I’m puzzled by President Trump’s reaction to the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico — not because of decency, empathy, leadership skills. Sadly, he’s already proven that he lacks those qualities. I’m puzzled because narcissism is obviously a huge driving force within him, a core motivator, and Hurricane Maria’s devastation is an outstanding opportunity to feed his own narcissism. Had he jumped to help Puerto Rico, his ratings would have skyrocketed among people of all political affiliations. But he chose to enjoy a weekend of golf, and to dedicate a trophy to Puerto Rico in its time of absolute desperation.
I’m trying to figure out why he’d exchange an obvious chance for massive approval for a golf trophy. I strongly believe that he is entirely driven by his own internal currents (as opposed to the integrity of his country). Still, he blew off a spectacular opportunity for self-promotion, and I’m confused. Does he not understand that Puerto Rico is a part of the United States? Does the number of brown-skinned citizens make them unworthy in his eyes? Is his style of thinking so rigid that a radically changed schedule (trading a luxurious weekend for a rough trip to a ravaged island) requires more mental flexibility than he can manage?
Whatever drives him toward such a massive misfire, Puerto Rico is hanging on by its fingernails. I watched the footage of our president’s visit. I wanted him to step forward and do the right thing, to help these victims of a catastrophic natural disaster. Instead, I saw him toss paper towels into a crowd like party favors. I watched him compliment himself repeatedly. I heard his offhand comment about how Puerto Rico was eating more than its share of the country’s budget, as though they were somehow responsible for Maria’s costly path of destruction.
Before I became an author, I was a psychotherapist for over 25 years. One of the responsibilities I always hoped I’d never have to confront was filing a report with Child Protective Services, recommending that a child be taken away from the parents. Although I certainly worked with several difficult situations, I never had to take this particular action and I’m selfishly grateful, because I would have found it devastating. The criteria are simultaneously simple and complex: abuse and/or neglect. When I was in training, in my twenties, I thought carefully about what that meant, because recommending to separate parents from children is serious business. The abuse piece was a no-brainer. However, I learned that severe neglect can be as damaging to the psyche as abuse. The message from the parents to the child is crushing. You’re not worthy of care. You’re not worthy of notice. You’re nothing.
Our president’s lack of intervention in Puerto Rico is neglect in the extreme. If a parent left a child hungry, thirsty, without medical care, without shelter, without supplies — I’d report them to Child Protective Services as unfit. I’d be devastated not only for the child, but also for the adult who was so damaged that he/she/they inflicted such pain on those who most needed support and protection. If “Trump Protective Services” existed, I’d file this post today, saying he’s unfit to care for his people. As expected, I’d feel devastated.
But not as devastated as Puerto Rico.