“If a soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed.”
That quote from Victor Hugo is the first line that opens Mary Trump’s book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s most Dangerous Man.
Like many of us, I generally zip past an epigraph, just wanting to get to the story. I don’t want an appetizer, give me to the steak! But that quote here is especially meaningful.
When Too Much and Never Enough came out last month I ran to the local bookstore for my copy–Jeff Bezos gets enough from me–and slurped it right up. I didn’t have a single thought of writing about it, because, well, after a book has taken up entire The Rachel Maddow Show twice….once with Rachel reading the juicy bits, and another of her talking with the author…plus interviews with Stephen Colbert and Terry Gross and press about everywhere, does anyone care what I think?
But while the juice squirts on every page here–Donald went to the movies the night his brother died totally alone!!–the most shocking take-away from the 250 pages of horrifying revelations of a complicated family has been largely ignored.
The most surprising feeling I came away with was of compassion for Donald Trump.
When Donald was two and-a-half his mother underwent an emergency hysterectomy and from that point on his mother, who was not effectual in the first place, was largely absent. Father Fred worked 12 hours a day six days a week and his wife’s medical condition and five young children didn’t change that. There was plenty of money for quality help, but instead the little ones were left mostly in the care of big sister.
Oldest brother Freddie–Mary’s father–was emotionally open and enjoyed normal interests in friends, fishing, boating and flying, but the father saw those interests in a designated successor as useless. Worse than useless, in fact, because they detracted from work and the family real estate empire. Did the alcohol abuse that ultimately killed Freddy at 42 come about in part because of mistreatment by the family? Was it the other way around? The bad luck of genetics? Or some combination?
Donald absorbed the lesson that Freddy was doing life wrong and he, Donald, was determined to be the “killer” son his father wanted. Donald went at that hard, fast and well, so well that he was unmanageable as a young teenager and sent off to military school.
Narcissists are difficult people largely because they don’t think they have a problem, they believe everyone else is the problem. The world should rightfully revolve around them, as Donald’s family did around him. Father Fred in one of a seemingly infinite number of illegal bailouts, deposited $3 million in cash at Donald’s casino, hoping to keep it afloat.
The mystery isn’t why Donald turned out the way he has, but why has the world let him get away with it? From the beginning there were illegal financial dealings, deceptions that became outright lies, and manipulations that he turned into positive headlines. Donald once attempted a codicil to his father’s will that would give him total control of the estate. His siblings discovered that and put a stop to it, a rare guardrail. But there was no punishment prejudicial rental practices, his various bankruptcies and countless lies, including many told just for fun. At every step of the way, as with surviving impeachment, Donald Trump has only become more emboldened by a lack of consequences.
Donald and his siblings were trustees for Mary Trump and her brother Fritz, and instead of watching out for their interests, stole as much money as they could from their niece and nephew. “Of course wills are about money,” psychologist Mary Trump writes, “but in a family that has only one currency, wills are also about love.”
“That is how Donald Trump became president,” said comedian Chris Rock, in his most recent stand-up special Tamborine. In efforts to diminish bullying in schools and online we became complacent and “then when a real bully showed up and no one knew how to handle him.”
Back to the epigraph in the book, “If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed,” wrote Victor Hugo in Les Misérables. The equally important point is in the following sentence: “The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness.”