A dark, but accurate, in my view, piece in The Atlantic looks at Trump and his supporters and the joy of inflicting cruelty on others which binds them together. The piece starts out with descriptions of photos of grinning whites at the brutal lynchings then fast forwards to Trump and his appeals to white supremacists and Christian extremists who long to bring back the bad old days when blacks were official less than full citizens, gays were forced to remain in the closet and invisible, and women were largely relegated to homemaking and subordinate to men. For me, I have a hard time understanding how decent, moral people could revel in harm being done to others, yet that seems to be the bond that ties Trump to his cheering base. Even harder to comprehend is how/why self-respecting, moral women - including some I know - can support Trump and his misogynistic male cheerleaders. Are these people/women really so racist and/or homophobic that they applaud inhumanity towards others? Sadly, "yes" seems to be the only answer. Here are article highlights:
The Museum of African-American History and Culture is in part a catalogue of cruelty. Amid all the stories of perseverance, tragedy, and unlikely triumph, there are the artifacts of inhumanity and barbarism: the child-size slave shackles, the bright red robes of the wizards of the Ku Klux Klan, the recordings of civil rights protesters being brutalized by police.
The artifacts that persist in my memory, the way a bright flash does when you close your eyes, are the photographs of lynchings. But it’s not the burned, mutilated bodies that stick with me. It’s the faces of the white men in the crowd. There’s the photo of the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Indiana in 1930, where a white man can be seen grinning at the camera as he tenderly holds the hand of his wife or girlfriend. There’s the undated photo from Duluth, Minnesota, where grinning white men stand next to the mutilated, half-naked bodies of two men lashed to a post in the street—one man is straining to get into the picture, his smile cutting from ear to ear. There’s the one of a crowd of white men huddled behind the smoldering corpse of a man burnt to death, one of whom is wearing a smart suit, a fedora hat, and a bright smile.
[P]eople who took immense pleasure in the utter cruelty of torturing others to death—and were so proud of doing so that they posed for photographs with their handiwork, jostling to ensure they caught the eye of the lens, so that the world would know they’d been there. Their cruelty made them feel good, it made them feel proud, it made them feel happy. And it made them feel closer to each other.
The Trump era is such a whirlwind of cruelty that it can be hard to keep track. This week alone, the news broke that the Trump administration was seeking to ethnically cleanse more than 193,000 American children of immigrants whose temporary protected status had been revoked by the administration, that the Department of Homeland Security had lied about creating a database of children that would make it possible to unite them with the families the Trump administration had arbitrarily destroyed, that the White House was considering a blanket ban on visas for Chinese students, and that it would deny visas to the same-sex partners of foreign officials.
At a rally in Mississippi, a crowd of Trump supporters cheered as [Trump]
the presidentmocked Christine Blasey Ford, the psychology professor who has said that Brett Kavanaugh, whom Trump has nominated to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court, attempted to rape her when she was a teenager. “Lock her up!” they shouted.
[M]ocking of her testimony renders all sexual-assault survivors collateral damage. Anyone afraid of coming forward, afraid that they would not be believed, can now look to [Trump] to see their fears realized. Once malice is embraced as a virtue, it is impossible to contain.
The cruelty of the Trump administration’s policies, and the ritual rhetorical flaying of his targets before his supporters, are intimately connected. As Lili Loofbourow wrote of the Kavanaugh incident in Slate, adolescent male cruelty towards women is a bonding mechanism, a vehicle for intimacy through contempt. The white men in the lynching photos are not merely smiling because of what they have done, but because they did it together.
We can hear the spectacle of cruel laughter throughout the Trump era. There were the border patrol agents cracking up at the crying immigrant children separated from their families, and the Trump adviser who delighted white supremacists when he mocked a child with down syndrome who was separated from her mother. There were the police who laughed uproariously when [Trump]
the presidentencouraged them to abuse suspects, and the Fox News hosts mocking a survivor of the Pulse Nightclub massacre (and in the process inundating him with threats), the survivors of sexual assault protesting Senator Jeff Flake, the women who said the president sexually assaulted them, and the teen survivors of the Parkland school shooting. There was the president mocking Puerto Rican accents shortly after thousands were killed and tens of thousands displaced by Hurricane Maria, the black athletes protesting unjustified killings by police, the women of the #MeToo movement who have come forward with stories of sexual abuse, and the disabled reporter whose crime was reporting on Trump truthfully. It is not just that they enjoy this cruelty, it is that they enjoy it with each other. Their shared laughter at the suffering of others is an adhesive that binds them to each other, and to Trump.
Somewhere on the wide spectrum between adolescent teasing and the smiling white men in the lynching photographs are the Trump supporters whose community is built by rejoicing in the anguish of those they see as unlike them, who have found in their shared cruelty an answer to the loneliness and atomization of modern life.
The presidentwho demanded the execution of five black and Latino teenagers for a crime they didn’t commit decrying “false accusations,” when his Supreme Court nominee stands accused; his supporters who fancy themselves champions of free speech meet references to Hillary Clinton or mentions of a woman whose only crime was coming forward to offer her own story of abuse with screams of, “Lock her up!” The political movement that elected a president who wanted to ban immigration by adherents of an entire religion, who encourages police to brutalize suspects, and who has destroyed thousands of immigrant families for violations of the law less serious than those of which he and his coterie stand accused, now laments the state of due process.
This isn’t incoherent. It reflects a clear principle: Only [Trump] the president and his allies, his supporters, and their anointed are entitled to the rights and protections of the law, and if necessary, immunity from it. The rest of us are entitled only to cruelty, by their whim. This is how the powerful have ever kept the powerless divided and in their place, and enriched themselves in the process.
Trump’s only true skill is the con, his only fundamental belief is that the United States is the birthright of straight, white, Christian men, and his only real, authentic pleasure is in cruelty. It is that cruelty, and the delight it brings them, that binds his most ardent supporters to him, in shared scorn for those they hate and fear: immigrants, black voters, feminists, and treasonous white men who empathize with any of those who would steal their birthright. [Trump’s]
The president’sability to execute that cruelty through word and deed makes them euphoric. It makes them feel good, it makes them feel proud, it makes them feel happy, it makes them feel united. And as long as he makes them feel that way, they will let him get away with anything, no matter what it costs them.
Truly disturbing and frightening. I do not recognize what America is becoming. It's as if we are living a parallel to what happened in Germany in the 1930's.