash talk-show host Maury Povich, taken on set after Steve finished a cringe-worthy guest appearance any sane person would spend a lifetime trying to forget. But he didn’t. He bragged about it, and often. It was his 15 minutes.
After Steve married into my family in the late 90s, he became my first brush with pure, unfiltered narcissism, and that education would later shape my understanding of Donald Trump. That ridiculous picture of Steve and the shock-jock hung in the front room of the house, in a place that made it impossible to miss, much like the fake Time magazine cover that Trump hangs in his hotels. Portrait size with a gaudy gold frame. Entering his home means seeing it. Meeting him means talking about it. There’s no escape, and no other subject but him. Hours and hours and hours about him. It’s exhausting. Had Steve been born into wealth instead of mediocrity, he might have been President of the United States instead of a small-town convenience store owner. After all, he and Donald Trump are psychological cousins, or so it would seem.
First, it’s important to understand that narcissism, if that is indeed the correct term to use, is not a binary state; it is a matter of degrees. For example, if I’m at a coffee shop on a busy morning, I may treat the person running the register as a role rather than a person. I’m typically friendly, but anyone can be burdened enough to simply want their coffee without making any new friends. After all, I’m usually busy with a lot on my mind and often with somewhere to be. However, if that cashier were to be in distress, perhaps fall down, or cry for some unknown reason, I possess the ability to immediately switch off that self-centeredness and address the needs of another human being by offering to help him up or comfort her at a time of need. But Steve, and the President of the United States – they do not possess this ability, so that cashier is always just a cashier, always the role and never the person, regardless of the circumstances. This inability to recognize humanity extends to every relationship in their lives.
I was once accused of being a narcissist myself by a vegan friend of mine. I didn’t agree, but the argument made a lot of sense. It went like this: Many people believe that their pets have souls. I am among them. When pressed, most people will extend this belief to other animals, including cows, pigs, even chickens in many cases. So, to eat meat we all must find a way to justify the conditions in which animals are raised, kept and eventually slaughtered so we can eat a tasty burger. We must admit that we brutally mistreat creatures that feel pain and have souls, and we set aside those souls because, in the end, we like meat. Now, this argument didn’t turn me into a vegan, but it has stayed with me, and over the years, I’ve never been able to counter it, but I make a conscious choice to ignore it every time I go through a drive thru. And while I could make the argument that mine is a lesser injustice, many would disagree, and each would have proper cause to do so.
Regardless of the form it takes, the mechanism is the same. Everyone can find a way to justify some form of cruelty in order to get what we want, yet most of us are capable of feeling repulsed by levels of inhumanity we find extreme. Most, but not all. To Steve, we all exist simply to please him, which is why he inserts himself into every conversation and treats those around him like trash. Steve has a higher tolerance for inhumanity. He simply doesn’t know any other way to interact with people. In fact, we’re not even people; we’re just mirrors he uses to admire himself and extract praise.
If Steve were president, I have no doubt he’d cage children at the border if he thought it was good for him or sell us out to the Russians for personal gain. Of course he would promote vile conspiracy theories if it brought him the adoration he so desperately needs. And if he told us to drink bleach, and someone died as a result, he’d never make the connection between the two things because the dead person isn’t real to him; 100,000 dead people aren’t real to him. This is what we must understand about Steve, and about Donald Trump.
To men like these, we’re all just meat.
Contributing Editor: Brett Pransky
Brett Pransky is a rabid humanitarian with a sharp pen and a graduate degree in Rhetoric - a truly dangerous animal. His natural habitat is the halls of Ohio University, but he can be found on Twitter now and again as well, @BrettPransky.