Derangements I have known

Once, I had a girlfriend who was deranged. This eccentricity was part of what appealed to me about her, at first. I became quite infatuated, until her infidelity cured me, and the apprehension of my own stupidity acquired greater emotional force. At nineteen, one’s judgement may not have matured, owing to inexperience, and hormonal “issues.” (I speak only for boys, of course, and hardly for all of them.) Now I am sixty-six. I still “fall in love,” but have learnt to take aspirin.

Be that as it may, my memory can still retrieve the sordid moments: those which gave me an earthly premonition of Hell. I should have known what I was getting into. Faced with temptation, however, I had neglected to flee. My own parents had warned me against girls like that, but I was of the adolescent, romantic temper.

This preface will provide context for a political observation. While, nearly fifty years ago, I was already accused of “conservatism” by my approximate contemporaries — I was, for instance, pro-American on Vietnam — I had not yet abandoned various “liberal” assumptions. One was the belief that if a lot of people felt something strongly, there must be something in it. They must have a reason. Perhaps they do: but it is more likely to be a psychological reason, than the piffle they cite.

Verily, I am now so old that I can remember some history. I can recall, for instance, “Nixon Derangement Syndrome.” It was manifested by my own girlfriend. Though hardly interested in politics — becoming a ballet dancer was more her thing — there was Watergate to contend with, just surfacing in the news. I was pro-ballet.

My views on Watergate were derived from an article in the French leftwing newspaper, Le Monde. They were, “If a French president did this, no one would bat an eye. Perhaps the Americans are incurably naïve.”

Still, I did not care for Nixon myself, one way or the other. My only serious objection to him, was his apparent eagerness to cut and run from Vietnam, and consort with Red China. I also thought he looked, “Tricky.”

But then my girlfriend had a breakdown. It was provoked by the mere sight of Nixon’s portrait — a photo on the front page of my copy of the New York Times. She began actually frothing, and exclaiming that he was, “The most evil man in the history of the world!” She became so excited that — as we were sitting in a respectable café — I did whatever I could to calm her. Nothing worked.

We had never discussed “Nixton” before. The diagnostic phrase, “Nixon Derangement Syndrome,” was not then available; but that is what I had been witnessing. It struck me that, in addition to knowing nearly nothing about the history of the world, she knew absolutely nothing about American politics. Her own thoughts on Nixon had been gathered from the air, the way one gets some other diseases.

Since, I have lived through “Reagan Derangement Syndrome,” “Bush Derangement Syndrome,” and most recently, “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” They have been very much alike, although this last seems most virulent. One wonders if the equivalent of a flu shot could be designed for this, for derangements are contagious, and potentially fatal.

There were other moments when I speculated that my girlfriend could benefit from escort in buckles to a padded cell, or from therapeutic electric shocks. But this was the first such event I had to deal with. By now, I wonder if half the population is in need of such restraints.