Our National Embarrassment

The fact that it happens every day doesn’t lessen the pain. The fact that we know everything there is to know about our president’s narcissism, arrogance, and inability to feel compassion, makes it no less shocking every time he reminds us of those things. I’m focusing today on a single incident, a single tweet, because it speaks for itself so eloquently.

Like a lot of other people, I spent Monday afternoon surrounded by coworkers who were literally in tears watching the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris burn. They all had their reasons – some were distraught over the likely destruction of irreplaceable religious icons, and the tears came from Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike. Some felt wounded by the historical significance of losing what to many is the heart of Paris. And some simply felt the pain of the thousands of Parisians who gathered along the banks of the Seine to watch in horror and sorrow.

They spoke of the irony that the cathedral had survived wars from the French Revolution to World War II. The French were so concerned about the survival of their iconic city that they surrendered to the Nazis almost without a fight to protect it. Yet, something as minor as a vagrant spark or a deliberate act of terror or vandalism in a cluttered attic (no one knows which) brought the edifice to the brink of annihilation.

And what did our ongoing national embarrassment, aka Donald Trump do? He tweeted. By now you’ve undoubtedly read or heard his tweet, but it’s too perfect not to repeat here:

So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!

In three sentences, the president expressed who he is perfectly for everyone to see. Yes, it was horrible to watch the fire burn. It’s also horrible to watch people die in tsunamis, to see planes carrying hundreds of passengers crash in flames into office buildings, and to read about tens of thousands of people dying from opiods. Anyone can say it’s horrible to watch, but how empty and devoid of feeling is that statement? How badly does it miss the point of the real tragedy?

And then, one sentence later here was our president, suddenly an expert on firefighting, who believes that merely saying something anoints his words with truth, no matter how inappropriate and inane they are. Flying water tankers? Seriously. Thank God he remembered to tell the French to act quickly. No doubt the entire Paris fire brigade was confused and running around in circles until Trump energized them.

If you’re wondering why everyone reacted as they did, consider first that like the child he is, Trump was mesmerized by the fire. Not a word about the cathedral being a national treasure or the fact that millions of people, French and otherwise, were experiencing a personal tragedy. And then there was the sheer ignorance of his advice.

In case you don’t know, here are some facts. A gallon of water weighs eight and a third pounds. Flying water tankers can drop between 800 gallons (helicopters) and 19,000 gallons (supertankers). Let’s say the French used an average sized tanker like the Martin Mars, which can carry 7,200 gallons of water. That’s almost 60,000 pounds, or thirty tons of water that would have landed on the human chain trying to save priceless relics from inside the cathedral. And as the response of the French firefighters pointed out, bombing the cathedral with tons of water would have destroyed the building.

Okay, you say. Trump acted like a jerk, but after all it was only a fire in a famous church. At least national security or the fate of health care for all Americans wasn’t at stake. At least he wasn’t playing nuclear chicken with a crazed dictator.

That’s true, but compare Trump’s Notre Dame tweet with most of his others and you see a frightening pattern. They’re all the visceral response of a cranky, mentally ill old man. No forethought goes into them, and they’re posted with no regard for the pain and suffering they cause, much less the risk they often involve for millions of innocents.

Within one day of the fire, three French billionaires pledged $675 million to rebuild the cathedral. Disney pledged $5 million and Apple pledged financial support as well. Yet Donald Trump, who continually touts and exaggerates his own wealth and generosity simply gets angry when people laugh at his firefighting advice.

If you require any more reasons why Trump is unfit to lead this country you need look no further than his reaction to the Notre Dame fire.

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