Donald Trump bullies opponents, insults weak people, denigrates his country to make himself seem brilliant, adores tyrants and regularly employs sexist and racist rhetoric. What we should not forget, however, is how much of his difficulty in the race stems from appalling ignorance. That’s the most compelling explanation for his widely criticized comments on PTSD. The Post reports:
Democrats on Tuesday seized on comments Donald Trump made suggesting that military members and veterans with mental health issues are not “strong” and “can’t handle it,” remarks they said render him out of touch and unfit to be commander in chief. . . .
The backlash to his remarks was swift and harsh, with Democrats and veterans groups assailing him as insensitive to an issue that mental health advocates have spent decades working to destigmatize and raise awareness of among veterans.
“This is an ignorant man,” Vice President Biden said of Trump on CNN on Tuesday.
Biden is right. Trump was trying to ingratiate himself with veterans (one is entitled to question how sincere is his concern, but in this instance he was trying). His intent was not to insult them as he does generals (“rubble“) or politicians (“stupid“) or the media (“disgusting,” “dishonest,” etc.) Trump simply does not understand that mental health issues are not a matter of “strength” — nor how harmful perpetuating that myth may be. (The Post quotes Angela Kimball, the national director for advocacy and public policy at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, as saying, “It’s really a rewiring of the brain in response to trauma. To talk about somebody being strong in handling something is to, in a sense, dismiss the legitimacy of a mental health condition.”) Do we think Trump knows better but chose to defame vets? Well, if you buy into the self-sabotage theory (i.e. Trump does not want to win), I suppose one could reach that conclusion. But otherwise it makes little sense.
Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon and Trump flunky, tried to cover for Trump. “[B]asically what he’s saying is that people are exposed — a large number of people are exposed to something, but only some of them are affected. . . . The ones who are affected by it are not inferior individuals by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just that their system did not withstand it. That’s what he’s saying. He just didn’t explain it correctly.” Actually, Trump has no idea what he is saying — in this instance or in dozens of other situations.
Paul Rieckhoff, founder and chief executive of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, urged Americans to educate themselves about PTSD.
“Every national leader has a responsibility to use accurate and appropriate language when talking about mental health and suicide especially. The wrong messages on PTSD and suicide can perpetuate stigma and complicate an already complicated problem,” he said in a statement. “Getting help for a mental health injury is not a sign of weakness, it’s a demonstration of strength.”
To be certain, saying Trump is ignorant on this or dozens of other matters is not to excuse his behavior. To the contrary, he has willfully refused to learn about the world, about how Americans live and about virtually every area of policy. He dismisses a mountain of fact-checking, refusing to align his words with reality. He refuses to acknowledge error no matter how ludicrous his error. (When snared, he simply insists he is right or blames everything from a bad ear piece to media taking his comments “out of context.”) This is not brilliant strategy; it is someone trying to cover up his own ignorance.
How could you not know that PTSD is a mental health issue? How could you not know that making it an issue of character is tremendously damaging? Well, if you are a narcissist who doesn’t read and who — as he says — only works and plays golf, there are lots of things you don’t know. And if your ego is as big and your attention span is as brief as his, learning from others becomes impossible.
So yes, Trump is crude, mean and prejudiced — but most notably he is the least-informed candidate to run for the presidency in modern times. He likes to consult with himself, he told us about foreign policy. Unfortunately, he does not have a “very good brain” — he has an empty one with zero intellectual curiosity or capacity for learning. That alone should disqualify him from office.