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Trump's Plea to the Terminally Ill Reveals His Greatest Weakness

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On June 7, 2008 I watched in awe and jubilation as Barack Obama became the first African American presidential candidate. One month later, I was diagnosed with lymphoma – a blood cancer.

My first concern was living past August. Maybe even September. November was at least seven treatments, two biopsies, one wig, and four CT scans away.

I worried if, in my absence, my three brothers could take care of my aging parents as well as I would have. I wondered if the deed to our apartment, in my name only, would automatically pass to my husband or if I needed to write a will. I debated the appropriateness of leaving my wedding rings to my youngest, unwed brother.

I spent no time contemplating the ramifications of either political party’s platform, who had the stronger vice presidential candidate, or if I cared for their wives. The presidential election wasn’t even on my radar.

I’m embarrassed to admit I can’t remember if I voted. I don’t recall if I was home in New Jersey or visiting my parents in North Carolina. The mental haze caused by toxic chemicals and emotional trauma left most of that period a blur.

Which is why Mr. Trump’s words from last week are still bothering me. “I don’t care how sick you are. I don’t care if you just came back from the doctor and he gave you the worst possible prognosis, meaning it’s over. Doesn’t matter. Hang out till November 8. Get out and vote.”

For what, Mr. Trump? The terminally ill need comfort and compassion, not fear and isolation. They need to say their goodbyes, get their affairs in order, manage both their pain and that of their loved ones. They want to envision a life of comfort and safety for the family and friends they leave behind, not a war-torn country pocked with internment camps and families torn apart.

Your plea to the infirm, be it in jest or not, further shows your disregard for any life other than your own. I can personally attest to the torturous nature of chemotherapy. I can only imagine the experience of someone with Parkinson’s, the terrifying suffocation of COPD, the debilitating pain of ALS. To ask such individuals to “hang out” for your gain is the very definition of selfishness. And selfishness is not the quality I most desire in a leader.

I think the media has misjudged you. The labels they give you – xenophobe, chauvinist, racist – overcomplicate your motivations. Your disdain is not limited to those of a specific gender, race, or religion. Your motivations are simpler. Your words, which target your own potential constituents, expose your complete disregard for all life, for humanity.

In the hours I spent compiling these thoughts, you’ve already managed to make even more offensive statements, which will doubtlessly redirect the pundits’ conversation to your sexism. And while that’s important, it is but a symptom of your greater deficit – empathy. Only someone with a complete dearth of empathy could believe that the dying should dedicate their last breaths to your political campaign.

Originally published: October 9, 2016
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