Donald Trump is incapable of empathy. Being called upon to relate to the pain of another person is like asking a toddler to drive a space shuttle. He CANNOT do it. For him, every experience is a mirror— he is always, always assessing himself to bolster a very brittle ego. This explains his obsession with the number of people at his inauguration, the popular vote count, etc.
His response to Hurricane Maria made this empathy deficit abundantly clear, and it has done great damage. Below are some actual quotes from Trump, followed by what might have been said by someone capable of empathy:
Trump: “You’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack”
If Trump had empathy: Whatever it takes, Puerto Rico, we are there for you. We will get you the aid you need. We will help you rebuild. Your problems are our problems—you are not alone.
Trump: “I know you appreciate our support because our country has really gone all out to help”
If Trump had empathy: I know you are frustrated. I know you are scared and feel abandoned. But the US looks out for its citizens. My promise to you: we will not let you down. We will get you the food, water, medicines, and other supplies, and we will find a way to reach those who are isolated. We are Americans. We do not abandon our own.
Trump: “Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help”
If Trump had empathy: Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz has been fighting for you. She has let me know what you need and I am grateful for that. She will not let you be forgotten. And I promise you this: neither will I.
Trump: “We’ve only heard ‘thank yous’ from the people of Puerto Rico,” he said. “It is something I enjoyed very much today.”
If Trump had empathy: When I look into your eyes, I see strength. I see resilience. This is what will get you through the next difficult months. I cannot take away your pain, but we promise we will help you rebuild. Puerto Rico will emerge stronger than ever.
Trump: “What’s happened in terms of recovery, in terms of saving lives – 16 lives that’s a lot – but if you compare that to the thousands of people who died in other hurricanes that frankly were not nearly as severe”
If Trump had empathy: I mourn with you. I feel your sorrow at the loss of your loved ones. Every life is precious, and this disaster touched each of you in a devastating way. You will recover, but it will be a hard, trying journey, perhaps made easier because you KNOW are not alone. We are with you, Puerto Rico. We are with you.
As we hear of the continued anguish in Puerto Rico, we must demand that other leaders in Washington step up. We cannot leave them without food, water, and the tools needed to rebuild. We must NOT let the suicide rate on this island continue to rise.
We must give them hope.
They are a resilient people, but even the strongest among us needs help at times. If our president cannot send this message then we must:
We are with you, Puerto Rico. We are with you.