Trump recently made the rounds bragging about how “cognitively there” because he passed the “person woman man camera tv” test. Most of the world went “huh?” WTF is he even talking about?
But many of us know exactly what he’s talking about. We know that it isn’t something to be bragging about or minimizing. And it isn’t something to be joking about.
The test – and its results — are painfully real for many people and their families. Trump parading around about it is just another example of his cruelty and total lack of even one ounce of empathy. And before you jump on the bandwagon to make light of his narcissistic obliviousness, please remember that this isn’t something many families are laughing about. In fact, for many of us, hearing the president talk about this test in such a casual, braggadocious way is a punch-to-the-gut reminder of the realities we are facing.
For those who aren’t familiar with this test, it is the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, which is commonly referred to as the MoCA test. It is used to diagnose medical conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS and schizophrenia, among other things.
According to the Washington Post, “the test is widely used because of its brevity and effectiveness as a screening tool for mild dementia. It is made up of roughly 30 questions designed to evaluate basic cognitive skills such as short-term memory, visual cues, language and orientation.”
Trump boasting about passing this test only shows that he may not have those one of those conditions. It does nothing to show intelligence, emotional awareness, and certainly not those skills necessary to run one of the world’s most powerful nations. All it shows is how devoid of compassion he is.
Because for many folks this test – and his cavalier way of talking about it – is the marker of a traumatic turning point in their lives, and their families’ lives, because it confirms what they may have suspect for a while. Namely, that they aren’t just getting “forgetful” or “slipping,” they are dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
“It’s not meant to measure IQ or intellectual skill in anyway,” Ziad Nasreddine, the neurologist who created the test, told the Washington Post. “If someone performs well, what it means is they can be ruled out for cognitive impairment that comes with diseases like Alzheimer’s, stroke or multiple sclerosis. That’s it.”
Experts worry that the test’s characterization by Trump and in the media could stigmatize the test, especially when many people are already reluctant or ashamed to take the test.
“One of the questions was to draw a clock at a certain time, and I’m staring at the circle and can’t figure out where the small hand goes,” Jay Reinstein told the Washington Post. “I have a bachelor’s and master’s. … And I can’t draw a damn clock. I felt so frustrated, ashamed.”
I’ve seen the memes and heard the jokes. Hell, I even saw the t-shirt. And I get it. Trump is so awful, and his boasting about “acing” this test is so insensitive and obnoxious that it’s almost too easy. The jokes practically write themselves. But please. PLEASE. Think before you inadvertently make millions of innocent people and their families the unintended punchline of your ire.
Trump is loathsome. He is selfish, ignorant, and totally unfit for office. But the people who are taking this test – and receiving life-changing diagnoses as a result – are none of these things. They are real people. People who have led full lives. People who are genuinely intelligent and kind, but have become victims of a vicious disease. People like my dad.
Currently, more than 5 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s, and it is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. By 2050, the number of people living with Alzheimer’s in the U.S. is expected to increase to more than 14 million. These numbers are staggering, and they don’t even count all the family members who are directly impacted by the disease.
But as Reinstein told the Washington Post, “One test doesn’t define me and doesn’t change my life.”
Truer words have never been spoken. The test doesn’t define a person or their life. “Not passing” the test doesn’t mean that a person isn’t still filled with love, kindness, and affection. And Trump bragging about “acing” this test doesn’t mean he is smart, kind, wise, or even that he is “cognitively there,” as he claimed. All it does is confirm is wasn’t diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or Parkinson’s – and show that he is as heartless and arrogant as we’ve known for years.
But please don’t use his hatefulness as an excuse to joke about this very serious disease or cause further pain to those folks who are dealing with it.