Before comedian Louis CK was drummed out of show business for sexual misconduct, he offered a prophetic insight into the increasingly hysterical and abusive state of American politics. “People always say abortion protesters are so shrill,” (I’m paraphrasing) “But they think babies are being murdered!”
The point is a good one. If you sincerely believe that inhuman atrocities are being committed, what sort of person wouldn’t interfere with as much force as necessary to put a stop to the evil?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, in the light of the Left’s increasingly hysterical behavior against employees of the Trump administration. From Sarah Huckabee-Sanders being driven out of a public eatery, to Maxine Waters inciting harassment against administration officials, it seems like we’re only witnessing the beginning of something that could turn very ugly very fast. In fact, in some cases it already has. Let’s not forget the shooter who took aim at a baseball diamond full of Republican lawmakers last year, injuring Rep. Steve Scalise.
Dismayed by this sort of behavior, reasonable people on both sides have called for everybody to just take a breath and calm down. We need to be able to disagree without being outright hostile. That’s what America is all about, and the alternative risks open chaos and violence, if not an actual civil war.
Of course, such appeals to decency are completely correct, but don’t expect them to do any good. If you start from the premise that the radical Left has adopted, that Donald Trump is the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler poised to bring about the end of all things good and wholesome, their actions make perfect sense.
Suppose, knowing what you know now, you found yourself transported to Germany in the early 1930s. How would you respond to Hitler’s increasing power? Would you shrug your shoulders and say “I don’t like the guy, but there’s always next election” or would you pull out all the stops to prevent the holocaust before 6 million people were brutally executed? I can’t imagine any sane person choosing the former course of action. It would be a moral imperative to stop the Nazi Party in its tracks by any means necessary, and any calls from the German media to chill out and treat people decently would be seen as irrelevant at best, and actively antagonistic at worst.
This is the situation America finds itself in today. Not that Trump is Hitler, but that a large number of people are completely convinced that he is. The administration’s immigration policy (which I personally find abhorrent) is viewed as an atrocity equivalent to concentration camps. Never mind that the policy precedes the Trump administration, and never mind that the president who put Japanese Americans in actual concentration camps is routinely lauded as the greatest ever. Facts are flimsy things in the face of beliefs. Given those beliefs, what can the rest us say to talk the rabble-rousers down off the ledge? I’m open to ideas.
This internal logic is what makes the current situation so scary and so dangerous. It would be one thing if a fringe political group were acting irrationally. But from the point of view of people like Maxine Waters, harassing and even initiating violence against people who are enabling Trump to carry out his plans is the most rational response.
This is how holy wars start. Each side becomes so convinced that their opponents are the embodiment of evil, that violence against them not only becomes morally permissible, but morally imperative, and anyone who refuses to help becomes complicit with the armies of darkness.
I’ve never been a fan of Donald Trump. I didn’t vote for him in 2016, and I won’t vote for him in 2020, but neither do I think he’s the antichrist about to bring about the end of days. The difficulty is, how do we convince Americans on the verge of revolution that the president is just another flawed politician with some policies that are good, and some that are very bad?
I don’t know if it’s possible. Perhaps if Donald Trump were to leave office or lose his next election, things might get better, but I’m not so sure. The last few years of the Bush administration were marked by almost as much rage and hyperbole as we see now, spawning the phrase “Bush Derangement Syndrome.” It’s possible that any Republican who takes the White House will be made to symbolically fill the role of history’s worst dictator by Democratic partisans.
I regret to say that I don’t know what the solution is, but somebody better come up with one soon. When people who believe they have the moral high ground continue to suffer defeats, losing the House, the Senate, the Presidency, and now a second Supreme Court Justice, we can expect them to react like a cornered animal, lashing out at the pure injustice of it all.
As always, I suspect the answer involves more communication. The more we talk to one another, the more we realize that the people who disagree with us about politics are seldom supporters of actual genocide. Most of them turn out to be pretty decent people, in fact. But of course, communication is a two way street, and it does no good to talk if no one is willing to listen. I only hope that the time for listening is not over, and that we can reach some sort of an understanding as a nation before more people get hurt. This country can survive Donald Trump’s presidency, but only if we, the people, don’t tear it apart from the inside.