Latest posts by Kate Earley (see all)
- A Feminist Guide To Better Healthcare Experiences - February 13, 2018
- About Al Franken: There’s No Such Thing As A “Better” Sexual Predator - February 4, 2018
- Trump Is Unfit For Office – But Not Because He’s Crazy - January 24, 2018
Amidst some of the most disturbing few weeks of the Trump administration yet, recent media reports have declared a juicy bit of political gossip: that growing numbers of Trump’s advisors — and a group of outside mental health experts — are questioning Trump’s mental fitness to lead. As in “crazy.” The talk has been enough to rattle Trump himself, who apparently took some sort of cognitive exam to dispel rumors about his mental state as a part of his routine physical exam.
On first thought, this brewing discussion seems to be beneficial. After all, it could be an effective way to get Trump removed from office. But there’s a catch.
There are moments that challenge us as feminists. Sometimes, it’s when “our faves” say something problematic and we have a hard time holding them accountable. Or maybe we don’t respond well to a callout, get defensive, and put strain on the people we’re supposed to be allies for. And then, there are moments like this, where it is so, so easy to forget basic things about social justice. It’s so easy to call Trump crazy. He’s unhinged, he’s melodramatic, egotistical, impulsive, and most importantly, vile. He’s a sexual predator, a racist, a real-life version of a whiney comic book villain.
And even if it weren’t easy, it’d be convenient. It seems, right now, like we should grab on to any lifeline that could result in getting Trump out of office. But before we do that, we need to confront a hard truth: that Trump’s alleged mental illness isn’t the reason he’s unfit to lead. Not exactly, at least.
Firstly, there isn’t a guarantee that Trump is mentally ill — none of us know, and while psychologists can raise alarm about his behavior, it’s impossible to diagnose him from afar. Though his hypothetical diagnosis is beside the point: Trump is unfit to lead because he is dangerously anti-intellectual, refusing to read anything longer than a page, he’s hateful and out of touch and predatory and just simply awful at leading a nation full of people facing complex sociopolitical issues.
Trump’s “craziness” and unfit nature is the result of his privilege and his nature. He’s the epitome of an out of touch old, straight, cis, white man who has been buried in wealth from the time he was born. (And there is more than enough evidence of that.) His actions are all tied back to that basic truth, that he’s been so insulated from work and struggle and reality that he now appears to have completely lost touch with the effects of real-world governance. He should be removed from office, yes, because he’s terrible at the job and is a racist, sexist, classist piece of work — not because of any potential diagnosis, no matter how tempting it may be to latch on to that new story.
And there’s an important reason why that’s the case. We create a dangerous precedent as feminists if we allow ourselves to become armchair psychologists. Removing Trump from office on a hunch that he’s mentally ill does real damage to those with mental illnesses who aren’t irresponsible bigots.
What does the bright line become if we declare mental illness the catch-all reason to remove a president? Would we permanently bar people with mental illnesses from being in office? And the line, from there, becomes blurred — suddenly, concerned citizens become torch-bearing ableists who regard disability as a disqualifier for participation in power structures. Mental illness is not the enemy here, and as feminists, we should be wary of the temptation to scapegoat Trump’s behavior onto mental illness. There is an enormous historical precedent of mentally ill people being denied jobs or opportunities, whether it’s a 20-year-old college student with PTSD who is considered lazy or “sheltered” when they ask for accommodation or an elderly individual with schizophrenia becoming unable to work due to lack of access to medication. If we add ourselves to the bandwagon pinpointing mental illness as the origin of Trump’s unfitness to serve, we fail all of our mentally ill friends and family.
Trump is unfit for office — there’s no question about it. But let’s remove him on the basis of his morally repugnant actions — not because of an ableist hunch.