In his 2016 campaign and early in Trump's presidency, his advisers often spoke of his difficulties with empathy, broaching the subject as if it were a minor quirk — like left-handedness or an imperceptible limp.

Events over these past three years, however, have shown it to be anything but minor. His inability to empathize has had real and dire consequences for human beings all across the planet. We have seen him toy with Ukraine, holding back desperately needed aid for political gain — with human lives in the balance.

We have seen him desert our allies, the Kurds, subjecting untold hundreds or thousands to the Turk's genocidal onslaught, children among them

Apparently the death and suffering of children matters little in Trump's world.

Not long ago, his administration ordered dozens of critically ill children to get out of the country — children who had actually been invited into this country in order to receive life-saving treatment unavailable elsewhere. Under pressure, that death sentence has been put on hold, but their fate remains in limbo. And then there are the children at the border. More than 5,000 kids (most under the age of 10) have, at Trump's bidding, been ripped from the arms of their parents — separated — often with no provision made to ever reunite them.

This process continues today in spite of court orders to stop. Hundreds of children may never be reunited with their families.

Those of you who are parents will no doubt balk at even trying to imagine the horror these mothers and fathers experienced, having lost that which is most precious to them. But for the children? The trauma inflicted upon them is horrific beyond imagining — their lives torn asunder with little chance of ever completely getting the pieces back together.

Beyond imagining? While true for most, some of us have actually lived through that nightmare. At the age of 7, under entirely different circumstances, I was taken from my parents for 17 days and denied contact of any kind from family members. I have carried the scars of that brutalizing experience ever since — with depression, insecurity and difficulties with relationships the resulting hallmarks whose origins can, in part, be traced back to that darkness. That was 17 days. These children have been tortured thus for months and years.

As one who has experienced a small slice of what these families have endured, I recognize it for what it is, a crime against humanity.

A lack of empathy is not a minor character flaw. It is a defect so crippling, so terrible that those who suffer from it deserve our pity — but never our votes.

Those of us who believe that compassion should be the chief attribute of leadership must do all we can to ensure that this presidency is not given another four years to exercise its malevolence.

Thomas W. Muther Jr. is a retired psychiatric RN and longtime human rights activist and lifelong resident of Topeka.