David Brooks on Trump and Empathy

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New York Times columnist David Brooks has been pulling no punches when it comes to criticizing Donald Trump.  In his latest column he plays the Khizr Khan card by chiding the GOP POTUS nominee for his lack of empathy.  This, of course, is a case we have been making here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home and elsewhere for a long time–most recently this week.  By the way, have I mentioned that people can learn empathy by studying history? 🙂

Brooks’s words are stinging. This one is right up there with his column on Ted Cruz’s “brutalism.”

He also cannot be contained because he lacks the inner equipment that makes decent behavior possible. So many of our daily social interactions depend on a basic capacity for empathy. But Trump displays an absence of this quality.

He looks at the grieving mother of a war hero and is unable to recognize her pain. He hears a crying baby and is unable to recognize the infant’s emotion or the mother’s discomfort. He is told of women being sexually harassed at Fox News and is unable to recognize their trauma.

The same blindness that makes him impervious to global outrage makes it impossible for him to make empathetic connection. Fear is his only bond.

Some people compare Trump to the great authoritarians of history, but that’s wrong. They were generally disciplined men with grandiose plans. Trump is underdeveloped and unregulated. 

He is a slave to his own pride, compelled by a childlike impulse to lash out at anything that threatens his fragile identity. He appears to have no ability to experience reverence, which is the foundation for any capacity to admire or serve anything bigger than self, to want to learn about anything beyond self, to want to know and deeply honor the people around you.

Republicans are not going to be able to help the 70-year-old man-child grow up over the next few months. Nor are they going to be able to get him to withdraw from the race. A guy who can raise $82 million mostly in small donations has a passionate niche following.

But they can at least get out of the enabling business. First, they can acknowledge that they are being sucked down a nihilistic whirlpool. Second, they can acknowledge the long-term damage being done to the country and to themselves.

Thanks to Justin Taylor of Between Two Worlds for calling Brooks’s piece to my attention.

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