Donald Trump’s situational compassion and outrage

Donald Trump has demonstrated a consistent pattern of selective situational compassion and outrage, depending on the events and the countries or individuals involved.

June 22, 2017 21:06
US President Donald Trump.

US President Donald Trump pauses as he announces his decision that the United States will withdraw from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, US, June 1, 2017.. (photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)

If we are to believe published reports, President Donald Trump is genuinely and deeply moved when seeing the death and grief resulting from the brutal actions of tyrannical regimes and persons.

After witnessing scenes on TV of people gasping for air, and seeing convulsing and lifeless bodies spread on the ground, Trump ordered the bombing of a Syrian military air base thought to have been used by planes suspected of dropping deadly toxic gas upon defenseless civilians, including young children and babies, in northern Syria’s Idlib province.

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Trump publicly spoke out and is now considering even greater sanctions on North Korea following the recent death of Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old student from the University of Virginia, whom the North Korean government sent home in a deep coma after sentencing him to 15 years’ hard labor for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster, or according to Pyongyang, “acts against the state.”

The president generally stands first on the Tweetosphere line in thrusting out his severe condemnations a mere nanosecond after reports of suspected jihadist terrorist attacks anywhere around the globe, especially in Europe. He has, however, allowed his Twitter feed to rest following terrorist attacks perpetrated by non-Muslims upon members of the Islamic community, for example, the recent incident in London that resulted in the death of one and injuries to several others during their holy month of Ramadan.

Donald Trump has demonstrated a consistent pattern of selective situational compassion and outrage, depending on the events and the countries or individuals involved.

Trump has reversed several key initiatives from the Obama era that were meant to enlarge political and economic programs and engagement and ease sanctions on the Cuban government. During the presidential election campaign, Trump argued for a re-tightening of sanctions until that government initiates “religious and political freedoms for the Cuban people,” even though the US-led embargo on the island has proven to be a failure over the past half-century.

It seems, however, that Trump would rather engage in a sword dance with his Saudi Arabian dictator friends than speak out forcefully against documented civil rights violations in that country. A recent report from Human Rights Watch found: “Through 2015 Saudi authorities continued arbitrary arrests, trials and convictions of peaceful dissidents. Dozens of human rights defenders and activists continued to serve long prison sentences for criticizing authorities or advocating political and rights reforms. Authorities continued to discriminate against women and religious minorities. [Under this system, ministerial policies and practices forbid women from obtaining a passport, marrying, traveling, or accessing higher education without the approval of a male guardian, usually a husband, father, brother or son.] On March 26, [2015], a Saudi Arabia-led coalition began an air-strike campaign against Houthi forces in Yemen that included use of banned cluster munitions and unlawful strikes that killed civilians.”

President Trump appears to be cozying up to President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines by inviting him to the White House for a get-to-know one another session. This is the same leader who has unleashed a storm of terror against suspected drug dealers, resulting in approximately 7,000 executions during the past year. In a telephone call from the Oval Office, Trump praised Duterte for doing “an unbelievable job on the drug problem.”

While reports have confirmed the existence of detention camps in the Chechen Republic – a region within the Russian Federation – holding men accused of being gay, where they are beaten and tortured with electric shocks, and some of the men have died of the injuries inflicted upon them, Trump has remained silent on this matter with his BFF (“Best friend forever”) Vladimir Putin.

On the domestic front, Trump’s selective situational compassion and outrage stand in full force. He verbally attacks and, thereby, calls into question the validity of the US judicial system and the separation of governmental powers each time he speaks out against the courts in cases in which he has a vested interest, for example, in individual and joint action lawsuits again his alleged Trump University and against his executive travel bans.

When, however, will he vigorously and publicly express his concern in clear-cut cases of police brutality, which often result in the deaths of innocent people of color and subsequently in the acquittal of the law enforcement officers involved? A recent case involved a Minnesota police officer whom a jury found not guilty in the shooting death of Philando Castile during a traffic stop in which the officer mistook the driver for someone suspected in a robbery. Castile’s girlfriend took a phone video of events leading to his death, which clearly shows that he posed no imminent danger to the officer.

In addition, the National Rifle Association remained stunningly silent following the verdict, even though Castile was a virtual poster model for the NRA, in that he legally purchased a gun and had it in his car, and immediately notified the officer of this before he searched the vehicle.

If Trump is so concerned after viewing the faces of dead innocents and hearing the grief of those who loved them, then why has he ordered “his” Justice Department to rescind orders to investigate several police departments for possible racial bias and differential treatment, which officials in the Obama administration initiated to ensure better accountability in the wake of the rising tide of high profile incidents and tensions between local law enforcement agencies and the communities they are meant to serve? And when was the last time, actually, when was there a time, that the current president expressed compassion or any other emotion over the ever-mounting murders of trans people, primarily trans women of color, in the US or in any country?

During the presidential primaries and since, Donald Trump has asserted, loudly and clearly, that he would never reveal ahead of time his tactics for achieving his priorities, as not to alert his adversaries and to maintain the element of surprise. While this strategy seems reasonable in some instances, the president – any president – must develop and project a certain consistency and stability of tone and actions, to offer reassurance to the nation’s allies while setting clear boundaries for those who would do us and others harm.

Whether intentionally or not, Trump’s consistent inconsistencies broadcast what and whom he values and whom he dismisses, and this will eventually undermine his presidency.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld, a former associate professor at Iowa State University, is the author of numerous articles, books and commentaries on issues of social justice, Holocaust studies and LGBT studies.

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