Here’s the problem with Trump’s PTSD comments- it wasn’t that he was directly insulting anybody in the same way he insulted Judge Curiel, the Khan family, Alicia Machado, etc.
This is what he said:
“When you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat — and they see things that maybe a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over and you’re strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can’t handle it. And they see horror stories. They see events that you couldn’t see in a movie. Nobody would believe it.”
First of all he tells his supporters in the room that they’re strong and they can handle it. So those who can’t handle it are assumed to be weak, because we know Trump’s world view is that there are strong people and weak people, winners and losers, everything is nuance free and black and white. So what do the strong people do? They handle it. Now you may quibble with my reading of “handle it,” but it sounds suspiciously like the stigmatizing language people with mental health issues often hear that discourages them from seeking help. You handle it by putting on a good face, not whining, not making things uncomfortable. Often when you say someone is handling it you’re indicating that you have no responsibility for the issue- “Oh the TPS reports? Peter’s handling it.” It’s the don’t ask, don’t tell of mental health.
What I hear Trump saying is strong people don’t make a fuss. Nothing to see here. They’re handling it.
So what about the weak people? Well, they can’t handle it. That’s why we have twenty veteran suicides each
month day*. They couldn’t handle it. They were obviously weak, right?
The issue is that this sort of world view of strong people and weak people leaves no room for empathy. We should be reaching out to vets and letting them know that asking for help is OK, that they aren’t expected to handle it alone, that they aren’t weak if they’ve been impacted by their experiences in war.
I don’t think Trump directly insulted anyone, but he demonstrated yet again that he is unfit for office because his outlook leaves no space for empathy and nuance.
If you’re feeling bad, check out Joe Biden’s response to feel a little better:
*Thanks for the correction Jonathan Monfiletto!
Agree with me? Disagree with me? More to add? Please leave a comment!