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A fill-in took his SATs, and the PDB must be read to him; now he's the "education president."

We didn't need a book by a Trump family member to verify what we already knew—that the president's narcissism runs so deep that empathy and understanding are irretrievably lost to him, and that when he does something that serves no purpose but his own, we should no longer be surprised.

Still his niece Mary's book does underscore an attribute of which we were not unaware but the depth of which we may not have fully realized: Donald Trump's cruelty. Of all the names I have called him over the years, I don't think I ever used sadist. Maybe I avoided it because it seemed redundant: people with no regard for others are almost by definition sadistic. But we have seen evidence of his particular brand of cruelty more and more since his impeachment and the onset of the pandemic.


All caps of course, because the economy had tanked and the restrictions on reopening the country were stringent and he was angry. ANGRY! At the time he was still musing about filled churches at Easter—though he would not have occupied any of the pews, of course. It was the first time he had openly dropped the value of human lives below the importance of restarting the economy. It would not be the last.

Now I know there are those who will say that a dying economy kills people also, but it doesn't have to. It isn't a virus; it's a choice. European countries in the same situations paid the salaries (or a high percentage of them) to workers who were laid off because of the coronavirus. We, however, paid companies (it's the execs who financially support Trump), and slipped a little help to individuals. The results are painful: while America reverted to food banks and food lines and other forms of charity reminiscent of the Great Depression, European citizens went about their lives with a degree of normality, or at least as much as was possible when sheltering.

Throughout the pandemic Trump has placed economic interests (and his own) over that of the nation's health. There's Tulsa, for instance, and Rushmore, his now-famous jeremiad at the Lincoln Memorial where he found new ways to say "woe is me," all of which meant the same thing. Now he has set his sights on schools. Yes folks, we are now being asked to believe that this president for whom another person took the SATs, who cannot read the PDB each morning because the words are too long, who credits the Air Force with playing a pivotal role in the Revolutionary War, and who is still awaiting a visit from Frederick Douglass—this guy is the education president. And if people have to die to prove it, he's okay with that.

His latest threat—cutting off federal funds to schools that do not reopen is just stupid, even for someone who traffics in stupidity on a daily basis. But there can be damage, as a result, and Trump is not cruel by accident but cruel by design. He knows that parents want their kids back in school so that those parents can get back to their jobs. Trump is counting on their willing to roll the dice on the virus, to believe his palaver that 99% of the cases are harmless (a lie) and that children are less susceptible to the ravages of the disease than areolder people.

Statistics bear that out. From the onset of Covid-19, Connecticut has registered over 4,000 deaths. Sixty-five percent of those (and maybe much more) have been people over 80 years of age. Twenty-seven people younger than 39 have died. One teenager. It seems then that opening the schools is a no-brainer, and that would be true were it not for the unusual transmissive quality of Covid-19—you can feel fine yet infect many. Moreover, you can become mildly ill as an 18-year-old, then infect your forty-year-old mother, and her 65-year old father. The mortality rate rises with each new bracket.

Meanwhile, waiting in the wings is Betsy DeVos who hates public schools and the people who work in them, and would love the opportunity to earmark education funds toward private institutions who could, if they choose, flout public guidelines and reopen in spite of them. She can't do that without Congress, but she wants to.

I'm a former teacher; if I were still an active one, all I'd want right now is for schools to open in September. But I'd want them to open safely. It's doable. It probably would involve a lot of masks, disinfectant, and plexiglass along with a good deal of staggered scheduling and distance learning, but it can be done. Donald Trump, however, is not the one to set the guidelines. Not only is he not an educator, he's hardly educable. And with his willingness to wink at the July explosion of virus cases in the majority of the states, and his virtual denial that the pandemic still exists, he will have no problem doing the same with schools when little hot spots develop and schools want to shut down. He'll tell them to tough it out, weighing how many deaths are too many. It's only numbers to Trump.

In case you've forgotten, his cruelty continues unabated at the southern border. I suggest that instead of investing money in Mary Trump's already exposed exposé, read instead Jacob Soboroff's Separated, which examines the almost unimaginable separation and isolation—internment—of immigrant children. The shameless activity has been going on for years.

Children at the border, soldiers in Afghanistan, storm victims in Puerto Rico—everyone is expendable for Trump. Why would schoolchildren be any different?

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