Last Thursday, one of the United States’ closest neighbors suffered a catastrophic natural disaster. An 8.1 magnitude earthquake rocked southern Mexico and triggered tsunami warnings up and down the Pacific coast. Six hundred miles away in Mexico City, residents felt the ground shake for almost a minute as the country suffered its strongest quake in decades. The disaster nearly coincided with landfall of a category 2 hurricane in Veracruz on the Atlantic side of the isthmus.
When the shaking stopped, at least 60 people had perished in the quake, and cities and villages — especially those in Oaxaca — had been decimated. In the worst hit city of Juchitan, over 100 buildings, including city hall, had been reduced to rubble and the streets were impassable with the debris of collapsed homes. Almost 2 million people lost power and at the children’s hospital in Tabasco State, a baby died when her ventilator failed during the outages.
The quake, which could be the strongest in Mexico in over a century, comes just ten days after Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas. Almost immediately following Harvey, the Mexican government and people offered aid and volunteers to assist with rescue and recovery in the U.S. The Mexican Red Cross, in conjunction with the federal government, assembled a rapid response team with emergency beds, generators, food, and mobile kitchens. A week ago, the much-needed convoy of supplies arrived at the border, en route to hard-hit Houston families who had lost everything.
Eight days since a U.S. ally and neighbor contributed to Texas relief efforts, and four days after the same resources could have been used for Mexico’s own disaster assistance, Donald Trump has yet to tweet, comment, or publically acknowledge either event. He has neither thanked the Mexican people or government for their assistance, nor has he deigned to make a statement of support during their own crisis.
Trump is proving, once again, that he is a petty man and that he is not a leader by any sense of the word. He may pride himself on being a boss, but bosses and leaders are not cut from the same moral cloth or bred in the same talent pool. Bosses, like Trump, are jealous, crass, egotistical, and low-thinking operatives who stunt innovation and inspiration to focus on personal gain. Conversely, good leaders are engaged, humane, altruistic, and high-functioning problem solvers who encourage thought and excellence for the greater good.
I overheard someone refer to Trump as “the new isolationist” yesterday because he had snubbed the Mexicans on both Hurricane Harvey aid and the earthquake. A red-hatted proclaimer proudly issued the misnomer with a snort and a grin, almost as a gleeful over Trump’s political vulgarity as Attorney General Jeff Sessions announcing the end of DACA last week.
In the catalogue of political labels, Trump is most certainly not an isolationist. His policies are less 1920s American isolationism and more 1930s Hitler xenophobia. Isolationism in its purest sense was a policy of avoiding long-term foreign alliances, thereby preserving American sovereignty and freedoms by relying on its vast natural oceanic borders instead of treaties. Isolationism referred specifically to America’s involvement in European affairs.
There is nothing remotely isolationist about failing to acknowledge a neighboring country’s goodwill or suffering. Accepting with gratitude, any aid in time of disaster does not weaken America’s standing; and making a customary and ceremonial statement of generosity and benevolence can only strengthen the nation. Trump, in stubbornly choosing to remain silent vis-à-vis Mexico, is undermining international relations with one of our two closest neighbors — if not both of them.
Even as Trump refuses to acknowledge Mexico’s contribution to Texas recovery or the death and destruction that happened late Thursday, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reached out to Mexico immediately after the earthquake. With a simple statement of compassion and sincerity, Trudeau exemplified the nature of North American leadership most U.S. residents are accustomed to witnessing at home. By doing so, Trudeau bridged the gap that Trump is creating, and reinforced neighborly ties between Mexico and Canada.
My thoughts are with the injured & all those who lost loved ones in last night’s deadly earthquake in Mexico. Canada stands ready to help.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) September 8, 2017
The measure of a great nation is not merely the strength of its borders, or its ability to stand alone against adversity. A great country is one that humbly accepts all offers of assistance in times of need, knowing the same resources will certainly be returned without need of others asking.
Mexico, the American people stand with you through your difficult times, and those affected by Hurricane Harvey thank you for your generosity. We the People know the value of being a good neighbor. We the People know how to keep our country great through inclusion, sharing, and gratitude, which is more than can be said for our boss and his misguided misanthropic concept of leadership. ¡Viva México!