Thursday, August 17, 2017

Empathy and a Moral Compass are Fundamental to Real Leadership. Trump Lacks Both.

It’s taken me the better part of a week to crystalize my thoughts on the events that unfolded in Charlottesville and our President’s response to them.

What I’m about to say isn’t new or original. It’s all been said before by people smarter than I am, in more articulate terms. But I think it bears repeating and reiterating, if only because failure to articulate and identify the moral rot now at the center of our democracy serves to condone and thus perpetuate it.

It should go without saying that Nazis and white supremacists and those who oppose them are not morally equivalent.

It should also go without saying that the white supremacist movement—which is dedicated to retaining power, control, and a eugenics-based superiority over “inferior” races and cultures—is not equivalent to movements by the targets of white supremacy (e.g. Blacks, Jews, LGBT, Feminists), that seek recognition of their humanity and equality under the law.

It should also go without saying that the confederacy, represented broadly by Robert E. Lee, for example, and our democracy, represented broadly by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, say, are not historically equivalent.

The confederacy was an illegitimate band of traitors that lost an attempted coup against our democracy. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, slave owners and flawed human beings to be sure, founded that democracy and drafted its guiding documents, and Abraham Lincoln steered the country through the confederacy’s criminal attempt to undo their work.

So no. 

Removing statutes of confederate “heroes” is not the same—intellectually, historically, logically, ethically, or morally—as removing statues of the founding fathers. Nor is that removal “erasing history” any more than removing a statute of Hitler at a Holocaust Memorial or of Osama Bin Laden at Ground Zero would be.

But there is a deeper issue at play in Trump’s self-destructive and all-around insane response to Charlottesville, reflected in these eight words: “I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane.”

That’s what he said in his near universally-panned press conference at Trump Tower, when asked pointedly whether he would put white supremacists and neo-Nazis on the same “moral plane” as their liberal and leftist resisters.

In those eight words, Trump once again revealed his core deficiency and the true mark of a sociopath and clinical narcissist: lack of empathy and a moral compass. This void has been clear and present throughout Trump’s life and career: in his personal life, in his business dealings, and now in his public policy in ways too numerous and too well-documented to name.

Trump has no empathy, and he has no moral compass. You have never seen him laugh. You have never seen him cry. Indeed, you have never seen him express any genuine emotion at all—only an apish simulacrum of human expression and feeling. 

So of course he's not putting anyone "on a moral plane." He can't even put himself on one.

True modern leadership requires, at a minimum, empathy as defined on a poster hung in the hallway of my child’s elementary school. All hope for the future of our democracy now lies with a Congressional willingness to recognize that, and act accordingly.

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