THE WHITE HOUSE
October 9, 2019
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
President of the Republic of Turkey
Dear Mr. President:
Let's work out a good deal! You don't want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don't want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy — and I will. I've already given you a little sample with respect to Pastor Brunson.
I have worked hard to solve some of your problems. Don't let the world down. You can make a great deal. General Mazloum is willing to negotiate with you, and he is willing to make concessions that they would never have made in the past. I am confidentially enclosing a copy of his letter to me, just received.
History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way. It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don't happen. Don't be a tough guy. Don't be a fool!
I will call you later.
...to this, my father, with his talent for brevity, replied:
I hope you'll recall what I said last year. The man is dangerous to this country. he is without a doubt the most stupid being on this planet. Or may brilliantly evil. He has no regard for this country. He is only concerned with his fat self. by the end of the upcoming week, I hope the Democrats have sufficient evidence for impeachment. We'll see. The corruption 45 has visited on this nation defies description. Love ya meeses to pieces.
...yes, he did indeed write "meeses to pieces."
And believe it or not, it actually figures into my reply:
Josh Foster, a good friend of mine from UMASS with whom I've reconnected on Facebook, offered an interesting theory:
Besides being sociopathic--that is, having no moral or ethical sense--he shows all the signs of having a serious learning disability.
Think about it: he doesn't read, his vocabulary is limited, and he has had to compensate with what seems to be a complete lack of academic acumen with the sort of glib, populist style that makes his approach work crowds in the basest way. At his military school, he was horrible in academics (remember that he paid to have all his school academic records suppressed), but apparently excellent in non-academic matters, such as military discipline (in other words, he did fine when someone gave him easy to learn, simple orders that he could master, and then execute in lockstep). This would also explain his fondness for authoritarian leaders.
It also makes sense, because if you think about it, Fred Trump was apparently exactly the sort of father who would be a nightmare for a person such as this. No doubt, if Trump indeed has a learning disability, his father, as opposed to viewing him as a son he loved unconditionally and therefore accepted as who he was (which would have led the way for his overcoming or adapting to his disability), no doubt viewed him as "damaged goods," and probably sent him to military school with the idea that such a place "would toughen up that stupid kid of mine."
I know it's incredibly difficult to do this, what with him having done so much damage and spewing hateful, hateful things, but if I turn him into, say, one of my students, and try to find some humanity in him, I honestly see him a sad, sad person. I really do see him as a person where, if I were to have gotten through to him and had a one on one conversation with him after a class, he would have burst into tears, and talked about horrible, horrible experiences with his father saying that he was no good, that he was a waste of human life, and that his father was ashamed to have him as a son.
This would also explain why he's so desperate to win people's approval, and why he needs, so badly, to believe that huge crowds of people come to see him. Having no sense of self-worth can create a void in someone that they desperately need to fill with others giving them the love that they never got when they were young...and therefore don't have for themselves. This would also explain why he needs to surround himself with expensive things, and why he so needs to put his name on everything. Having those obscene accoutrements of wealth and privilege--the buildings with his name, the gold toilet, the trophy wife--allows him to say to the world "hey...I'm worth something. Really. I'm worth something. Don't you see I'm worth something?"
Again, I know that attempting to have compassion for such a person can make any self-respecting person roll his eyes. Dick Cheney (okay, maybe not self respecting, but...) after all, said "while conservatives want to deal with terrorists, liberals want to analyze them." And my response to that, though, was always: well, why not both? Yes, when they grow up and become monsters, we need to deal with them, but it's important to remember that they all were children, and that only a select few--the truly sick--come out of the womb as monsters.
And even here, just about every time, in almost every case, true sociopathy traces itself to some horrible trauma suffered at an incredibly young age, perhaps as early as six months. Perhaps Fred abused him as a baby...perhaps even sexually. It's really not out of the realm of possibility.
In other words, someone, something, usually made them who they were.
If you remember the film "Manhunter," there's a telling moment that honestly reminds me of Trump. As Will Graham is "saddling up" to confront Dollarhyde, the murderer, Jack Crawford (Denis Farina's character) says something to the effect of "it almost sounds as if you feel sorry for him." And Graham says something to the effect of "yeah, I do. He started out as a kid. He was probably a sweet kid. Then someone did horrible things to him, and turned him into the sick, twisted psychopath that he is now. And now he have to take him down."
Again, about trying to understand all this as opposed to merely being enraged by it: I'm reminded of that line in the Netflix show "Mindhunter" that we watch, which is about the establishment of the FBI Criminal Psychology Department, and shows two men solving crimes by talking to serial killers: "In order to catch crazy, you have to know crazy."
By the way, getting back to the whole military thing, Trump's love of all of that--the authoritarian regimes, the glorification of Stalinist/Hitleresesque military parades--reminds me of something you said about the military in general: they take care of you, and give you a sense of self worth.
"They clothe you, they feed you, they tell you what to do, they give you approval they give you these really neat things that you wear on your lapels...it's everything a child wants," you once said.
Also, when I think of the affection Trump has for military parades, I'm reminded of the way you said you felt when you were a ROTC Wing Commander, and had hundreds of guys saluting you, and how, when you then went into The Air Force as a lieutenant, you felt a rush when 40 year old enlisted men saluted you. Of course, for you, having been raised with love, it was the sort of thing you could walk away from, hence your decision to rejoin civilian life.
At the same time, though, imagine someone who didn't get that love. For them, those salutes are the only thing close to love and approval that they get, and consequently, they can't do without it. It brings new meaning to those people who say "I love The Corps." For some of these people, the "love" of their superiors and the "love" of the organization may be the only thing resembling familial love that they've ever received, and that they will ever receive.
This also explains, by the way, why people such as Trump react so savagely not just to humor, but to pity, even sympathy. Of course, the humor part is easy to explain--at the core of many bullies is a deeply insecure person who can often be reduced to tears by mental bullying--but the pity part (and here I mean genuine empathy of the "Oh, my God, you went through hell" variety, as opposed to the vindictive "you're a little man, not in size, but in stature" variety) is a bit more complicated.
Think of that part in "Good Will Hunting" where Will's therapist, Sean (Robin Williams) is looking over his case file, and sees all the gruesome photographs of Will's abuse. This, or course, leads to that classic "it's not your fault" moment, and it's important to remember that before Will breaks down in tears, he gets violent. It's truly as if Sean is finally getting to the core of things, something so painful, so horrible, that it's agonizing to confront.
And unfortunately, most people just can't face that pain. It's just too horrible. They cover it up with rage and money, and it slowly hollows them out.
I know I'm sounding like Dr. Phil here, but it just explains so much, even the sad, pathetic correspondence with Erdogen, which, let's face it, reads like the sad, semi-literate scribblings of a second grader. When we strip all of it away, we see, at the core, a truly sad, fat little boy, sitting on the stoop and crying because his father abused him yet again an unloved person, probably abused as a child...and now, because of that abuse, we're paying the price for it.
Thankfully, there are people in world raised with unconditional love, which in turn fosters an inner strength, and consequently, leads to the creation of a deeply compassionate and empathetic person. And it is from this love and kindness that I draw hope. Yes, he has done horrible damage, but he still has not crushed the incredible kindness and decency that we saw in Obama, and, I think, see in Warren, and, yes, in Sanders, and, yes again, in Biden.
It's easy to think that this is The End of Times. At the same time, I draw faith from that moment, in "Watchmen," when Adrian Veidt says "I did it. I brought it to an end," and Dr. Manhattan smiles sagely and says: "Nothing ever ends, Adrian."
Or to put it another way: even if Houston wins, there's always next year.
Love you, man.