The world got a glimpse into what went wrong with Donald Trump at a very young age this week that contributes to our understanding of his sociopathic personality. It came this week in his telephone conversation with a seven-year-old from South Carolina on Christmas Eve. Trump asked the child, “Are you still a believer in Santa, because at 7 it’s marginal, right?” According to Charleston Post and Courier, the girl replied, “Yes,” even though the response could not be heard by the press assembled with Trump at the Oval Office.
The girl was selected to receive the call because she was one of the children who called into NORAD’s annual Christmas Eve Santa Watch. She was roughly the same age as two migrant children who’ve died in U.S. custody this month.
Of course, the girl didn’t know what the word “marginal” meant, nor should she have. And for all we know, the president’s comment threw some serious confusion and doubt at the girl’s seasonal affirmations. Children tend to hang onto their beliefs in stories about Santa kinds of things because they reflect the warmth and magic of a time each year when people seem to be so much nicer to each other than usual.
Children are gladly willing to suspend any disbelief in the name of that special time, and by contrast to Trump’s cold water of disbelief, the most famous affirmation of that came in the famous 1897 editorial in the New York Sun written in response to a girl a year older than the one Trump talked to, entitled, “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus.”
The editorial stated that in a skeptical age, “People think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.” But, it added, “All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.”
It went on, “Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can…picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.”
Or, as friend put this season, “May you never be too grown up to search the skies on Christmas eve.”
When you search the skies earnestly in the spirit of the holidays, you may not see Santa per se, but you can see a vast universe smiling back at you.
Poor Donald Trump. One wonders whether he’s ever looked up higher than the top floor of one of his ghastly buildings. Clearly, he had the Santa beaten out of him at a very young age as anything but a materialistic marketing stunt.
There was no room for magic in his childhood, or to put it in another way, he simply had no childhood.
In my childhood home at Christmas, we had no fireplace, but that did not stop us from erecting a cardboard one and to place our stockings along with the obligatory glass of milk and plate of cookies on the big night each year.
I recall taking my younger brother to a Christmas pageant at the town hall in our tiny burg where the Santa was less than stellar. Walking home after, my brother began spewing disbelief in Santa. I remember how strongly I felt it was my duty to convince him of his error.
He must have thought me quite the fool to believe what I was telling him, but I didn’t mind.
Nicholas Benton may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.