As a son of Houston, I’ve never in my life felt as helpless as I have in recent days. It’s a specific kind of heartache watching your hometown be devoured by trillions of gallons of water while worrying about the fate of family members from more than 1,000 miles away. My aunt had to be rescued by Coast Guard chopper. My cousin, who spent Sunday trying to save others, soon needed saving a day later.
I can’t brush off the sound of my mother’s voice, one that typically exudes strength and confidence, quivering as she talks about the rising water. As adorable as it was to see a video of my barely nine-year-old niece practicing how she will quickly grab her favorite dolls should she have to be rescued, I’m still haunted at the thought of my sister breaking down in tears as she looked at the water inching dangerously closer to her home.
For everyone else, these are people you hear about and feel sorry for. For me, this is far more personal. This is my family, by blood and by choice. I don’t pretend to have suffered like them, but I’ve felt devastated all the same. I used to often cite “Uh, hardly home, but always reppin’” as a sort of honor, but never have I felt the pain and magnitude of distance more.
Thankfully, no matter what damage has been done to my family’s property, their lives have been spared. I’ve been warmed by the outpouring of support of not only my fellow Houstonians but those from all over. But there is one person whose actions fill me with endless rage.
I don’t expect much from Donald Trump. He is a peon of the highest order. He has not a single ounce of curiosity in him. He doesn’t care to be a traditional president because tradition would require him to trade in nearly every flawed personality trait he, at the age of 71, has grown far too attached to. But even most simpletons can figure that in times of a natural disaster—especially one as ferocious as Hurricane Harvey—a little empathy goes a long way. It should not be so burdensome to look at the destruction of a major American city and think, “Let me display some basic human decency.”
Before the storm made landfall, Trump wished Texans “good luck” dealing with Hurricane Harvey. He has an inartful way of speaking, so I rolled my eyes and promptly ignored it. But once the storm made landfall, something should have clicked in this man, something to let him know the severity of the situation and behave accordingly.
Sure, in some moments on Twitter, he sought to perform the ways of the presidency, but with minimal effort, and more than likely these tweets were drafted by staff members.
As always, though, the real Trump shined through. The man with the odd fixation on size couldn’t resist the urge to frame the storm in terms of stature rather than human impact.
The messy bitch who lives for drama couldn’t cool his worst impulses and focus on the matter at hand rather than creating controversy to appease his base and suck up more attention in the news cycle. While much of Southeast Texas sat in unprecedented amounts of rainfall, the “law and order” president said of his pardon of racist sheriff Joe Arpaio: “A lot of people think it was the right thing to do. Actually, in the middle of a hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they were normally.”
Ratings? Who thinks like this? Evidently, the same person who uses his presidential power during a natural disaster to promote the book of a corrupt law enforcement official, David Clarke.
The same person who also decided to subtweet a magazine over unfavorable news coverage of his response to Harvey. Or maybe it was his response to Charlottesville. Who can keep track anymore?
You would think things would change once he arrived in Texas, but true to form, he showed his ass. In Corpus Christi, Trump told Texas Governor Greg Abbott about Houston: “We’ll congratulate each other when it’s all finished.” Later that day in Austin, he described the efforts of officials on the ground as “incredible—everybody’s talking about it.”
Then he continued bragging to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson at that same meeting at the Emergency Operations Center in Austin:
Probably there has never been anything so expensive in our country’s history, we’ve never done anything so historic in terms of damage and in terms of ferocity as what we’ve witnessed with Harvey. It sounds like such an innocent name, Ben, right, but it’s not innocent.
He also turned to FEMA Director Brock Long and quipped that Long was “a man who’s really become very famous on television over the last couple of days.”
Still, nothing was as offputting as his remarks to Hurricane Harvey victims in Corpus Christie. Standing atop of a rescue vehicle, Trump declared, “What a crowd, what a turnout.” After being handed a Texas state flag, Trump waved it. A rainfall record had just been reached in the continental United States. Thousands of people had been displaced. Millions of people were just stuck where they are, hoping that water would not take them whole, and this man is waving a flag like he’s fucking Beyoncé performing at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
So many of us worried over the safety of loved ones, and this fool, in a USA hat that’s actually campaign merchandise, says, “You’re an awesome crowd.” Sure, Trump also said we are all one American family, but who can remember that in the midst of the “epic” storm that prompted so many “wows” from him as he simultaneously continued beefing with the media, taking shots at other politicians, and threatening to terminate NAFTA.
He has barely made mention of those who lost their lives, their homes, or their businesses. Likewise, he’s made little to no mention of the first responders and volunteers. He’s not said much about thousands of folks who had to flee their homes and have no idea what the future holds.
Yes, he tweeted this, but he lied about what he had actually seen. He did not fly over any part wrecked by the storm. He did not go out and hug victims. What he did was go to Austin, look at pictures he could have seen from The White House, and later go try to warm up folks the only way he knows how: speak in campaign rally mode that’s more focused on appeasing his ego than comforting anyone else. They should be the focus, but when you are a man incapable of focusing on what matters, it may be unsurprising but no less revolting.
And after he left, this carrot juice-colored charlatan quickly moved on to promoting tax cuts for the rich.
If you are unable to be a convincing head of state, could you at least pretend to have a soul? Apparently, Trump has pledged to donate $1 million to Harvey victims. Who knows whose money that really is, and one can’t help but wonder whether those in need will see any of it given Sweet Potato Saddam’s sordid history with charity. Then again, it doesn’t matter. Trump has already missed the moment. He had one job and he failed.
What could have made him care more? The promise to build a Trump Tower in Houston? Did he need to know that Russians live in Houston? Or that ratings would have been sky-high had he behaved like something other than a fame-whoring kleptocrat who dabbles in sociopathy?
I hate how this president doesn’t care about anyone outside of his immediate sphere. I hate that he couldn’t bothered to fake it for the sake of the people of Houston, Beaumont, Port Arthur, Corpus Christie, and the rest of the Southeast Texas. I hate that he treated this entire ordeal as another opportunity to shill campaign products and make money. I hate everyone who enables him to further cheapen the office of the president and treat this tragic event with callousness. I hate that he will do all of this again when the next natural disaster happens. And the one after that. And the one after that.
As great a nightmare as this past week has been for so many, the nightmare that is the Trump presidency continues. If only we could wash away with it already. I’m sick of him. Now more than ever.