...8, 9, 10. Did you start with Mitt and Anne, Donny and Marie? Then maybe those handsome sons, Tagg and Craig and Matt and Trig and … oh, wait a minute, I think I’m mixing up Republican families’ photo props. Well, anyway, you know you’ve seen some Mormans in national politics and in entertainment, and there are probably Mormons in your workplace, school and community, but they are a small percentage. According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the US Religious Landscape Survey, Mormons are 1.7% of the adult population in the US. Though they are a small percentage, there are many of them and you can name some.
So what does 4% look like? It looks like the adults you know who are religious but not Christian. Four percent identify as religious and either Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, New Age, or a practitioner of a Native American religion. Combined, all these people make up 4% of adults in the USA. *
All of these people fit into our neighborhoods, contribute to our faith communities, and melt into the crowds in the auditoriums where family members turn out to watch graduations. Sometimes members of a particular four percent are identifiable at a glance such as a man wearing a yarmulke or a woman in a burka and this reminds us that though we are all human, we do not all believe the same things. And while we can accept that we do not believe the same, we always assume that other people share our basic moral code. This is a big mistake.
If you were able to name some Mormons and if you can name people you know who practice Judaism, you should be able to name as many people who fit into Sarah's 4%er club. So let's do that now. Name all the sociopaths you can.
How'd you do? Are you thinking:
Wait, what? Sociopaths? Nice people don't know sociopaths. My community has no sociopaths.
And, besides, it's mean to call someone that. That word shouldn't be thrown around lightly. It's only for Charles Manson, Adolf Hitler, and Osama Bin Laden and the school/mall/movie theater mass shooters.
Sarah Palin is a Christian who disagrees politically with Palin Place readers but to say she is like Charles Manson is crazy!
It’s hard to believe, I know. Only recently have I taken a serious look at this. What I learned is fascinating, frightening, and unforgettable.
This 4% of adults are free of the bonds of conscience, but you'd not guess it. They usually excel at mimicking emotions. They spend their developmental years memorizing the human emotional reactions of the rest of us and practicing deception. They become expert liars. They manipulate and they are not even suspected of doing so. They are believed, loved, pitied, admired, assisted, promoted, and all manner of good things come their way.
Most of us have no idea who these people are. We are not even sure we believe they exist.
It's almost impossible to imagine. How can the 96% of us with feelings imagine being someone who is not at all touched by the horrors of Newton and Aurora? It's like trying to imagine a new color in the rainbow. We can’t.
And what we don’t understand, we usually reject. Which, in this case, is a very dangerous thing. Failing to learn about and recognize sociopathic behavior, not protecting ourselves from them, and being unable to warn others about sociopaths in our midst has led to elections of people like Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz.
Elected sociopaths pose a danger for our country, our children and our grandchildren. They are unmoved by the stories of the parents of Newtown. They don't care if children have a diet of Twinkies and Big Gulps. They don't care if your loved one goes off to war based on a lie and comes home draped in a flag. They don't care about you and me. They don't even care about their own children. They simply cannot care about another human. Can not.
We can not trust them to make laws for us. And so we must go into this dark place, these dark minds, and shine a spotlight. We must dare to consider this, work to understand it, and when we have seen the threat is real, that this mental condition is an enemy out to destroy us as individuals and as a society, then, and only then, can we begin to protect ourselves and our country.
First, we must get up close and personal with the minds of the 4%.
Dr. Martha Stout, in the book The Sociopath Next Door, provides these seven characteristics, any three of which are enough to support a diagnosis of sociopathy:
- failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviours
- being deceitful and manipulating
- being impulsive
- being irritable or aggressive
- being unconcerned about the safety of the self or anybody else
- being consistently irresponsible
- being unconcerned and unremorseful for hurting or stealing
Sociopaths are found in all neighborhoods, all towns, all parts of the country. They become successful in business, they become teachers, one might be your doctor. Others are more benign simply because they never leave home. They find a host and become a parasite, living off mom and dad or the unfortunate person who fell in love with them. Certain traits of sociopaths work particularly well for ponzi-scheming investor/sociopaths and politician/sociopaths: glibness and superficial charm; manipulative and conning; grandiose sense of self; pathological lying, lack of remorse, shame or guilt; need for stimulation; callousness/lack of empathy; secretive; conventional appearance. Those traits work well in business, too. Sound like a boss you once had? If you have lived long enough and take enough new positions, you’ve met some along the way.
While people you and I talk to everyday would probably say flat out that they wouldn’t vote for a Muslim, they can’t even consider a suggestion that Ted Cruz, newly elected to the Senate, is a bigger threat to our society than a Muslim who is in the 96%.
We must learn to help others see it as a threat. Finally, we need to help others recognize sociopaths - our own local sociopaths.
After that, we with consciences, the 96%, need to vote our consciences. Our enlightened consciences.
Today is the beginning of a journey. Together we will explore sociopathy. Next week I will tell you about a sociopath I know very well. By telling you about her life, the people she has hurt, and her unexceptional existance, you might be better able to recognize sociopaths in your own lives. Please feel free to share your stories. Together we shall learn how to intelligently discuss this difficult, complex, and crucial subject.
We are only three years from another Presidential election. Somewhere there is a sociopath who would love to run. This is serious, folks. As serious as it gets.
* * * * * * * * *
* In the Pew survey, non-Christian turned up 4.7% in the Pew poll and I’m subtracting the .7 that are “Unitarian and other liberal beliefs” so that we can picture 4%. My apologies to my friend Anita who is the only person I'm sure I know who is a Unitarian.