Donald Trump speaking at a podium

Trump says “Hey! What’s going on?!”

By now, few have not commented on Donald Trump and his bid for the highest office in the US. Depending on where you stand on the political spectrum, Trump is either a messiah or the literal reincarnation of Adolf Hitler.

Some say Donald Trump is the only one brave enough to say what most people are thinking. Some point out that he’s simply exploiting deep-seated fears to score easy political points. Others think Trump is a glorified troll.

“Poppycock!” I say.

Trump is neither an evil mastermind nor a wise savior. Instead, I’m starting to suspect Trump is actually just a confused man who deserves our compassion. He often has trouble grasping basic things and genuinely fails to understand what’s going on.

This isn’t me slandering Trump, by the way. Trump always readily admits to his near-constant state of bewilderment. His earnest attempts to make sense of the world around him are the driving force behind everything Trump does.

Here are some chosen Trump quotes:

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

statement on preventing Muslim immigration.

I see why Trump would get confused. This is difficult. Many people practice Islam. Most people who practice Islam are good people. Some people who practice Islam are bad people. What does it all mean?!

I’ll try to help: What’s going on is that there are over 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, the vast majority of whom are pretty regular human beings instead of crazy caricatures you might’ve seen in a cartoon once. They overwhelmingly despise ISIS and other terrorist groups.

There’s also a violent minority of malevolent douchebags (see ISIS) that hijack the religion for their own purposes and use it to justify murder. They’re awful.

Most of us understand this distinction and ask how we can zero in on the source of the problem, prevent people from getting radicalized, and punish those directly responsible for committing crimes.

There’s also an angry minority that believes the answer to fixing a bad tooth is bashing a person’s whole face in with a sledgehammer. They propose policies like indiscriminate, blanket bans on whole groups of people.

“We have a president who refuses to use the term. Refuses to say it. There is something going on with him that we don’t know about.”

– on Obama’s refusal to use the term “Radical Islamic terrorism”

That’s true. For example, we have no idea what Obama’s favorite color of underwear is or which character he got in the “What Star Wars character are you?” quiz.

As for why Obama avoids saying the words “Radical Islamic terrorism,” there are actually several well-articulated reasons, like not granting legitimacy to terrorists who explicitly try to paint this as a war of religions and not alienating potential US allies through clumsy choice of words.

Obama is the president of a major country and has to balance an intricate web of international relations, weighing the long-term implications of his words and actions. His rhetoric must by definition be more nuanced than “HULK SEE BAD GUY! HULK SMASH!”

I can see why someone like Jeb Bush finds comfort in reducing this complexity to three words, and why he gets outraged when Obama tiptoes around the topic by saying Muslim-friendly things like:

Americans understand we fight not a religion; ours is not a campaign against the Muslim faith. Ours is a campaign against evil.


Islam is a vibrant faith. Millions of our fellow citizens are Muslim. We respect the faith. We honor its traditions. Our enemy does not. Our enemy doesn’t follow the great traditions of Islam. They’ve hijacked a great religion.

Except those quotes are not from Obama. They are what George W. Bush repeatedly said after 9/11. Man, the Christmas reunion at the Bush house will be tense!

But I do understand where Trump’s confusion stems from.

“…she responded to her friends. And you know what friends we’re talking about. Sort of an interesting friend going on there. A lot of people don’t get that.”

– on Hillary Clinton’s handling of Benghazi

You win this round, Trump. I actually genuinely have no idea what’s going on in that quote.

“You know, there’s something definitely going on. I don’t know that that question can be answered. It could be answered two ways. It could be answered both ways. But there’s something going on there. There’s something that there’s a lot of hatred coming out of, at least a big part of it. You see the hatred. I mean, we see it every day.”

– on whether Islam is inherently violent

Trump isn’t sure if the right answer is “basically impossible to answer” or “there are two possible ways to answer” or even “both answers are correct.” But he has no doubt that something’s going on and that he has no clue what it is. Some hatred. Somewhere. It’s complicated.

“I watched in Jersey City where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. So something is going on. We’ve got to find out what it is.”

– on people’s reactions after 9/11

Right, Trump, something is indeed going on. Here’s what it is:

The Internet is a place where people share information. Sometimes, that information is factually correct. Other times, not so much. The Internet makes it easy for like-minded people to latch on to any information—whether it’s true or false—and build a community around it. You may have unwittingly fallen victim to this.

The memory implanted in your head likely stems from an MTV report that talked about a group of loud teenagers who were smashing public property and chanting hateful things. Your claim of mass celebrations in New Jersey by “thousands and thousands of people” has been debunked again and again and again.

So, yeah, something is going on. That something is that Trump is mistaking a barely substantiated and greatly exaggerated rumor for an actual, vivid memory. The poor man.

“When you had the World Trade Center go, people were put into planes that were friends, family, girlfriends, and they were put into planes and they were sent back, for the most part, to Saudi Arabia. They knew what was going on. They went home and they wanted to watch their boyfriends on television.”

– on WTC attackers and their families

Oh, man, you’re doing it again! Reading conspiracy sites. They’ll get you, if you’re not careful. What we do know is that the 9/11 Commission concluded that most hijackers were single, and those that were didn’t have their partners in the US before the attack.

As you see, while it’s easy to paint Trump as some master of manipulation, he’s really just a man who doesn’t quite know what’s going on and wants everyone to stop and explain it to him. Donald Trump is the guy in the room who asks, “Wait, if Bruce Willis was dead the whole time, how was he talking to that weird kid?” when you get to the final scene in the The Sixth Sense.

This is why I posit that Trump deserves our sympathy and understanding. In fact, I suggest we change his campaign slogan from “Make America Great Again” to “Hey! What’s going on?!”

Stop giving Trump such a hard time! At least until we find out exactly what’s going on with him.

Featured image credit: Gage Skidmore