There’s so much to say about Donald Trump right now. But there’s also some things I want to say about his ten-year-old son, Barron Trump, that I think we need to remember as we go into the Trump Presidency. Because the fact that the youngest Trump child was mocked on social media for his appearance at the Jan 20 inauguration is bad news, folks.
Mocking Barron Trump is Not Cool. Period.
Of course, we can’t know the political affiliation of the people who made the mocking tweets in question, but it doesn’t matter that much – I don’t care whether you lean to the right or the left, the minor children of political figures are off-limits. Trump’s adult children chose to get involved the campaign and Presidency – they shouldn’t have to put up with cyberbullying (no one should) but should expect potentially difficult questions they’re held accountable in their roles. Barron Trump didn’t have a choice about whether he’d be involved in this – he didn’t ask for the public scrutiny and shouldn’t have to deal with it. Liberals who’d bully a child aren’t ones with whom I want to be involved.
Barron Trump and the Autism Question
Which brings me to the other thing that’s happening that isn’t cool.
One of the tweets in the linked Bustle article above makes mention of the rumours that Barron Trump is autistic. Speculation along these lines started during Trump’s campaign, and it’s annoying that it’s still going on. Judging by the comments in this article, lots of people are more than willing to, based in the very limited footage of Barron Trump in the media and without the qualifications to diagnose, state definitively that he’s autistic.
As I’ve written before, I find armchair diagnosis extremely irritating (in general, not just when it’s happening to the Trump family.) I think it’s irresponsible, that it has great potential to perpetuate stigma and discrimination, and that the way that both parties used it during the election was dangerous. I wish that people wouldn’t speculate about whether Barron Trump is autistic. That sort speculation often comes with negative messaging about being autistic, and we should all know by now that there’s nothing wrong with being autistic.
In Barron Trump’s case, speculation about an autism diagnosis has also given rise to other unsubstantiated rumours and support for ridiculous demands on the Trump family, as we see in this article from the Santa Monica Observer. Despite acknowledging that there’s been no proof to support that Barron Trump has any sort of health condition, reporter Samuel Alioto writes that “evidence is mounting” that Barron is autistic, citing specific mannerisms and Trump’s parental age, and a tweet and remarks during a campaign debate by Trump about seeing a two-year-old become autistic after receiving vaccinations that many believe was about Barron; “it’s all over social media”, after all.
Crack journalism, that. Not much better than the video that caused Rosie O’Donnell to speculate whether Barron Trump is autistic, using as evidence things like his parents’ assertions that he’s good at computers, loves math and and science, and likes to spend time alone and keep his room clean, coupled with his “strange movements”, and “anti-social” behaviour at the RNC.
Melania Trump sued to have the video taken down and it’s since been re-uploaded, but it’s a piece of garbage and I’m not linking to it. Comments on the video suggested that her insistence on taking it down was a sign of denial or shame on the Trumps’ part, but I don’t agree – I would have done the same thing in her place. No matter how well-intentioned you fancy yourself, you don’t get to insert someone else’s kid into your cause and use footage of them without speaking to the family first. It’s disrespectful and completely dehumanizes Barron Trump in much the same way that Jim Carrey dehumanized Alex Echols when he used his photo without permission in an anti-vaccination Twitter rant.
Alioto’s conclusion that Barron Trump is autistic led him to write:
His parents choices have thrust Barron into the public spotlight, so now the issue must be addressed by his parents. If the story is verified, it would mean that Donald Trump did not tell the public a personal fact about his son that would have engendered public sympathy for him. He put his family’s privacy above political gain, which is certainly laudable. But now that there’s active speculation about Barron, it’s time to come forward.
Maybe I feel differently about this because I’m Canadian and, honestly, I couldn’t tell you how many children the last three Prime Ministers have had, let alone their names. I suspect that I’m not alone in that. The Prime Minister’s children stay very low-profile in Canada (with notable exceptions, of course – Ben Mulroney and Justin Trudeau blew that theory to bits.)
But I’ve never felt like disabled people in general (let alone those in politics) are required to become advocates just because they’re disabled, nor are families with disabled children required to be poster families. Any disability that Barron Trump may or may not have is no one’s business but his, his family’s, and the people with whom they choose to discuss it, and if Barron is autistic there may be good reasons why the family isn’t speaking about it:
- Melania Trump may not want added pressure to step into an advocacy/activist role.
- The family may feel like the extra attention may not be good for Barron at a time when there are a lot of other changes to adjust to.
- Barron Trump may prefer that the family not speak about it,
If Barron Trump does have autism, there’s nothing to suggest that that the family is staying quiet about it because of shame or denial, and the insinuation is unfair. Unless you’ve got everyday access to the Trumps, you can’t know what goes on in their family.
I loathe Donald Trump
But I’ve got no reason to dislike his kid. Is Barron Trump autistic? None of our business. Go about yours, and if you’re one of the ones mocking him on social media, leave him alone.
Because of nonsense like this, I’m spending too much time writing stuff that feels like uncomfortably like I’m defending Donald Trump. Don’t make me do it again.