A few millennia ago, some sanctimonious wanker was musing about generosity of spirit and the way the world works:
Once again: true generosity of spirit seeks no external validation. It is its own reward. It doesn’t look for applause, it doesn’t seek affirmation, and it is extended with no expectation of any quid pro quo. Moreover, it is extended to those who do not deserve it precisely because they do not deserve it. That is what makes it what it is.
I don’t claim to have a unique understanding of it. And I don’t pretend to have any special insights or window into people’s hearts. But to the extent that anyone can have such insight, I choose to believe that it flows from an essential decency.
On reflection, the definition and the way it works haven’t really changed. The context and applicability, on the other hand … well, let’s just say I’ve revised my thinking a tad.
I used to think that generosity of spirit, as defined above was something to strive for, even if we fall short most of the time. We can’t be perfect, but we can try to be better. That’s the essence of decency. And in response to the question “why? To what end?” the anwer would always be: it’s its own reward. We strive to be good people for its own sake. Not because we expect a reward. Not because, as set out above, we’re looking for a quid pro quo. A nice, tidy, self-contained little moral equation, independent of external factors.
Well, in light of not just this week’s news, but pretty well the entire arc of Donald Trump’s presidency, I’m revisiting that. That little equation assumes, I think, that the other side wants the same things we want — to be decent people. And I don’t think we can make that assumption any more. Consider:
- Trump mocking a disabled reporter
- Trump laughing at Hillary’s pneumonia (note his supporters’ jeering reaction, and consider what they would be doing if Joe Biden were to get hit by COVID)
- Ripping children away from their parents and locking them up in desert concentration camps to be abused
- After Christine Blasey Ford revealed that Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her, she was met with mockery from Trump, “lock her up” chants and death threats from his drooling fans
- punitive and vindictive measures aimed expressly at removing protection from LGBTQ Americans
- encouraging police to physically abuse suspects
- open appeals to white supremacists coupled with encouraging violent attacks on opponents
- supporters using cars to ram and run down demonstrators
- contempt for wounded and fallen service members
And through all of this, the base is up on their hind legs, braying enthusiastically.
And that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. Add to that the incomprehensible shitpile of lies, lies, lies, and we still can’t even gauge the extent of the damage these people have done.
And then there’s his handling of the pandemic. Minimize, deny, deflect, kneecap genuine experts and efforts to track and contain the virus. Primary focus is clearly to make himself look good, not safeguard the American people.
And just a few days ago, the president and his inner circle were gathering at the White House to push his Supreme Court nomination. No masks, no distancing, no preventative measures at all. The message is clear: rules don’t apply to us, we’re above it all, let the little people worry about that.
The conclusion to be drawn here is inescapable. Trump and his drooling base don’t give a fuck about decency. Or about anyone but themselves. In light of that, not wanting to descend to their level, while it may be laudable in a moral sense, seems to be wasted effort IRL. It’s not as if pointing out their hypocrisy makes any difference to them, but let’s at least re-evaluate what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.
Recall again: the president, his enablers, and his brain-dead supporters delight in all manner of vicious, abject cruelty. They do not want the same things we do. They do not play by the same rules as we do. Going high when they go low is just inviting another boot to the face. When you respond to depravity and sadism with decency and generosity, aren’t you just enabling the depravity?
To feel sympathy for this monster is to be complicit in our own abuse.