Decades ago, a business associate failed to keep his word, costing me more than I could comfortably afford at the time. The benefit to him was not even nominal. When I confronted him, he was indignant. I was trying to make him feel guilty!
Years later, someone I had dated had a similar reaction. She walked out on a roommate, leaving behind financial obligations. She later, with the same sort of indignation, described the roommate’s reaction. “She tried to hurt my feelings!”
I have witnessed parallel behavior in other situations with other people. An acquaintance commits some costly injustice. But the real offense, the actual crime, is not the injustice. It is the reaction of the one injured. How dare you try to make me feel guilty! How dare you try to hurt my feelings!
Some people seem to live in a world in which words, opinions, likes and dislikes, mean more than actions. A few occupy a universe in which injurious actions are drowned out entirely.
It seems worth looking at a few of the more memorable events in the emotionally tumultuous life of our soon-to-be President.
Does there exist any adult American, even one of those living in Fox News bubble-land, who is not familiar with Donald Trump’s taunt of Senator John McCain’s war record?
He’s not a war hero.
He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.
It isn’t hard to take apart Mr. Trump’s harsh judgment. When John McCain was a combat pilot, shot down in the Vietnam war, I was a kid still a year away from high school. Donald Trump was a young adult in military style prep school. While he and I were accumulating educational experiences, downed pilot John McCain was standing tall against brutal captivity.
But just before Mr. Trump offered his stern military evaluation of John McCain, he briefly mentioned McCain’s actual transgression. It turns out Donald Trump was not offended by John McCain’s capture. It was more basic.
He hit me, he’s not a war hero.
The content of Mr. McCain’s criticism was unimportant. He hit me, so… The rest was just an afterthought.
You see, a few days before, Mr. McCain recounted Mr. Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric during a visit to Arizona. He described his own reaction as sorrowful.
This performance with our friend out in Phoenix is very hurtful to me. Because what he did was he fired up the crazies.”
Even to someone who disagrees, that criticism of Mr. Trump would have to seem soft. But it was enough to provoke an attack on his war record.
When it comes to former Fox News personalities, I am not a dispassionate observer. Megyn Kelly strikes me as rigidly conservative, offering a consistent Fox News spin before sexual harassment at the network developed a spin of its own, spinning her away.
But she is most known now for Mr. Trump’s opinion about her menstrual cycle and its effect on her journalistic performance.
You know, you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.
then the less famous evaluation:
Hey, she’s a lightweight. I couldn’t care less about her.
He prefaced that opinion with her actual offense: those ridiculous questions.
She gets out and she starts asking me all kinds of ridiculous questions.
The question she asked was simple, composed mostly of his own words. He had said, routinely and often, disparaging things about women. That was why women don’t like him. How was he going to stand up to Hillary Clinton when she threw his own words back at him?
When Megyn Kelly suggested that many woman don’t like Mr. Trump, the rest of her words became unimportant to him. The content of her question was not significant. She said people don’t like him, so she’s a lightweight. And, besides, she has blood … you know.
Khizr and Ghazala Khan lost a son. He was an army captain fighting on behalf of his country, which was, after all, America. They were angry at Mr. Trump’s blanket attack on Muslims. Mr. Khan asked if Mr. Trump had even read the Constitution, dramatically offering to lend him the copy he carries with him.
Mr. Trump went on the attack against Mrs. Khan. Why was the grief-stricken mother so silent? Was it her oppressive religion? He later released a statement that contained an insight. His attack on her is justifiable because the couple had no right to criticize him.
Mr. Khan, who has never met me, has no right to stand in front of millions of people and claim I have never read the Constitution.
We see the pattern. Content of criticism is unimportant. Mr. Khan has never met him. How dare Mr. Khan?
Meryl Streep went from being “excellent” in a 2015 interview to being “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood” in 2016. Quite a leap. How did it happen? He explains:
Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes.
Here is the excellent actress who so quickly became over-rated:
It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back … When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.
The part that fits into the recognizable pattern is this: Meryl Streep … doesn’t know me but attacked last night… The content of her remarks is not what counts. Like the Khans, she doesn’t know him. How dare she?
What leads Mr. Trump to attack a civil rights hero, and do it on the day we celebrate a civil rights icon?
All talk, talk, talk – no action or results.
Of all the criticism anyone might ever direct at John Lewis, all talk and no action would seem the least likely. He came close to death, beaten viciously while marching for voting rights. He lost a close friend, Martin Luther King, whom most of us honor for his civil rights activism.
But the accomplishments of Mr. Lewis were all wiped out in a televised instant, as he explained why he does not consider Mr. Trump’s election to be legitimate.
I think there was a conspiracy on the part of the Russians and others that helped him get elected. That’s not right. That’s not fair. That’s not the open, democratic process.
Mr. Trump explains why the sacrifices made by Mr. Lewis, and his accomplishments no longer have meaning:
Mr. Lewis is guilty of “falsely complaining about the election results.”
The observations by John Lewis about the election are factually correct. But what he said was not important. What is important is that he said it.
We don’t know what searing youthful experience or what formative parental patterns produce the sort of torment haunts Mr. Trump. But, just behind his reflexive outbursts, like a shadow on a cloudless day, we can discern an overarching theme.
John McCain is no longer a war hero, but not because he was captured or because Mr. Trump likes people who weren’t captured.
Megyn Kelly is a lightweight, but not because she asks ridiculous questions.
Khizr and Ghazala Khan have no right, no right at all. But it has nothing to do with religion, or with the substance of their objections to him.
Meryl Streep and Mr. Lewis are alike in demonic spirit. It isn’t what they said, but that they said it.
Mr. Trump knows in his heart that his little attacks on immigrants, his innocent innuendos about women, his fear and loathing of Muslims whether American combat heroes or not, his harmless criticisms of a civil rights hero, are nothing compared with the pain he endures.
The agony is more painful to him than McCain’s years of captivity could have been, more terrible than the broken skull of John Lewis, more devastating than the loss of a son to combat.
It is not fear of criticism. It goes deeper.
- A Muslim couple telling a television audience not to like him
- A Senator not liking him for his attacks on immigrants
- An actress not liking him for mocking a disabled reporter
- A reporter telling him women don’t like him
- A civil rights hero not liking him because of the way he was elected
Donald Trump simply cannot stand not being liked.
These cruel enemies have one evil in common. It is not their petty complaints. Rather, they are all part of a conspiracy. To not like him.
Of course he will counterattack in the most vicious way he can think of. He has to.
They are all conspiring to hurt his feelings.
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