WASHINGTON — As The Wall dominated the week's news, a pitiful juxtaposition of two realities — one the hard truth, the other a lie — emerged to clarify the destructiveness of the American president's toxic narcissism.
Federal workers facing their first payday without a check were selling their possessions on social media so they could pay their bills. Donald Trump told NBC News correspondent Kelly O'Donnell that he can "relate" to the unpaid workers.
The president added: "And I'm sure that the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustments. They always do. And they'll make adjustments. People understand exactly what's going on. Many of those people that won't be receiving a paycheck, many of those people agree 100 percent with what I'm doing."
No, no, no and no.
That is, no, billionaires can't relate to people dependent on their next paycheck, unless perhaps they became billionaires after first serving time in the middle class. Obviously, this isn't Trump's resume. Though he says he made a fortune, it surely helped to begin with a multi-million dollar starter loan from dear ol' dad.
And no, people won't make adjustments when they can't. For the four out of five American workers who live paycheck to paycheck, there aren't many ways to adjust.
Thirdly, no, they don't understand what you're doing because it makes no sense. Trump's purely extortionist maneuver — hand over $5.7 billion for a wall or I'll furlough everybody — doesn't actually make the United States-Mexico border a "national emergency," as Trump has considered declaring so he can access disaster funds for his wall.
Finally, though some off-payroll folks may agree that border security needs tightening and may even support some sort of new barrier, the pertinent question hasn't been properly posed: Would you still support the wall if it meant that you'd indefinitely be unemployed or continue working for no pay? Do I hear a You betcha? Didn't think so.
Trump's imperviousness to others' misfortunes is by now legendary. What other president would toss rolls of paper towels to hurricane victims? But then, narcissists see only their own suffering, always someone else's fault, and empathy is for schmucks.
The wall, meanwhile, is subterfuge for his personal fulfillment. Once envisioned as a massive concrete wall with a "big, beautiful door" — perhaps a monument to the Trump brand — it lately has morphed into a hodgepodge of found objects: metal slats here, some cyclone fencing there, here a bit of steel — and over there, maybe, a bit of Papier-mache.
The specter of the hyped-up, Central American caravan that kept hysterics busy with images of terrorists, rapists and body snatchers seemed to vaporize after the midterm elections. Now that 2020 is up for grabs, The Wall Must Go Up.
Trump supporters do deserve our sympathies. Though many disavow his behavior yet remain committed to a conservative Supreme Court, they're stuck defying logic and defending the untenable. The man they must pretend to love seems to loathe them. Evidence is abundant and clear in his cold-hearted shutdown. And we've seen that Trump will throw anyone under the bus to get his way. He hires and fires with all the wisdom of, well, a reality-TV host. He pits countries and allies against one another with the impulsiveness of a binge shopper watching QVC at midnight.
Meanwhile, facts rarely furrow the president's brow. Fact: The number of illegal immigrants from Mexico has decreased over the past decade by 1.5 million, according to the Pew Research Center. Fact: The number of illegal immigrants entering the U.S. via Canada, nearly half of them Mexican, has increased by 142 percent since 2017, according to CBS News. For about $300, Mexican citizens can fly to Toronto or Montreal without need of a visa and then relatively easily sashay into the U.S.
Would Trump shut down the government for a northern wall?
Of course not. This is because "Build the Wall" and "Mexico will pay for it" were campaign slogans created by a guy who never expected to become president. Now that he faces possible rejection, the wall has become a metaphor for his identity, his very being-ness. To fail would be to suffer narcissistic injury, which, given Trump's immaturity and predilection to punch back, could lead to a real national crisis. As he said, he'd be proud to shut down the government — and keep it shut down for months or years if need be.
All for that stupid wall.
Kathleen Parker's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Washington Post Writers Group