A few words on cruelty
As we await the done deal of the Bart Kavanaugh white wash, I was struck by a couple of essays yesterday which spoke of the utter delight in cruelty in which Trump and his supporters take.
We’ve had conservative governments before. They’ve been, mostly, disasters. But none—not Reagan, not Nixon, not Bush the Second—openly reveled in cruelty as a matter of statecraft. Yes, the results of their policies were often cruel, but the rhetoric they employed was anything but.
However, in this regime, we have a movement which sees cruelty as a veritable good (if you can wrap your head around that oxymoronic image). The policies they enact are cruel, and they laud them precisely for their cruelty. Previous conservative governments at least issued boilerplate masking the intent. Not this one.
When Trump gets up at one of his cult rallies and castigates Christine Ford, to be met by rapturous adulation, we are in a very different place in our politics.
The people to whom Trump speaks feel their world slipping away from them at light speed. And they see outright cruelty to those they consider existential enemies to be the only solution to right the ship.
It’s easy to think of Trump supporters as monsters. What they believe in is monstrous; but they are all too human.
Humans can create soaring bridges and death camps, both at the same time. We are hairless apes who have the powers of gods and the morals of devils. Fear rules our lives, and we will flock to those who speak to those fears. Sometimes, as with Barack Obama, we find solace in someone who asks us to confront those fears and overcome them. But, many times, someone like Trump plies his pipe and rouses people’s fears to a fever pitch, saying that they are not to blame, but that those who are to blame will be “taken care of”.
I’ve stopped being shocked at this regime’s cruelty. It’s an all-too-common occurrence. What is new is the fact that it’s out in the open, not couched in the usual niceties. Republicans have always been cruel, but they were able to hide it better in their rhetoric. Now they’ve dispensed with the code words and they’ve allowed their bigotries and animus to fly free.
The solace is that they are in the minority. And that there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. By eschewing the old tropes, they’ve announced to the rest of us just what they have in mind. We are no longer fighting reasonable-sounding but differing policies. We’re fighting a movement which sees its survival only in our destruction. Such a clear demarcation is salutary in encouraging people for the struggle.
The cruelty is the reason for the Trumpist moment. But, it is only a moment. And we can have no doubt about this war’s parameters.
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