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  • Victor C. Bolles

The Difference between Disloyalty and Treason

I think we all know the difference between disloyalty and treason. A person can be disloyal to another person (boss, spouse, family, etc.), to a cause, to an organization or institution, or to a country. Treason is when you are disloyal to your country. The US Constitution states that treason “shall consist ONLY (emphasis added) in levying war against them (the states) or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.“ So the writer of the anonymous op-ed in the New York Times has been disloyal to his boss and his administration but is not a traitor. Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning disclosed confidential information to the public (including our enemies) and is, therefore, a traitor (even though President Obama pardoned him/her).

But the use of the word “TREASON?” Is interesting because it gives us more insight into the writer of the tweet than it does about the supposed crime committed.

In my experience, most populist leaders have narcissistic tendencies. Napoleon, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Juan Peron were highly narcissistic. This is not surprising. Most leaders are somewhat narcissistic and some exhibit grandiose narcissism which is exemplified by flamboyance, assertiveness and dominance. They also have an inflated sense of self, are over-confident in making decisions and don’t learn from mistakes.

A little bit of narcissism can actually help leaders be confident, outgoing and persuasive, but an excess can lead to abuse of power and unethical behavior.

Our current president exhibits many of these narcissistic behaviors but that does not necessarily disqualify him as a leader. Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt also exhibited many of these traits according to a 2013 study in Psychological Science.

But while many great leaders have been narcissists, their narcissistic tendencies can lead them astray. They discount the opinions of others except when those others agree with the leader and believe that said leader is a genius. And, since fairness is highly subjective (as pointed out numerous times before) any actions that do not benefit the narcissist or violate that person’s sense of fairness are judged grossly unfair and prejudicial.

But the principal trait that is of concern for citizens is that the narcissistic leader tends to conflate his (or her) own persona with the will of the people. The leader believes that what he (or she) believes the people also believe and that what he or she desires the people also desire. This causes the narcissistic leader to emasculate or destroy civic institutions that have the potential to oppose his (or her) policies and initiatives. Supreme courts are packed with cronies (Roosevelt and Chavez). Legislative powers are diminished (Chavez and Obama). Constitutions are altered to guarantee continuance in power (Xi Jinping, Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, Mugabe, Hitler, Mussolini the list goes on and on). In many countries this conflation devolves into massive corruption as state revenues are viewed as the same as personal income (Chavez’s family is said to have amassed a $4 billion fortune while the average Venezuelan citizen has lost 26 pounds due to food shortages).

For this reason the narcissistic leader views personal disloyalty as treason because the leader’s persona and the state are intertwined. This is why, a week after his inauguration, President Trump asked then FBI Director James Comey to pledge his loyalty and why he expects all his White House staff to do the same.

This is why opposition to a narcissistic leader is treason. He conflates his person with the government and views the anonymous op-ed as attack not only on himself but on the country. And this is why we must endure the presidency of Donald Trump but not fall into the cult of personality promoted by many populist leaders. Irrational support and opposition has set the stage for violent confrontation. We must reject the populist policies of both the right and the left. Where is the voice of reason?

Thank goodness that it is so difficult to amend our Constitution!

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