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EAGANBLOG ARCHIVE
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Category: Politics

Don't Be Cruel
We all think bad thoughts. Sometimes, anyway. And though I hate to say this, we all have a mean streak. Even your little old granny. And yes, Dudley Do-Right, Jimmy Carter, and Jesus. Somewhere inside us, we are at least a little bit cruel. We are a little bit kind, too, but we’ll go into that some other time (with your generous permission).

If you think I am cruel for even suggesting that everyone is cruel, let me direct your attention to the natural human capacity for schadenfreude. That’s the pleasure you felt when Infowars screamer Alex Jones was humiliated in court recently. Whether we like it or not, that rush of schadenfreude springs comes from a kernel of cruelty inside us. All of us.

The fact that Jones himself is a paragon of cruelty does not really let us off the hook, either. While thinking that someone needs to “be taken down a peg” is not cruel, finding pleasure in seeing it happen is.

Mother Teresa, if she were still around, would no doubt suppress the feeling. So would Barney the dinosaur, Pollyanna, and Buddha. They’d have the impulse because they’re flesh-and-blood humans just like the rest of us (except for Barney, who is mostly foam rubber). The difference is that they would not dwell on the feeling, much less wallow in it. And, even though suppressing feelings is risky, giving in to cruelty is even worse.

Not all us could pull that off, though, especially with someone like Alex Jones. But let me repeat: cruelty is bad. Maybe a little schadenfreude is forgivable, but the levels of cruelty that Jones and his followers revel in are harder to explain away. And those levels are on the rise in our society. With the encouragement of our leaders in politics and the media, we have all gotten more cruel.

Let’s be clear. It’s much, much worse on the right. If you really think left-wing extremists are just as bad, please let me know the next time Bernie or AOC calls for revenge against the FBI for enforcing the law. But don’t look so smug, lefties. You have a potential for cruelty just like the most rabid MAGAs. So just make sure you’re suppressing that impulse to unleash some kind of savage, bloody revenge.

I’m looking at you, Barney.
Manhood
Did you hear that Senator Josh Hawley is working on a book? It’s called “Manhood.”

You may have seen Josh recently on TV. He was celebrating the GOP’s legislative victory over cancer-afflicted war veterans. After seeing that, I concluded that he’s not the right person (of any gender) to be writing such a book. In fact, given the new ways we are all thinking about gender these days, maybe the time is long past when such a book would even be interesting, much less useful.

Senator Hawley, I assume, would disagree. His subtitle for the book is "The Masculine Virtues America Needs." From what I can tell, he means things like responsibility, bravery, fidelity, and leadership. Perhaps he will explain in the book why those wouldn’t also be virtues of womanhood.

In the interest of transparency, I should disclose here that I am a man — a grown man. As I was growing up, I listened closely to what society was telling me about how to be a man —how to act, how to interact, how to be.

For good or ill, I have tried for most of my life to live up to those expectations. Consequently, I am fully trained in the traditional, if outdated, manifestations of manhood. So, I can recognize it when I see it. I most definitely did not see it in that display of pettiness and cruelty put on by those Republican men in the well of the Senate. They were fist-bumping and back-slapping because they had just owned the libs by taking away health care from veterans with stage three cancer.

Their unmanliness becomes even clearer when one realizes that Hawley and his co-celebrants — Ted Cruz of Texas, Steve Daines of Montana, and John Kennedy of Louisiana — never served a minute in the military or risked anything at all in defense of their country. I didn’t either, by the way, but I’d like to think that I would have the good sense, the humility, and the decency not to pull a stunt like that.

Real manhood — or perhaps we should simply call it humanity — is more than just an array of lofty archetypes. It is living a good and honest life and treating others with respect. That takes a whole slew of virtues, including the ones that have traditionally been assigned to womanhood.

There was a time when Josh Hawley was in the front ranks of Republican presidential contenders. He seemed destined for greatness. He was young, bright, accomplished, and had kept his record spotless. He had the best education, the best political resume, the highest approval within his party. All he needed to do was wait, and his turn would come.

But he could not wait. Ambition, it seems, lured him to the dark side.

It’s hard to be sure exactly when that fall from grace occurred, but it first went public on January 6, 2021. You must have seen the photo of Josh giving that very muscular fist pump to the mob as they prepared to storm the Capitol. Somehow, he saw that mob — fueled by hatred and misinformation and bloodlust— as his ticket to the top. After all. if they were good enough for Trump…

It was a miscalculation. The masculine traits represented in that group were not the same ones he professed to admire. Instead, they reflected cruelty and violence and a lust for power. And don’t forget cowardice. Josh showed that in spades a few hours later when he fled in panic from that same mob. Where was the bravery, the leadership, the manhood? They went *poof* then and there, along with his political future. Manhood was meant to be the book that every contender has at the center of their campaign. Now, it’s just a punchline for all the Josh Hawley jokes.

I think it would be pretty hard for anyone to make a serious case for exclusively male virtues as some kind of savior for society. As a philosophy, It’s too limited and too forced. What would be helpful, however, is if someone could explore our shared humanity and find a way forward based on that.

Either way, I don’t think Josh Hawley is the man for the job.
Win or Lose?
I continue to be plagued by the nagging fear that my quest is futile. Seeking to fully understand the mind of another seems like such folly. And yet, I continue to try.

I long to know: What is going on inside all those MAGA heads?

Now, you may think that my quest is already a waste of time. Not because their motivations are ineffable, but because these people are not worth the effort. I don’t want to hurt your feelings here (I am, after all, a bleeding-heart liberal), but that is not a very nice attitude. As liberals, we must try to understand those who disagree with us. That is, after all, what makes us superior.

I know, I know…these feelings of moral superiority are the very thing that the MAGAs hate us for. Unlike them, however, I can cite hard, scientific evidence (as well as sound religious doctrine) proving my superiority. And yet, even while I am doing that, I can’t help but feel guilty for feeling so superior. This is why I love being a liberal!

Anyway, back to my possibly hopeless quest. I have noted over the last few years, going back to the early days of the Tea Partiers, that MAGAs seem to derive particular pleasure in “owning the libs.” Causing us to be angry, frustrating us, making us feel bad. Even if they suffer for it. I had always dismissed this desire as mere childish meanness — typical of the cruelty they seem to thrive on. I had dismissed it as a symptom of some deeper psychological malady.

Then I read something by David Von Drehle in the Washington Post that got me thinking. He pointed out that Sarah Matthews testified that on January 6th — when she and everyone else were begging Trump to call off the dogs — she was told he couldn’t do it because that would “give a win to the media.” Not because it wouldn’t be a good idea, but rather that the act would make his enemies feel good. Not only must he win, but also we have to experience defeat.

I’m guessing that Trump’s followers understand this completely. You might say it’s the other side of the “own the libs” coin. In both cases, either success or failure is defined by how events make the enemy feel. Not how it helps you or benefits the world as a whole, but in how it affects the liberals’ state of mind. This was a revelation to me.

All this time, while I have been trying to imagine what is going on inside all those MAGA heads, my feelings of superiority may have been blinding me to an obvious truth. As I tried to figure them out, I assumed that they weren’t spending even a moment wondering what was going on in my head. But now I see that is not true. They care very much about the inside of my head. In fact, my feelings are what they care most about in the whole world!

Do I feel bad? — that is their greatest hope. Do I feel good? — that must be avoided at all costs! It seems that we liberals are living rent-free in their MAGA heads…even though we wouldn’t be caught dead in such a tacky place.

In short, we own the MAGAs — lock, stock, and morally inferior barrel. Without even trying! It’s really sad, if you ask me.

So sad, in fact, that I feel these terrible pangs of guilt over it. Along with a rush of superiority, of course.
A Terrible Idea
“A terrible idea.” That’s what former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone called a plan concocted by a group of diehard Big Lie supporters. The plan was presented to then-President Trump during an unscheduled late night meeting in the Oval Office on December 18, 2020.

The diehards were not government employees nor were they present that night in any official capacity. Rudy Giuliani, Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell, and former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne(!) were part of what others have called “Team Crazy,” a group of supporters apparently willing to explore any way — no matter how far-fetched or illegal — of keeping Trump in office.

The 2020 Presidential election was well over at this point, and no one (including them) had any evidence that it had been anything but fair and orderly. Still, they were promoting a plan that would authorize the Department of Defense to seize voting machines in key swing states. Those seizures, it was thought, would lead to a reversal of the election of Joe Biden and the installation of Donald Trump as a second term president.

A military coup, in other words. That was “the terrible idea” Cipollone was talking about. Once he gained admittance to the meeting, he said as much to the assembled Team Crazy. That’s when the yelling and cursing and vile insults began to fly.

Somehow, the screaming and threats of physical violence produced a “decision,” and Trump abandoned the military coup option. There was, after all, an even more terrible idea available that would allow him to cling to power — mob violence against the Congress. So, later that night, the President launched his fateful tweet summoning followers to D.C. on January 6.

And the rest is history. That tweet was simply the most recent in a long history of terrible ideas, going back to the night Donald J. Trump was conceived. The absolute peak came at the moment enough people agreed with the terrible idea that Trump would make a good president, and they made him the most powerful person on earth.

On January 6th, all those terrible ideas came home to roost. People who get all their facts from social media (yet another terrible idea) joined a small but determined group of cruelty addicts and stormed the Capitol. The cruel ones had a to-do list that included hanging the Vice President of the United States.

Whatever your opinion of Mike Pence, that was also a bad idea. Just as terrible, however, is Cipollone’s idea — revealed only yesterday at the hearings — of now giving Mike the Medal of Freedom just because he didn’t commit treason. Such an act would be just another fruit from the poisonous tree of Trump, and we’ve had enough of that. It’s time to cut that tree down, root and branch (or at least try), and salt the earth it sprang from.

And if you think it would be better to just let go of the anger and move on, I suggest you take a look at the Republican Party. They had a similar strategy. Most of them decided to go along with Trump, swallow all the terrible ideas whole, and wait for all the unpleasantness to pass. Those who couldn’t bring themselves to do that simply slunk away quietly. What is left of the party of Lincoln is a malignant growth owing its existence and its identity to the Big Lie.

Simply moving on would essentially enshrine the Trump malignancy as a permanent feature of our entire American democracy…a terrible idea that would breed a continuing harvest of terrible ideas well into our future.
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Yes, voting matters. Polls do not.
~ H, Santa Cruz