When the grieving parents of Harry Dunn arrived from the UK at the White House, they never expected to meet Donald Trump . Their only hope was to get justice for their son, a British teen killed by a reckless American diplomatic wife driving a car.
Trump met with the parents. But instead of promising to allow the British police to prosecute Anne Sacoolas, who fled to the United States after striking and killing the 19 – year-old , he had a far more odious idea: convince the family to meet Saccolas in front of a pool of photographers.
It was reality TV spectacle at its most soulless and the parents were rightly unwilling to participate in such a farce. The Dunn family felt “ambushed,” a spokesman said. The event was “obviously designed to be a press call.”
The family is open to a meeting in the future, but rightfully want it to take place “on our terms and on UK soil.” At the minimum, they want to see Anne Sacoolas prosecuted and not hiding behind the shield of diplomatic immunity. Such a meeting should not be about glorifying America’s carnival barker president, but about furthering healing and justice.
The family spokesman, Radd Seiger, reserved particular scorn for Trump’s new national security advisor, Robert O’Brien. “It struck us that this meeting was hastily arranged by nincompoops on the run and in particular Mr O’Brien, who appeared to be extremely uptight and aggressive and did not come across at all well in this meeting which required careful handling and sensitivity.”
For the American public, barraged daily by Trump’s indignities and atrocities, the exploitation of a couple’s unknowable sorrow may soon be forgotten. But it should be held up as a reminder of all Trump really is, a hollow vessel devoid of tact and empathy, committed to the show, his show, above all else.
He knows we can’t tune out. He knows he is the apotheosis of what our culture, for decades, has been hurtling towards: the monetization of existence itself, including tragedy. Nothing can be sacred in Trump’s America. Entertainment is the first and only rule.
The parents of Harry Dunn, spying the hungry photographers, learned this in the worst way they could, when they were at their most vulnerable. If the Trump presidency is understood, on one hand, as a flimsy apparatus for the most hardline conservatives to realize as many of their white nationalist, anti-government fever dreams as quickly as possible, there is also the other reality: a presidency as pure TV and nothing else, guided by the deranged whims of a man who is illiterate in every language but ratings.
The Dunn family offered yet another opportunity for Trump to entertain himself and keep the public addicted to his spectacle. He was only foiled because not everyone will play along. He never considered the feelings of the parents because he does not know how to even approximate such emotions. If he cared about others, we would be watching a very different presidency.
The Dunn family deserves justice for their son. Sacoolas, a killer and a coward, must be brought to justice in the UK. Perhaps Trump will find a way to strike a deal to make it happen. Perhaps he won’t. All we know is that any decision he ultimately reaches will not be made with them in mind. The spectacle will always come first.