Donald J. Trump’s Legacy, Imagined

A morsel of charity for a man who showed none

omeday, some poor bastard grinding away for minimum wage will be burdened with the thankless task of etching a commemoration into Donald Trump’s epitaph. The most charitable thing I can imagine it saying goes something like this:

Here rests the body of Donald John Trump. May God pity his restless soul.

He grew up in the shadow of his wealthy, loveless father from which he would never escape. Perhaps as a consequence of this materially opulent but emotionally austere upbringing — though we shall never know for certain — a personality disorder robbed him of empathy for his fellow human beings, and therefore denied him the capacity to experience, much less receive, true love.

Stripped of the thing that makes human life most beautiful, he was left only with vanity. He surrounded himself with the corrupt, the cowardly, the shallow, the two-faced and the sycophantic: all those who mirrored his own attributes, and each of whom lacked the courage to threaten his insecure self-image. He sought every opportunity to exert power over others — be it by firing, suing, lying, philandering, or even assaulting — in a futile quest for validation and authentic esteem. He painted over his weaknesses with a thick, garish facade of gold — figuratively and literally.

Throughout his life he was constantly reminded that the Midas Touch is not a blessing, but a curse: He wandered through life surrounded by money and people, but condemned to do so in eternal loneliness. His inherited wealth and phobia of criticism led him to receive nothing but hollow flattery at the expense of wisdom, and deprived him of all perspective on life.

It can only been seen as a twisted form of punishment, then — for him and all his unfortunate contemporaries — that this man who was so uniquely unequipped to shoulder the responsibility of leadership, so bereft even of the basic emotional or logical skills necessary to function as a mature adult in modern society, should have found himself, almost by chance, at the helm of such awesome power.

For he was not really a man: Like many before him and around him, he was only a frightened boy trapped in a man’s body, who was nonetheless expected to behave as a man would, be that as a leader, a businessman, a husband, or a father. And so, like many others, he made a career of pretending to know how.

The difference in Donald’s case was that by pretending to know how to lead people, he led them astray and failed them at their time of greatest need.

Because of his denial of hard truths, people died. Because of his penchant for embellishment and lies, people died. Because of his pride and unwillingness to acknowledge his own ignorance, people died. And because of his eagerness to be praised and feted, his venal followers partook in the sham, and more people died.

He wanted credit for every success, yet refused to take responsibility for any failure. He was Oscar Wilde’s definition of a cynic: one who knew the price of everything but the value of nothing. And although, in the most cosmic sense, his failings may not have been his fault, nothing is exactly the amount of thanks he deserves.

I write about politics, economics, and feminism. Check out my Table of Contents for a list of everything I’ve written on Medium.

2018 winner of the Dalton Camp Award for essay-writing. M.A. Political Science. I'll go to the mat for the Oxford comma.

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