“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” – H. L. Mencken, the Baltimore Sun (26 July 1920)
Human Being – a man, woman, or child of the species Homo sapiens, distinguished from other animals by superior mental development, power of articulate speech, and upright stance.
As I watched “our” President throw paper towels to a photo-op ed assembled crowd in the hurricane ravaged U.S. territory of Puerto Rico I wondered to myself, what is a human being? The Merriam-Webster definition is not very rigorous, Homo sapien, mental development, speech, and an upright stance. A pretty low bar and certainly, given that definition, “our” President qualifies to be considered a human being but is that it, shouldn’t we be asking for more from each other than just the bare minimum?
After Trump’s performance in Puerto Rico and the ugly tweets he put out denying what everyone on the ground has categorized as a lack luster and very unsympathetic response to the needs of the Puerto Rican people Joe Scarborough summed it up best for me; “We see once again…another example over the past week what many people have always said about him (Trump)…a basic lack of humanity.”
I don’t know Donald Trump. I know that I don’t like what I see on the outside. I know that I don’t like the vast majority of his words, his actions or how he treats people. But what I don’t know is what is in his heart and despite how I feel about him I know that he has a heart. Trump is as Parker Palmer describes “a person just like me, with strengths and weaknesses, hopes and disappointments, joys and despairs”. Despite my feelings about him, we are interconnected because of these shared qualities.
The problem with Trump, the issue with his humanness is that his ego only allows him to display one side of his humanity. He shares what he perceives as his strength but none of the weakness. His hopes but no mention of his disappointments other than “fake news”. What brings him joy while shielding his despair. In my mind this confirms what I have known about him from the very beginning, he is only half a human being, a stunted 71-year-old adult, a “moron” as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on the verge of resigning back in July, described him.
Sadly, this lack of humanity is what draws the Deplorable Nation to Trump like a moth to a candle. They want John Wayne, Rambo, not the Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa. They view the world as a cruel, and unforgiving place. A universe where morals and truths are reserved for human beings that look like them, act like them and believe in what they believe. This is the very low bar they have set for themselves, for their leaders, and for their President.
I am convinced, when the history books are written many years from now, this era, this Presidency, and this chapter in America will be viewed with dismay and scorn. Chroniclers will wonder how we came so close to the self-indulgent edge. Why we would allow such an inexperienced, narcissistic, egomaniac to preside over this great country. I hope I am around to read their conclusions.
Trump has unweaved the basic moral fibers so many of us hold true and dear. It will be up to each of us to braid back together what he is so hell-bent on destroying. We will need all of our human traits, compassion, empathy, and love to make it happen, basic human goodness, characteristics “our” President lacks. In my mind, these are the qualities that should define every human being beyond an upright stance.
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” – Dalai Lama