Monday, February 22, 2016

Donald Trump: The Edge of the End

The ascent of Donald Trump is a more-than-ominous ethical plummet that threatens world stability.  A political theorist at Harvard writes:

Like any number of us raised in the late 20th century, I have spent my life perplexed about exactly how Hitler could have come to power in Germany. Watching Donald Trump’s rise, I now understand.

Yes,  many of us have been perplexed by how Hitler could rise.  And now many of us understand.  Scarier still, that understanding does not stall the lie-spewing juggernaut whom the media coddles with the sobriquet, ‘The Donald.’  What excuse do we have, after the thorough historical analysis of the Third Reich, to be so ignorant as a nation?  What excuse after having read the wise words, such as those of Elie Wiesel in Night? 

Those aware must now drape themselves within the noble call of such words: 

There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.

Eerily, even some on the right seem to get it, although in a warped, disturbing way.  Here is Erick Erickson, a well-known ‘conservative’ pundit:

“I will not rally to Trump. Frankly, if Trump is able to get the nomination, the Republican Party will cease to be the party in which I served as an elected official ... It will not deserve my support and will not get it if it chooses to nominate a pro-abortion liberal masquerading as a conservative, who preys on nationalistic, tribal tendencies and has an army of white supremacists online as his loudest cheerleaders."

Erickson is more concerned with Trump’s alleged status as a “pro-abortion liberal” than his “army of white supremacists.”  Apparently the white-supremacy aspect would be acceptable if only Trump wasn’t secretly in favor of abortion.  Regardless, my point is that even ideologues like Erickson see the racism and the fascism.  And still--still--Trump ascends.

As a student of ethics, focusing on oppression, I have studied human psychology much of my adult life.  I know about denial, about Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil”:  how the people in Germany who worked in or countenanced the concentration camps seemed so ordinary and mundane.  I have studied, witnessed, and experienced myself the difference between a stung person with a raised consciousness and a conformist person with a dormant, staid consicence.  Even so, having witnessed the profound ignorance around sexism and racism in this country (and all the rest), it still shocks me that so many people could embrace Trump.  The awful truth is that they want a racist, at least in the hidden corners of their hearts.

The babble of denial and apologism fills the airwaves.  ‘He’s not that bad.’  ‘He won’t go that route’.  From his core supporters the you get the forged, hardened hatred, ‘He’s not a racist, you are!’ 

Even among liberals, there is great dismissal of the threat. 

In Night, Moshe the Beadle escapes the Nazis and returns to warn the Jews: 

 He talked on and on about the brutality of the killers. “Listen to me!” he would shout. “I’m telling the truth. On my life, I swear it!” But the people were deaf to his pleas. I liked him and could not bring myself to believe him. (29)

Part of our general dismissal of the hellish threat posed by Trump maps with a phenomenon described by Arendt:  the banality of evil.  We make excuses like, ‘Nothing like Hitler can happen here, we are a civilized country.’  ‘We believe in the Bill of Rights.'  And so on.  For the record, let me state emphatically:  this attitude of dismissal is tragically wrong-headed.  Note that Trump has already called for a ban on Muslims visiting this country, a flagrant attack on the principle of freedom of religion.  That’s just for starters.

We liberals like to satirize Trump, erecting him as a fountain for endless streams of jokes.  But that release valve for stress, it seems, often trivializes what should be condemned.  It deadens what ought to cry out in protest..  Fun can turn even the most hate-filled narcissist into a cute effigy.  A caricature ultimately acceptable.  Notice how the media often describe Trump rallies as ‘Trump having fun.’

I’ve tried to imagine what it was like to live as an antebellum abolitionist, watching slaves in chains, yet hating slavery at a moral level, one that involves the necessary backing of the enlightened, passion heart.  The slaves suffered infinitely worse that the slavery-protesters; yet it would be painful to feel impotent, as an abolitionist, watching such evil transpire, clothed in the acceptance of the workaday.  (by calling this historical slavery ‘evil’ I have already alienated myself from many Americans, who claim the slavers were not evil, just products of a culture embedded in a different time).

What we all know, but don’t want to know, is this:  under our masquerades and habits lurk false premises and cruelties.  There is an epidemic of violence against women in this country.  Sexual assault is often casual and generally unpunished.  A similar truth can be stated about child abuse.  There is racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and on and on.  As these biases stack and extend to effectively encourage violence, our typical behaviors and scripted styles seem thinner and thinner, domino masks less concerned with care than disguise.

Those in Nazi Germany who lived out the banality of evil knew what was going on in the camps (1).  Their quotidian smiles hid their shadow frowns.  The manifestation of this dark side was not so hidden, really, just collectively denied, partitioned into a werewolf-like state.  The concentration camps were demonic yet real, infernal yet actual.  The people of Nazi Germany were as infected with hate for the ‘subhumans’, as they were bubbly with smiles for those they acknowledged as humans.  Jews, homosexuals and gypsies were vile, despicable lesser beings, worthy of disgust.

Donald Trump has mastered the language of disgust, wedding it to a rhetoric of anathema.  His outrageous lies push us to lower and lower norms.   He has said that thousands of Muslims cheered in New Jersey when the Twin Towers fell, an atrocious lie.  He has called to ban all Muslims.  More recently, he used an apocryphal story about General Pershing dipping bullets in pigs blood to kill Muslims:

“South Carolina (CNN):  Donald Trump on Friday cited an apocryphal story about a U.S. general who purportedly dipped bullets in pigs' blood to execute Muslim prisoners a century ago in an effort to deter Islamic terrorism.

Speaking at a rally in North Charleston, South Carolina, Trump reiterated his claim that the U.S. should "go much further" than waterboarding suspected terrorists, telling the story of Gen. John Pershing in the Philippines, who Trump said captured 50 Muslim prisoners a century ago and dipped 50 bullets in blood.

"And he lined up the 50 people and they shot 49 of those 50 people, and he said to the 50th, you go back to your people and you tell them what happened -- and in 25 years there wasn't a problem," Trump said to the audience, which grew quiet as he told the story.”

Can there be any doubt where this is going? 

It is time to act.  Act now.

What is the best way?  First, we need to acknowledge a terrible truth:  Trump’s many followers want white supremacy, even at the cost of liberty.  They will not say this, most of them are not even aware, I suspect, of their inner desire for white neighborhoods, white communities, a white America.  'White' being symbolic for sanitary.  But I find it ironic at its most perverse that those who call others vile are themselves the vile ones. They clad themselves in sterlized, cold metaphors that creep toward segregation. Extermination.  But they are not sanitary.  They are not objective.  They are not white in any sense of clean.  The racists are the ugliness.  They project their own sickness onto others.

 This is the best explanation for the unbending loyalty to Trump:  he champions racism.  Trump attracts a certain type of personality, the authoritarian; he is the only one on the right emphasizing the vast corruption of the US government-economic system; he is correct about some things, such as jobs going to China, the deterioration of US world-status, and so on; but none of this would matter, not to his followers, if he weren't, first and foremost, a visionary racist.  Racism is the sine qua non.

In the masses that support the fascist, then, we gaze  into a pit:  virulent entrenched bigotry.  The only answer I see is the response of Martin Luther King, Jr.   AgapeIn the face of the lowest  form of human behavior, the antidote is the highest form:  spiritual love.

If Trump wins--a callous, fragile narcissist who despises people as petty creatures--he could use the power of the US military to invoke dark self-aggrandizement.  For him, it would amount to tantrum.  For the rest of us, it means the end of freedom, or life, as we know it. 

The great global empire could tilt either way, at this historical moment, tipping the balance of civilization.  Nothing less will occur--as we struggle against the ladder-climbing and ego-inflation of Donald Trump--than a grand judgement of humanity en masse.  Our own collective behavior will be jurist, jury, and fate.



  1. We, that is to say the world, are already over the edge of the end. Today Mr. Assange reveals that the NSA is spying on Ban Ki Moon. They bugged his meeting with Merkel to discuss environmental issues.

  2. It seems to be that your empire is based on war and secrecy and spying. But maybe that's the way of the world. If so, why?

  3. Donald Trump is scary. In Scotland we have direct experience of this in his treatment of people in north east Scotland (living near the golf course he's built up there). It's worth watching 'You've been Trumped!' if you haven't already seen it