It goes without saying that this election cycle has been a circus. It’s been picked apart bit by bit, and with good reason. However, with this comes an extremely ableist rhetoric directed at Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
There’s no denying that Trump is a terrible person. He’s violently racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, misogynistic and, with new tapes and a court case that have come to light, a rapist and sexual predator, among many other things.
This is where it seems to get tricky for some folks. Instead of articulating the ways in which Trump is a shitty person, people are using ableist language to declare their hate for him.
Folks have been bringing about discussion on how Trump is a megalomaniac or how he has narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Some have said his campaign’s strategy is schizophrenic. People have called him stupid, called him a maniac, an idiot, and even have gone as far as to say he’s emotionally and mentally retarded.
You can’t armchair-diagnose Trump.
Is Trump an awful person? Absolutely! But when we go about medicalizing and pathologizing folks like him, we are doing a disservice to the people who actually have these conditions. Not to mention armchair psychology is always ableist and reductive.
Most people making these statements have no formal psychological training, and those that do have never worked with Trump one-on-one. Many of these mental illnesses that folks have attached to Trump take a great deal of one-on-one work with a mental health professional to diagnose. They aren’t something anyone can diagnose simply because his public persona matches a list of symptoms on Web MD.
The truth is, besides knowing that the image he projects is violently misogynistic, racist, etc., we don’t know who he is when the cameras and microphones are off. Undoubtedly, he’s still racist, it’s pretty hard to hide that. But we can’t say for sure whether he has any mental illnesses.
When you say that Trump has NPD, megalomania, or any other mental illness, you’re saying that everyone with NPD, megalomania and other mental illnesses are as horrible as a bigoted, racist, misogynistic rapist.
Mental illnesses are serious and shouldn’t be trivialized. Stop calling shitty people maniacs, psychotic, schizophrenic, etc. Stop using diagnostic terms as adjectives, too. All of these are ableist. The whole rhetoric that comes with saying Trump is mentally ill affects many people with these same mental illnesses. When you do, so you are effectively harming those who are mentally ill.
If you consider yourself an activist or freedom fighter, especially if you are a person of color, let’s be clear: being ableist and perpetuating ableism is a form of assimilating with white supremacy. So if you are fighting for the liberation of people of color but you’re using ableist language, you’re being counterproductive.
It’s time we stop this, and that we hold other people accountable for doing it as well. Ableism isn’t going to stop him from being a horrible person. Ableism does absolutely nothing to get the point across — nor does it do anything to disrupt the status quo and all the privileges he upholds. Using ableism only serves to push folks with disabilities and mental illnesses further into the margins than we already are.
Listen, I hate the fact that I have to keep defending Trump — first it was the statues and fatphobia used in “protest” of him, and now this — but the fact remains that we cannot fight one form of oppression with another. Period.