Donald Trump mocked Biden’s stutter. His supporters laughed along.

During her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee at Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing in 2018, Christine Blasey Ford was asked to recall her most vivid memory — “something you cannot forget,” as then-Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont put it — about the night that she alleges Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a high school party in the 1980s.

Ford, a Stanford University clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, relied on her knowledge of brain science for her answer: “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two [Kavanaugh and a male friend], and their having fun at my expense.”

Until that moment, many of us might not have known that the hippocampus is the part of the brain most associated with memory. But what we inherently understood was the lingering sound of someone else’s laughter when we’re the object of ridicule.

What resurrected Ford’s testimony in my hippocampus was something Donald Trump did at a recent campaign rally in Georgia. Unable to attack Biden’s solid State of the Union performance, Trump instead mocked President Biden’s lifelong stutter. It’s certainly not the first time Trump has resorted to his typical schoolyard bullying tactics. It’s not even the first time this year he’s tried to ridicule the president with such childish nonsense. But what stood out again is that Trump’s audience laughed and applauded in malicious glee.

At a 2015 campaign rally, Donald Trump did a crude imitation of a New York Times reporter with a disability.Screenshot from NBC News video

In 2015, Trump did a crude imitation of a New York Times reporter with a disability. That same year, he spewed his insulting claim that the late senator John McCain, who spent more than five grueling years in a North Vietnamese prison during a war that Trump famously dodged, is only considered “a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”

Both events occurred when Trump was still a first-time Republican presidential candidate. But his ugly habit of mocking, often in base ways, those who challenge his overinflated sense of omnipotence were not deal breakers for the tens of millions who later put him in the White House.

Now when he derides Biden’s stutter by saying things that Biden never said — like pretending Biden stumbled over the word “democracy” in a January speech when he said it more than two dozen times without any problems — Trump gets the nasty laughs he seeks at someone else’s expense, especially when he sneers at a person’s physical limitations.

People who behaved that way were once scorned. Now they become the Republican nominee for president.

There are few among us who don’t know how it feels to be the butt of a joke. At some point in our lives, we’ve probably been the person being laughed at instead of being someone in on the joke and chuckling with the crowd. That includes Trump’s supporters. But with their always aggrieved state of mind, they have anointed Trump as a strongman who allows them to belittle those they see as their lessers. To paraphrase the great Toni Morrison, they can only feel tall when someone else has been knocked to their knees. For them, Trump’s enemies are their enemies and those people deserve nothing but public derision.

Of course like all bullies who are, in fact, weak and insecure, Trump can’t take what he so readily dishes out. Remember his years-long misogynistic tantrum, even during presidential debates, after Rosie O’Donnell mocked him on “The View” in 2006 for acting like an arbiter of morality?

Trump never offends only those he targets. There’s always collateral damage when someone with a national bully pulpit demeans a person with a stutter or physical disability. And every laugh, every whoop from his minions, not only convinces Trump that he’s right but that his aberrant behavior is what his followers have come to expect.

Yes, the hippocampus keeps score. But don’t just criticize the unfunny man who uses human frailty as a punch line. Remember the ones who in their devotion to a would-be tyrant will always laugh the loudest.

This is an excerpt from Outtakes, a Globe Opinion newsletter from columnist Renée Graham. Sign up to get this in your inbox a day early.


Renée Graham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her @reneeygraham.



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *