I don’t believe I’ve ever used the word evil in a writing career that has spanned decades. But never before have I witnessed, month after month, the machinations of a man who has revealed himself to be not only terribly flawed (my long-ago, first-impression opinion) but irredeemably heartless.
Evil: It’s an unforgiving term, conjuring up the devil and eternal consignment to the fires of hell. That’s never been part of my belief system. I know nothing about the afterlife. All I know is that evil sometimes lurks in the here and now.
In an act of gratuitous brutality--separating immigrant children from their desperate parents after a dusty, dangerous trek they believed would lead to safety—Donald Trump revealed, incontrovertibly, who he really is. Michelle Obama famously said, “The presidency doesn’t change who you are. It reveals who you are.” Donald Trump has revealed himself to be a self-serving man capable of immense cruelty. The fact that he eventually rescinded the separation order doesn’t erase his culpability in the gratuitous practice of child abuse. The psychological damage to those children is done.
At first I thought Trump was simply an ignorant, mendacious, bloviating fool, but it’s worse than that. He wallows in the heart of darkness. His presidency is a “reality show.” He alone is both bumbling director and ethically challenged star. His greed and narcissism know no bounds. He surrounds himself with a staff of sycophants, many untethered from normal moral restraints, who use their offices to aggrandize themselves, pump Trump up (as if he needed it) and do his bidding.
Trump defended the unconscionable practice of separating children from their parents by calling it a deterrent to immigration. The truth is he used the anguish of the innocent in an attempt to blackmail the Congress, first, by lying about the Dems’ culpability in his travesty (“It’s the Democrats’ law!”), and second, by claiming “Congress alone can fix it.” Make no mistake: his fervent hope--until thinking people on planet earth turned against him--was that by forcing the Congress to act to end family separation, he would also force
them to authorize the building of his precious (and ludicrous) wall. It’s the way politicos manipulate each other—by tying something their opponents want to something they oppose in the same piece of legislation. The kids and their parents were hostages—extras in Trump’s reality show.
Belatedly, of course, he took advantage of the chaos to seize one more opportunity to appear in the starring role; cameras rolling, he signed an unnecessary “executive order” in his usual spikey scrawl, then held it up for all to see like a proud six-year-old. Sad . . .
A couple of years ago, Charles Krauthammer, legendary conservative thinker and Washington Post columnist, speaking about Donald Trump, stated presciently, “He has a shocking absence of elementary decency and of natural empathy for the most profound of human sorrows—parental grief.” He also, I might add, has no understanding of the often devastating, lifelong effects of childhood trauma—nor does he care.
Add incompetence to ignorance and heartlessness and you have the chaos playing out as I write: Hostage children scattered about the country, no plan for reuniting them with their parents, no assurance that officials even know where each child is housed, and commentators stating bluntly, “Some of those children may never see their parents again.” There are events that bring the nation together in unmitigated grief: The assassinations of President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, schoolhouse slaughter, and the 9/11 destruction of the Twin Towers, for instance.
This is not one of those times. This grief is mixed with exhaustion and rage: Exhaustion brought on by 17 months of a brutal, lying, incompetent as the ostensible leader of this nation; rage brought on by the failure of Congress, especially those who brought the bully to power, to tether him to reality and reign in the evil, chaotic impulse he seems unable to control.
This too, we can only hope, shall pass.
Democracypasses into despotism.