A woman who I deeply respect as a dear friend and journalism colleague has chastised me for labeling as enemies Trump and those supporting Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to a seat on the United States Supreme Court. Her rebuke — as mild and as kind as it was — forced me to think about why I’ve crossed a line in my view of political and civic activity. What started as a short post on Facebook evolved into a longer discourse.
I decided, given some of my posts as the Pundit without Borders, that I might update my thinking about what we’re facing as a nation. In short, this post is what I would have written to her.
I have struggled with this. I have studied Wayne Dyer and the other gospels of love and kindness. I have respected Michelle Obama’s “when they go low, we go high.” Others of my friends and acquaintances have encouraged me to adhere to that mantra. I’d like to if I thought I had any hope of that approach working in our current reality.
But I don’t. Bill Maher points out week after week that the Democrats and other progressives continue to bring knives to gunfights and week after week that’s what happens. The Republicans/right-wingers/Nazis/Trumpsters are playing hardball. They are playing dirty. They have played the long game and by taking advantage of decent people who for so long wanted to believe the essential good in people, the malevolent are prevailing. They have overturned norms of behavior, devastated chances for civility and infected our civic institutions and discourse with a cruel pathogen making politics putrid. They lust for blood in the streets, confident that the militarization of and culture within the local law enforcement community will help them prevail. Scott Peck has pointed out that there are truly evil people in the world. I think if he were with us today, that’s how he would describe the right wing.
Maybe on an individual basis, we can withdraw from them and remove them from our life. But when they colonize institutions that are rooted in and presume basic decency and fair play, which they have done, there aren’t many options left but to counter them on their terms. The evilest of them have infected others who may not be as evil, but have for lack of education, emotional insight or other reasons, are unable to understand what is happening. And, those poor souls not inoculated against the infection spread the illness and make the cure all the more difficult.
Some of those leading the evil, I believe, do so knowingly and sanguinely. Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, Ken Paxton are examples of the rabid partisans; others wrap themselves in veneer of kindness and come across as more conciliatory, but they are right-wing. And every one of them should know better about the viral lies they spread.
At the national level, it’s clear that Trump, Addison Mitchell McConnell, Charles E. Grassley and Lindsey Graham are spotlighting their pure evil. Some journalists are now finding Graham’s ties to Russia. We know that Trump and his entire organization are in bed with Russia and we also know the Russians influenced the 2016 election. Their enmity goes deeper, with the Koch brothers, Mercers, Adelson and others tied to the James Buchanan political philosophy. These people are trying to destroy the middle class and return the country to the dystopian life of the robber barons and Gilded Age. The acts of subjugation go far beyond the economics and invade the basic rights and bodies of the populace. McConnell’s stonewalling placing Merrick Garland on the Supreme Court in favor of Kavanaugh, a two-bit political operative, ruptures norms of decency and political fair play that the Founders presumed were part of the American ethos.
None of the things I’ve described are acts of political opponents with sincere disagreements about public policy. Those moves are designed to advance the interests of a small percentage of our population. They are designed to repress and ruin the lives of ordinary citizens with their economic and personal vile aim of people of color, non-Christians and immigrants. These people are part of a slow-moving coup designed to advance their interests and not the interests of the country and the majority of its people.
I surely can’t call these people my friends. And, given their goals and methods, I can’t call them my opponents. If they are not my enemies, what are they?