And I would ask the question, was Nero an evil man? Do evil acts, make the perpetrator evil? Nero (A.D. 37 to 68) has long been considered a power-mad despot whose leadership was defined by terrible acts of violence, such as poisoning a teenage rival, arranging his mother’s assassination, setting a fire that destroyed much of Rome, executing Christians and such. Does this make him evil?
And while thinking about this I asked myself, is President Trump, having shown himself capable of “evil” words and actions, does that make him evil? And the people about the president, those who kowtow to him, evidently for their own personal advantage, in particular Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senate leaders, those and others of his sycophantic followers (the largest number being evangelicals making up what is called his “base,”) —those who look on their president, know what’s happening, know that with Trump the rule of law is no longer paramount, no longer protected, while their president with their help, or at least with their non interference, is shredding our democracy. By not opposing the irresponsible words and actions, the lies of their president, are these men evil?
Now I find myself even with an “evil” man in the Oval Office, along with his just as “evil” followers, holding the view that there is no such thing as evil, no such thing in Washington like the devil tempting Faust, the devil tempting Jesus Christ, or Iago betraying and undoing his friend, Othello, nor is there even the devil of our stories and myths, those who dress themselves in devil’s clothes, nor even is there a devil-Nero himself.
If there is evil it has to be in all of us, not in some imagined figure we call the devil. The evil today is, of course, to be found in those who know things are bad but take no action to make things better, and thereby allow things to get worse. In this sense we might even call the Senate Republicans evil. By taking no action they are cutting off the good that could have surrounded them and us through their actions.
To understand what’s happening with Donald Trump one has to give up one’s own beliefs, in particular revise one’s previous conclusion that among the world’s peoples we the Americans were the enlightened ones. No longer. Trump and his minions, his Evangelical base, have led us away from an adult rule of law, from the voice of reason, in short from responsible behavior.
Trump and company have removed themselves, and a good part of the country along with them, from the two strongest civilizing currents of our recent history —17th. century Science for one (Trump’s science guy doesn’t believe in global warming, in fact, doesn’t believe in science) and two, the 18th century Enlightenment.
Trump himself will have no truck with reason and he has right there with him his millions of followers also having no truck with reason, these including the crazies on the far right, Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, and Ann Coulter, and the crazies settled in at Fox Nation, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs and Tucker Carlson. Trump and friends are opposing the best of what we have been as a country up until now. Extraordinary isn’t it, what he has done and that we have let him do it!
Trump by coming to Washington would, as he tells his base at the rallies, drain the swamp and build the wall. He has done neither although he still talks with his base at the rallies about doing both, fearing the loss of his base in 2020 if he doesn’t. But he has probably, if anything, only deepened the swamp by his constant assault on such as goodness, decency, fairness, justice, all those qualities that still could but have not yet, made us a truly exceptional people and nation.
Trump has taken us back to when the country was at its worst, to times when the people were truly divided, to times when E pluribus unum was not accepted, let alone realized. Now it’s MAGA, Trump’s personal mantra and fantasy, which means only that Trump is not familiar with, let alone understood, the country’s past history. In the years to come, years without Trump, MAGA will be treated as a hat and a joke, both of which it is.
How has Trump done it? Well by his own colossal ignorance of history, by the thousands of lies in his almost hourly if not daily tweets, by the untruths during rare interviews and press conferences, by his choice of corrupt and unqualified individuals for his cabinet, in short, by a succession, through the first two years of his presidency, of myriad thoughtless and irresponsible actions.
He has done it by allowing to come out into the open and prosper the very worse traits of the people chosen to serve him, in particular such as Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell and other Republican Senators and Cabinet members. These people, mostly for some reason that escapes me (it can’t be just to hold onto their Senate seats) have become kowtowing, servile followers of their Emperor-President Donald Trump.
Take Sen. Graham, one of the worst of them, and today so much in the news, in second place in that respect perhaps only to Trump? I have before me three op ed pieces pulled from the Washington Post all about Lindsey Graham. As you read these excerpts passages below or the whole articles if you follow the links you might ask yourself, how is it possible that this guy Lindsey Graham is now in Washington, a leader in the Senate, how is it possible that the people of South Carolina have sent him there? Is it Trump who by his own irresponsible words and actions has allowed this guy, Graham to come on out and be his own terrible “evil self?”
“As we enter 2019, the Grahamster is full of brio and bluster, ready to rush Texas with his own posthole digger. His speechwriter must surely be busy preparing text for the senator’s remarks upon the groundbreaking, perchance to include: “President Trump, build this wall!” In the meantime, as Judiciary Committee chairman, Graham has vowed that the next Supreme Court justice will be a conservative, as though anyone doubted it.
One can hardly wait, but not for long. The night is young, the news breaks 24/7, and we’ve nearly two more years to wonder what Graham will say, growl, hiss, spit, growl, whisper or sing, hallelujah! May his cycle be unbroken.”
“Seven times, Graham has taken the oath of congressional office, “solemnly” swearing to “support and defend the Constitution” and to “bear true faith and allegiance” to it, “without any mental reservation.” Graham, who is just 1 percent of one-half of one of the three branches of one of the nation’s many governments, is, however, significant as a symptom. When the Trump presidency is just a fragrant memory, the political landscape will still be cluttered with some of this president’s simple and empty epigones, the make-believe legislators who did not loudly and articulately recoil from the mere suggestion of using a declared emergency to set aside the separation of powers.”
“Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in a number of ways epitomizes the Republican Party’s descent into intellectual rot and immoral opportunism. Graham as a candidate called out President Trump as a bigot and “the most flawed nominee in the history of the Republican Party.”…
He’s now among the worst apologists for Trump — vowing to investigate unsubstantiated smears of the Justice Department and FBI and insisting there was no collusion between the Trump team and the Russians (despite evidence of Paul Manafort’s meeting with Konstantin Kilimnik, the Trump Tower June 2016 meeting and the Roger Stone-WikiLeaks connection.)
Most stunning is his reversal on immigration. Once a member of the Gang of Eight’s comprehensive immigration reform, he now supports Trump’s fear-mongering on the border and even his unprecedented power grab, a declaration of a “national emergency.”
There was one remark that perfectly typifies the horrible habits of the Trumpized GOP — playing to low-information voters’ ignorance, ignoring real problems in favor of hyperventilating over phony ones, infatuation with authoritarianism and deep cynicism.”
Here’s the relevant exchange on “Face the Nation”:
MARGARET BRENNAN: The President just declared a national emergency in regard to getting the funds for his border wall. SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Yeah. MARGARET BRENNAN: In terms of getting those funds though through this emergency action there’s about three point six billion of it– SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Right. MARGARET BRENNAN: –that could come from military construction efforts, including construction of a middle school in Kentucky, housing for military families, improvements for bases like Camp Pendleton and Hanscom Air Force Base. Aren’t you concerned that some of these projects that were part of legislation that you helped approve in Congress are now going to possibly be cut out? SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, the President will have to make a decision where to get the money. Let’s just say for a moment that he took some money out of the military construction budget. I would say it’s better for the middle-school kids in Kentucky to have a secure border. We’ll get them the school they need. But right now we’ve got a national emergency on our hands. Opioid addiction is going through the roof in this country. Thousands of Americans died last year or dying this year because we can’t control the flow of drugs into this country and all of it’s coming across the border.
“Trump and his Republican enablers don’t want to hear the facts. Tragically, the dishonest political shenanigans of people such as Graham widen inequality (by geography, class and race) and accentuate polarization. They make constructive policymaking nearly impossible and play into the hands of demagogues. It’s then that authoritarians like Trump come along who insist “they alone” can fix problems and falsely place blame on outsiders rather than some of their own disastrous policy choices….
The strategy of fear, deflection and willful ignorance has a short shelf-life. In the end, voters know if their lives are getting worse or better. To the extent Democrats talk to voters about the actual problems and realistic solutions, they will go far. They cannot merely deplore the fear-mongering and race-baiting, however deplorable they are. If Democrats address the actual problems of average voters, Republicans will lose power and be forced (maybe) to reevaluate their approach.
In the meantime, the cynical, base-pleasing politics of Trump, Graham and others damage the lives of the most vulnerable Americans, batter our democracy and destroy a sense of national unity. What an awful legacy they will leave.”