Way back in the 60’s, if your high school was like mine, you had to deal with quite a few jocks and bullies. Hard guys. Bitter, angry, entitled rich kids who generally got their way or made the world around them suffer in some way. Cut donuts on the old lady’s yard. Rip off a few small businesses. Soak a cat in kerosene and set it afire. Insult girls with small breasts and shove smaller, prepubescent boys aside just for the rush of cruelty. They called out “homos,” and sang the ditty, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, chinks and niggers, spicks, and wops, Jesus thinks that they’re all tops, Jesus loves the little children of the world.” They never had any training in empathy because they didn’t need it. It slowed them down.
Dealing with these individuals was a futile challenge in most cases, one best avoided. But the saving grace was twofold: they were a minority, and society at large blunted their efforts to punish the “lesser beings” around them by outlawing outrageous behaviors. I lived with these poorly socialized people through high school and college and into my working life, always thankful that America knew how to keep them under control. The authorities always seemed kind and tolerant, just what these bullies hated.
What I didn’t realize as I grew older was that America was changing, slowly but inexorably, toward producing a majority of these hostile folks. When they elected Richard Nixon, Congress found a way to respond effectively. But when they elected Ronald Reagan, the balance was lost. The push was on to reward my childhood bullies and give them free rein. Even leading Democrats, like Bill Clinton, seemed blind to the direction in which the country was drifting. The Supreme Court declared George W. Bush the winner over Al Gore, cementing the course toward rule by the entitled rich. Barak Obama’s presidency, a pendulum swing back from Bush, allowed the disparate wings of the hard guy minorities to coalesce around conspiracy theories as they fought with great zeal to overcome his sense of decency and compassion for the working class.
These libertarians believed that they had the right to do anything they wanted, any time, and in any way. The strong federal government stood in the path of progress. Every nod to a minority must have felt like a personal slight, unacceptable and enraging. Imagine allowing poor minorities to vote! Imagine regulating toxic emissions by nearby industries to make housing developments safe for children! What an outrage!
And then came Trump, raised to believe that if you pushed hard enough and talked loud enough, the world would make way for you. Here was the model for which my old embittered classmates had waited. Finally, a man as mean spirited and brutish as they were, now in a position to change the course of the country, to pave the road for a vicious, motley subculture of intolerant bullies, using the same ugly language they grew up with, but with authority and raw power. The greatest charlatan in American history, spouting lies and hatred, hostile to everyone except his base, finally free now to run the country in favor of the rich, outlawing minorities and immigrants of all stripes, and herding into to his circle the religious leaders who once had shaken their fingers at the sneering senior boys.
I should have seen it coming. Aggressive, weakly educated, and poorly socialized people won’t sit back and peacefully watch generosity of spirit among their leaders. When this happened in Germany, the Nazi majority was helpless to stop the rush to catastrophe. The Jews, conveniently set up as social pariahs, were a perfect projection of the Nazis’ own dark spirit. The Nazis ended up personifying the very evil they thought they saw in the Jews. The resulting disaster had to be addressed by other governments.
And here we are in America, past the tipping point, firmly in the clutches of my childhood bullies, finally in a position to pull the levers of government to outlaw decency, tolerance, and generosity. They have attained majority status at last. Our country has officially become a brooding, bitter, selfish, fearful and hostile force in the world, a tool for the vastly wealthy to further their greedy ambitions.
A variation of this happened once before. When the North drifted toward eliminating slavery, the South revolted at this outrage. How could the central government dare to declare people free? How could wealthy landowners in the South flourish without slaves? Why should they have to? And there was no recourse but war. The question now is, can the present rift in American society ever be healed without war?
We are told that opposition to this wave cannot include intolerance, but must seek common ground. If any Democrat approaches Trump supporters as if they are all idiots, they say, it won’t work. But it seems to me that anyone who supports the move away from American Democracy to a lawless Oligarchy that supports world dictators as “great leaders,” and that dreams of an America without minorities is truly an idiot. The crowds who chanted their support for Hitler were absolutely idiots, selling their country into a losing bloodbath and condemnation by the whole world. Must we repeat this outrage?