In my commentary on Mary Trump’s book, I will concentrate on parts that have not been quoted and commented upon in reviews and in interviews with her. So many of the most salient and memorable points she makes about her uncle are already well-publicized.
Remarkably, I come away from reading this psychological explanation of The Donald’s development with more sympathy and less condemnation of the man. I do not sense any venom in Mary’s voice. She is very analytical and clinical in her account of what she observed and experienced. Both parents failed to discipline, and most lamentably, failed to really love Donald as a child. His mother threw up her hands at his bad behavior. Mary describes him as always talking back to his mother and never doing what he was told to do. As a Social Security representative, I assisted parents applying for disability benefits for their children who had a diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder. According to Mary’s description, Donald could very well have had the same condition. His father sent him to military school because he did not want to deal with Donald’s behavioral problems. Building his real estate empire occupied his entire father’s time. Mary writes that nobody sent their sons to NYMA for a better education, but rather the family considered it a “reform school.”
Mary explains the dynamics in a large family. Reared in a family with four children, I have raised the question to friends many times over the last five years whether they did not find it odd that we never heard from Donald’s siblings about what it was like growing up with Donald or that we never saw them with him at events. My siblings and I constantly have shared memories, have criticized each other’s shortcomings, praised our admirable qualities and laughed and cried together. I certainly noticed the siblings’ absence even if Mary writes at the beginning of her book, “The media failed to notice that not one member of Donald’s family apart from his children, his son-in-law, and his current wife said a word in support of him during the entire campaign. Her Aunt Maryanne did share with Mary that Donald was utterly unqualified for the office he sought, but her aunt confessed later that she had voted for Donald out of a sense of family loyalty. And that’s exactly what a lot of Republicans did out of party loyalty.
Mary is probably correct when she speculates that her uncle “may have a long undiagnosed learning disability that for decades has interfered with his ability to process information.” His aversion to reading and his inability to speak or write coherently give additional credence to this supposition. She cautions he has a complex of mental and emotional disorders that only can be assessed accurately with a battery of examinations, which, of course, he will not submit to. Even the untrained observer can tell that Donald is somehow emotionally and mentally disturbed. Mary identifies the source of his psychological disorders as mainly arising from Donald’s father, and in fact, all the siblings experienced damage from their relationships with Fred Trump, Sr.
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I found particularly sad and shocking her description of the family’s behavior when Mary’s own father, Fred Trump’s first-born son, died at age forty-two. She was age sixteen and at boarding school when she was told to call her grandparents. When she did, they were too cowardly to tell her that her father had already died and instead told her to call her mother who broke the news to her. No family member had gone to the hospital where Fred Jr. had been taken in an ambulance. While he was in the hospital dying, Donald and his sister Elizabeth went to the movies. Mary’s account of the aftermath of her grandfather’s funeral is no less demonstrative of an emotionally crippled family. Mary took her widowed grandmother home after the funeral. None of her children accompanied her back to her house to stay with her. She was left alone to grieve the loss of her husband of sixty-three years. At her grandfather’s funeral, Mary writes that when it was Donald’s turn to eulogize his father, it “devolved into a paean to his own greatness.” Her aunt Maryanne told her son not to allow any of her siblings to speak at her funeral.
Interesting and perceptive is her statement that “Donald has been institutionalized for most of his adult life, so there is no way to know how he would thrive, or even survive, on his own in the real world.” By institutionalized, she means that he has been living in a bubble, insulated from the consequences of his bad behavior or with no incentives to improve his character. He has been trained to never accept responsibility or admit a mistake. She writes: “Though Donald’s fundamental nature hasn’t changed, since his inauguration the amount of stress he’s under has changed dramatically. It’s not the stress of the job, because he isn’t doing the job—unless watching TV and tweeting insults count. It’s the effort to keep the rest of us distracted from the fact that he knows nothing—about politics, civics, or simple human decency—that requires an enormous amount of work.”
Incisively, she blames the media for failing to ask pointed questions. Throughout his campaign and continuing to the present, the media has allowed him to get away with murder. I am still angry that Donald’s bluster and nonsense eclipsed media coverage for John Kasich, a respectable and knowledgeable Republican candidate for the presidency. As a New Yorker, Mary knew about Donald’s bankruptcies, showmanship, and ignorance. She was astounded that the rest of the country did not. His lunacies and outrageous statements got more press than the exposure of his misdeeds and unfitness for leadership. She has good reason to believe that if she had spoken out early, even in 2015, her words would have fallen on deaf ears. Along with her I was also traumatized “when 62,979,636 voters had chosen to turn this country into a macro version of” what she calls “my malignantly dysfunctional family.”
Tellingly, she comments: “Large minorities of people still confuse his arrogance for strength, his false bravado for accomplishment, and his superficial interest in them for charisma.” I am astounded too at anyone who can still vote for The Donald after the ample evidence to his severely flawed character and unfitness for leadership over the last four years. At the end of the book she writes on the botching of the Covid-19 response: “The deafening silence in response to such a blatant display of sociopathic disregard for human life or the consequence for one’s actions, on the other hand, fills me with despair and reminds me that Donald isn’t really the problem after all.” I share her despair and wish that she had expanded on where the problem really lies, for I see part of it in a broken Republican Party that has lost its way and its principles and that continues to cater to the least admirable segment of our population and the darkest elements of human nature. He could not have reached the top where he struts without corrupt, venal sycophants preying upon his need for love, adulation, and constant compliments. Hence, Pence the lapdog and Putin pulling his strings. Plus a Senate majority defending the indefensible. The problem lies in ourselves. We’re the permissive parents.
If anything, reading Mary’s book has allowed me to feel a little compassion for this deeply unhappy and flawed man who has always covered up his insecurities and inadequacies with false bravura. With scowl and down-turned mouth, flab, painted face, and ridiculous do; he is to be pitied. He’s sired five children he does not really love any more than his own father loved his five offspring. For Donald and his father, children are but appendages to feed an ego.
Some perceived that Marianne Williamson running for President was a joke, but I looked at her as a necessary antidote to hatred and fear and a counterpoint to Donald Trump. As a student and teacher of A Course in Miracles, Williamson knows that The Donald’s attacks and insults are cries for love. In an attempt to conquer hatred for this pitiful man, I wrote this poem in November of 2017, and despite writing it, every day that The Donald occupies the White House, I struggle to suppress that emotion. My hope surfaces in that the Honorable John Lewis, representative from Georgia, succeeded admirably to love unstintingly. Our children need role models like him in abundance.
Go in Peace
Because I have not learned the lessons well
Of A Course in Miracles, The Donald came
To test my mastery of what forgiveness is.
In attack of him I haven’t learned I attack
Myself and I haven’t seen that if I forgive
His mistakes that I will heal and grant him
The love his insults, boasts, and lies all seek.
Can I grant him peace and freedom from fear
That I also seek by forgiving him for what
He knows not what he does as I grant myself
The same forgiveness for what I know not?
This is the great lesson of the Great Teacher
While yet earthbound seems impossible
Of achievement even as prayers ascend
To grant us peace, O Lord, in troubled times,
In this vale of tears where constantly it seems
Dog eats dog and brother still kills brother,
Ignorant, we war on ourselves and receive
What we give, whether pain and fear or gifts
Of love and peace, which their giving extends.
Give away then whatever the wish is to gain.
I have not earned a passing grade but wish
To go in peace with my neighbor without end.
The image of Donald Trump is from Wikimedia Commons and is in the public domain in the United States because it was published in the United States between 1926 and 1977, inclusive, without a copyright notice.