Americans are Many Things. Some Great and Some Horrible.
A recent article on Medium asked the question (and then semi claimed) that “most Americans are psychopaths.”
Dictionary.com defines this as a person with a psychopathic personality, which manifests as amoral and antisocial behavior, a lack of ability to love or establish meaningful personal relationships, extreme egocentricity, and failure to learn from experience.
The author of that article claimed that “maybe 10 to 20 percent of people” in America are not psychopaths (a random, arbitrary number) and that the rest of the country is.
Then he goes through and talks about the traits of a psychopath and gives extreme examples of the craziest types of people in the U.S. who fit the bill as proof that this means “most Americans are like this.”
I like this author. Much of what he writes contains insights that are relatively on point. I’ve read a lot of his stuff and find myself often nodding in agreement. I have no qualm with stating how terrible America is at the moment and how misguided and cruel a lot of Americans are, in numerous ways. I’ve recently read a bunch of books and a lot of news (The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The NY Times, TIME Magazine, etc) about this very topic. And if you scroll through my Medium feed, you will find a boatload of articles about how bad our country is and has become. So I see it, I get it, and I agree.
Here is a quote from the article (“Are Americans Psychopaths?”):
“How callous are Americans? They let their kids be shot in school — massacred, perhaps, is a better word — because they think carrying guns to Starbucks is a human right. They make each other beg strangers for pennies online for basic medicine, like insulin, because healthcare isn’t a human right. They put their own kids into “lunch debt,” which becomes “student debt,” which becomes “medical debt.” (As a result, the average American is now impoverished, dying in debt s/he can never repay, and that is how you get to Trumpism, because such people grow frustrated and hopeless, and then erupt in rage, as social bonds break, and old hatreds ignite all over again.) They exploit each other, working “jobs” which basically amount to being billionaire’s henchmen, demanding that their neighbors and colleagues pay their “debts” — which they can’t — or else. They dehumanize each other in every way imaginable, building a culture where pretending to have a perfect life on Instagram is showered with fame. They treat each other like dirt — and then go to weird mega-churches on Sunday, and pretend they’re fine and good and moral people.”
There are several reflections that are accurate and legitimate claims/insights in here.
All while some of it is also extreme, way overly simplistic (A+B must equal C with no nuance), and caricatured.
For instance, Americans do not “let” their kids be shot in school shootings so they can own guns. School shootings are the result of much built-up anger and toxic masculinity in a culture (America) that socializes men to be aggressive, to repress their emotions, and to hate women.
Easy access to guns is a huge problem. 60 percent of the suicides in the U.S. are with firearms. So one benefit of eliminating access to guns (and there are many), or at least making it way, way harder to get guns, would be a LOT of lives saved in people who then do not take their own lives with guns (note: it is rare that people substitute their preferred method of suicide with another one. Most of the time, people do not do this. If their means is removed, they do not attempt further).
Thus, the statement “Americans let their kids be shot in schools so they can bring guns to Starbucks” has been twisted a bit toward his own aim of strengthening his argument. Guns are not the only problem in school shootings, just like guns are not the main problem or cause in our skyrocketing suicide rates in America. They are a problem for sure, don’t get me wrong. I personally am against guns. But guns are not the central problem in these two issues.
Angry white men are the problem in school shootings.
And a culture that is unhealthy and not good to its citizens is the problem of rising suicide rates.
If guns were removed, yes, lives would be saved which is a crucial thing, BUT those problems would still remain.
The author is right that our healthcare system sucks and that most Americans will die in debt. This is a huge problem in the U.S. right now: debt. Here is a superb article all about that topic (what the face of debt looks like in America) that was in the New Yorker recently. I highly recommend it.
The author of the article is also right that all of this is how fascism is then invited into the picture. Because people grow frustrated and feel hopeless, they feel lost and at their wit's end and do not know where to turn, they feel resentment and rage, and then someone like Donald swoops in with lots of empty promises that sound great and all these angry, resentful, empty, hungry people lunge.
I can easily hop on the “here’s-why-Americans-are-terrible” train. Many Americans are corrupt and cruel, lacking empathy and intellect, and are shallow and narcissistic. We are a culture that is almost all for-profit and not at all for the well-being of our country’s citizens. A lot of Americans are inconsiderate, thoughtless, and even mean. Americans do not tend to be worldly either. They are frequently ignorant and closed off.
And yet, there are also a good amount of Americans who are not corrupt. Who are kind, empathetic, and as a result, are enraged and distraught by how dysfunctional and cruel our country has become.
There are many Americans who are intelligent, who read a lot, and who read legit, important, relevant things. There are a lot of Americans who are not narcissistic but are instead, humble, insightful, and hardworking. Those who act with the thought and care of others in mind. And who sees all of this clearly and find the current state of our country heartbreaking and disgusting. There are a great many Americans like this. I am one of them. I lived in Europe for four years and thus, I have a strong sense of comparison (between our country and another) that many Americans do not. And I would live in another country again, no question.
With all of this said, I can still say, though, that caricaturing our country and painting it in only its most extreme shades is not fully accurate.
Saying “most Americans are psychopaths” is like saying “most Germans are racist” or “most French people are cold.” It would be similar to remarking “most women are nurturing” or “most men are aggressive and stoic.” Such a remark is akin to the line of thought, “Germans are terrible people because the Holocaust happened there.” As though everyone living there is implicated and to blame for what a lot of bad people did. This is, of course, not true.
A lot of Americans are upset, angered, and heartbroken about what is happening here. Many of them would love to live somewhere else. Yet, for a lot of people, this is not a viable opportunity because of finances or other reasons. There are other Americans who want to stay because they feel an obligation not to desert their country. And then many have all their loved ones here. Therefore, just because someone lives in America does not mean they are ok with how things are going here, nor does it lump them in as a “psychopath.”
This is a nuanced, complicated thing that is not black and white. Choosing to leave where you live is one of the biggest decisions a person can make. Merely because one resides in America, it does not automatically make them one of the crazies.
America is not a good place right now. Many Americans are not good people. A lot of them lack empathy, are ignorant, racist, and cruel. Some of them are most certainly psychopaths. At the moment, our country is in a dangerous, precarious, concerning place. All of this is true. It is also true that a not insignificant number of Americans are caring, empathetic, intelligent, and are distraught and devastated by everything going on here.