Saturday, March 10, 2018
The Era of Contempt
People try to soften the sting of whatever humiliation Donald Trump is inflicting upon the nation today by pronouncing it "the bottom," but that is based on the giddiest kind of optimism, the faulty logic that just because our leadership has sunk to a startling new low, it can't get worse.
When in fact, if a stone is sinking, experience tells us it'll keep going deeper and deeper. Yes, there's a hoped-for bottom, somewhere, in theory. But merely being deep underwater doesn't mean we're there. Stones don't bob back up to the surface just because they've sunk a long way.
With a new low every day, or nearly, there is no reason to even suspect that today's depth will not be exceeded by worse tomorrow. I would be sincerely delighted if I believed this is as bad as it is going to get.
But I don't. Rather, it will go on for years and years and get worse and worse and this country will be severely damaged. We're damaged already, in ways we haven't begun to consider.
That said, I am human too, and like to comfort myself, when I can. Not by saying that today is as bad as it'll get, but by remembering that it must end. It has to. Not now, alas, not even soon, but someday.
Someday it'll be over and we'll have the luxury of looking back and wondering what it meant. Someday there will be history books, I hope, and one chapter in those as-yet-unlived histories will be about now. And as is common with such texts, the chapter will begin with a descriptive phrase. "A Nation Sundered" for the Civil War, and such.
For our current betrayal of American values and norms, I'd like to nominate "The Era of Contempt." Because that is the basic operating principle here: yes, there is ignorance, and vanity, and greed. But those are specifics, related to a particular situation or three. Contempt — visceral disregard and scorn—is the overarching principle, the general theme. It's what Donald Trump appeals to and has always appealed to. It's why he was elected. He touched Americans in a certain spot and they reacted with a purr. He stroked the meanest, basest, most scornful and scoffing core of many Americans, and told them it was okay be like that. In fact, it was great.
And they believed him. Believe him. Always will believe him. Why would they not?
His followers manifest this sneering disdain like tuning forks. It's really all they ever say. I hear it every day. They do not write to argue, or observe, or reflect. They write to mock, to ridicule, not realizing that, to an outside observer, since the ridicule is coming from a person such as themselves, really, how much weight can their thoughts be given? Not only don't I write back, but I'm not even tempted to write back anymore. And say what? "You know, the low opinion of someone going hog wild for a bully, fraud, liar and most likely traitor just doesn't carry the heft you seem to think it does."
In their defense, their opinion certainly counted in November, 2016. It's counting now, on an international scale.
Why bother talking back? Even if you would score points—and you can't, even if you could defeat them rhetorically—and you won't—well, congratulations: you bested a moron.
So I silently put such people in the filter, where they gibber to each other, sometimes for years. Every few days I look in the spam filter, like a man looking at eels swimming around a watery pit. Letters still arrive, and I tend to throw them away unopened if they don't have a return address, and most don't. Maybe open them and read I line or two if I'm bored.
But this one had a pre-printed sticker, with name and street address—Alan Leonard of Tinley Park. So I started reading, maybe because the handwriting is so neat. And that purple stationery. I read to the end, and decided it is in some ways an epitome, a classic example of its genre. It should be presented for your shock and edification. I originally said, "for your entertainment" but it really isn't funny. Rather, it is funny, but it shouldn't be. That future history will not be kind to us, and this is why. Should we survive this era and anyone bother to write fact-based histories, which is not the certainty it was two years ago.
No comment is really necessary, though you are free to remark upon its various wonders. It wasn't the only letter he sent me this week. Once they start, they seem to have trouble stopping.