Cesar Sayoc is Trump crazy.
Remember John Hinckley, Jr.? He gained instant notoriety in 1981 by shooting President Ronald Reagan. Reagan survived the attack and went on to serve two full terms as President of the United States.
Hinckley secured a verdict of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect and spent 35 years in an asylum. That is, we as a society chose not to impose the usual punishment for shooting a president on him because the persons in charge of making the decision believed his claim that his mental illness rendered him incapable of making responsible decisions. This was a humane choice. He spent most of his life incarcerated anyway, where he could do no more harm, but in circumstances that were likely significantly less unpleasant than a federal prison.
We do not know very concretely what makes people like Hinckley do what they do. We do know he was obsessed with the actress Jody Foster and tried many ways to contact her, ultimately deciding that his best bet to win her heart was to kill a president. To write colloquially, Hinckley was crazy, and part of being crazy sometimes is making very poor choices. That was a very poor choice. All human choices grow out of our identities. Someone who knows you very well could likely predict which you would choose given a banana and an apple as options because our choices are usually fairly consistent over time.
Hinckley’s brand of crazy compulsion was deeply internal and personal to him. The compulsion drove his choice to shoot President Reagan.
Now we have a suspect whom the FBI believes was responsible for mailing suspicious packages to a number of prominent Democrats and critics of Donald Trump. He is, by all accounts, an avid supporter of president Trump, which alone is sufficient to mark him as mentally ill. We do not now know if he actually is the culprit — he has had the opportunity, at the moment, neither to plead guilty nor to demand the trial that he has a right to under our Constitution.
His name is Cesar Sayoc. A lawyer who represented him in several of his criminal cases suggests that he suffers from diminished cognitive capacity, which may or may not be importantly different from mental illness. Hinckley was apparently relatively successful in sports, if not academics, in high school, before he began to exhibit signs of mental illness. It seems likely that a court will order a psychiatric evaluation for Mr. Sayoc.
Regardless, he exhibits multiple signs of what we might call disordered thinking. Again, he apparently supported Donald Trump, even now, as president, which is itself a sign of disordered thinking. That disordered thinking, in Mr. Sayoc’s case apparently manifested in the very poor choice to send suspicious packages to a number of persons, all of whom have in common that they were or are officially opponents of president Trump, who has a very unpresidential habit of incessantly denouncing anyone who criticizes him. This is only one of many ways in which president Trump indicates that he has zero understanding of how our political and legal systems work or their substantive standards.
However disordered Mr. Sayoc’s thinking may be, it still has its own, internal rationality, as disordered thinking can. Hinckley’s badly disordered thinking had its own, internal rationality. Mr. Sayoc made choices. The influences on his choices were much more obvious and public than the influences on Hinckley’s. It seems pretty much impossible for anyone to have had any way to anticipate what Hinckley’s motive was until he divulged it.
Mr. Sayoc may yet surprise us, revealing some deeply internal motive that we have not discerned because he has not disclosed it, but at this point, it looks very much as if he simply accepted everything Donald Trump said, in particular about prominent Democrats and his critics, such as the news network, CNN, which he also sent packages to, and acted out what we can reasonably describe as Trump’s fantasies of wreaking vengeance on his critics.
Cesar Sayoc is Trump crazy.