MOSF 19.4: “Joe is a Weak Palestinian”: Trump’s Racism and Toxic Masculinity Are Unconditionally Disqualifying

Memoirs of a SuperFan Vol. 19.4: “Joe is a Weak Palestinian”: Trump’s Racism & Toxic Masculinity Are Disqualifying

by Ravi Chandra
June 28, 2024

As a psychiatrist, my professional opinion is that a single exchange in the debate last night reveals, exposes, and reminds us:  Trump is a racist, toxic male. As a leader, he will be continue to be destructive to our mental health and social well-being. Biden is old yet competent, and has broadly earned our trust. Historians and experts rate Biden in the top third of all presidents, while Trump ranks dead last. Our choice in November is not ideal, but should be clear to us all.

Adobe stock image by arsenypopel, licensed by Ravi Chandra.

A candidate’s words reveal a lot, from character and psychological defenses to policy proposals. Journalists, pundits, and scholars will showcase former President Trump’s lies and character and President Biden’s slow start, halting performance, and occasional gaffes. As a psychiatrist, these two valid observations are not even comparable. I would like to remind everyone that we are not choosing a debater-in-chief or a rallier-in-chief – we are choosing a president and commander-in-chief.

Mr. Biden shows signs of aging (see references), but in my professional opinion as a psychiatrist, Mr. Trump poses a clear threat to our mental health and social well-being. His candidacy antagonizes us on cognitive, empathic, and relational domains. If he gets his way, he will lead to their destruction and thus severely impact and impair our mental health. I will first deal with these domains as differences between the two men, and then hone in on one exchange in the debate that reveals all.

I hope this article is psychoeducational, and not partisan per se. We must all enhance our cognitive, empathic, and relational skills. Our mental health depends on them. And we are significantly dependent on leaders to exemplify these qualities in our psychosocial environment. President Trump fails that test dramatically.

  1. Cognitively, Trump’s constant lying and self-promotion destroys our ability to think clearly about difficult, complex and nuanced issues. His debate performance struck the same note over and over again: essentially “I am perfect, did everything perfectly, I’ve done no wrong, and I will solve everything.” This is absurd and unreasonable, and leads his followers into total devotion without helping them think, or listening to any alternative voices.

  2. Empathically, Mr. Trump comes up far, far short of Mr. Biden. He had the audacity to claim he had the “biggest heart on stage,” and yet his racist rhetoric has been correlated with hate crimes and attacks on Asian Americans during COVID. He praised “fine people on both sides” during the White Nationalist uprising in Charlottesville, and last night denied the fact that he ever said this at all. We cannot trust a leader with minimal-to-no empathy.

  3. Relationally, Mr. Trump is a disaster. He is gearing up to destroy democracy, and he may have already created an unhealable rift in the population. Without evidence and against court decisions, he has cast doubt on every election he and his party have lost. He even claimed, again without evidence, that he won the popular vote in the 2016 race with Hillary Clinton. He has opposed the justice system. Without democracy, we have declining opportunities for equal justice, worsening levels of safety for minoritized groups, and increasing chances for corruption. Democracy creates the conditions for belonging, and belonging is the opposite of suffering. Democracy improves the conditions for relationship, peaceful coexistence, diversity, and interdependence, and the learning, growth and enlightenment that can come from these. Increasing levels of democracy are correlated with increasing lifespan. Without democracy and trust in our courts, we lose our chance at equal justice and equal treatment, and relationships are corrupted and devalued in favor of obedience to authority. We may not be a perfect union, but Mr. Trump aims to subordinate all relationship to his will. At least a dozen former Trump cabinet officials refuse to endorse him – he has destroyed his relationship with them, and their respect for him.

Now, I’m just going to focus on one phrase Mr. Trump used. Here it is, verbatim, in a 32-second clip excerpted from the debate by Al Jazeera. Trump reveals the above threats to our mental health, and also demonstrates his total lack of understanding and seriousness about one of the most important international issues of our day.

In the full exchange, President Biden advanced the 3-stage ceasefire and peace proposal that his administration and the Israeli government approved, but is still awaiting approval from Hamas. Biden also stated his support for Israel’s goal of eliminating Hamas entirely. In the clip, Trump denies that Hamas is the holdout in the negotiations, and advances the unfounded idea that Israel is the real holdout. He goes on to say that Israel should keep going “all the way,” and that President Biden is actually opposed to Israel “finish[ing] the job.” The Times of Israel reported Trump’s words verbatim:

“He doesn’t want to do it. He’s become like a Palestinian,” Trump said of Biden during the section dealing with foreign policy. “But they don’t like him because he’s a very bad Palestinian. He’s a weak one.”

Biden said he had secured across-the-board agreement for his three-stage plan to end the war, including from Israel.

“Everyone from the United Nations Security Council, straight through the G7 to the Israelis and [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu have endorsed the plan that I put forward,” Biden said. “The only one who wants the war to continue is Hamas.”

Trump also refused to commit to a two-state solution. “I’d have to see,” he said.

Trump showcased lies, bullying, racist scapegoating, and toxic masculinity in these remarks – all clear evidence of the cognitive, empathic, and relational challenges he poses.

His racism is plain. In his view, it is bad to be Palestinian – he employs the Palestinian identity as an insult, and a racist one at that. But – is racism a threat to mental health? I’m glad you asked.

Racism is a threat to mental health and social well-being

The DSM-V-TR states:

Racism exists at personal, interpersonal, systemic/institutional, and social structural levels. At the personal level, racism gives rise to internalized stereotypes and experiences of threat, devaluation, neglect, and injustice that affect individuals’ health and well-being… The structural violence and oppression of racism have physical, psychological, and social consequences, including negative effects on mental health…”

The American Public Health Association, the American Medical Association, and 209 municipalities, states, or public health departments have declared that racism is a public health crisis as of October, 2021. So yes, Virginia – racism is a threat to physical and mental health.

Trump displays toxic masculinity, another threat to mental health and social well-being

He went further, and called Biden a “weak Palestinian,” an implication that “strength” comes solely from aggression, force, and cruelty. This is the very definition of toxic masculinity, and is the kind of conceptualization Mr. Trump displays regularly. Anybody who has been in a relationship with toxic masculinity can detail all the impacts to their mental health, as with all abuses of power.

Conclusion

In a single exchange, Mr. Trump reveals the kind of person he is and the kind of leader he would be again. We’ve seen this all before, and we’ve just been reminded. As the saying goes, “when they tell you who they are – believe them.”

Biden may be showing signs of age, but Mr. Trump poses a danger to our mental health: our abilities to reason, care for those superficially different than us, and freely relate and love throughout our diverse democracy. There is no comparison.

© 2024 Ravi Chandra, M.D., D.F.A.P.A.

References and for further reading:

Ravi Chandra is a psychiatrist, writer, compassion educator, and civilizational health shaman in San Francisco, and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. Here’s his linktree. For fourteen years, he was lucky to have his MOSF posts published by the Center for Asian American Media, and is now at work broadening and building a diverse creative community and coalition through reflecting on culture and psychology for East Wind eZine. Sign up for updates here, and see all the posts here. He writes from the metaphorical intersection of The Fillmore and Japantown in San Francisco, where Black and Asian communities have mingled since the end of the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. He literally works there, between two Indian restaurants, go figure. His debut documentary was named Best Film (Festival Director’s Award) at the 2021 Cannes Independent Film Festival. The Bandaged Place: From AIDS to COVID and Racial Justice is available on-demand, and with the discount code “Awake” you can get a 20% discount. His nonfiction debut, Facebuddha: Transcendence in the Age of Social Networks, won the 2017 Nautilus Silver Award for Religion/Spirituality of Eastern Thought. You can find him on Psychology Today, MediumTwitterThreads, Facebook,  Instagram,  YouTube,  SoundCloud, or better yet, in the IRL.