2019

When good men do nothing

Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends than that good men should look on and do nothing. – John Stuart Mill, nineteenth-century English political philosopher

America’s Original Sin. Some say slavery, others the decimation of the native peoples. Both point to a dark aspect of America’s European settlers: Racial animus, the attitude of superiority of one’s race accompanied by disrespect and harm toward others.

In my June 5, 2019 column, I wrote about the Know Nothing Party in the 1840s in reaction to the influx of immigrants from Ireland and Germany. The party existed briefly, but its rallying-cry “Immigrant go home!” festered and has lived in infamy. Its latest distillation is “Send her back!” chanted by frenzied, insufferable goons towards those they decide are not real Americans.

The latest is the POTUS, ironically of German ethnicity, one of the original targeted groups. His tweet about the four congresswomen to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” led to outrage by those who understood his word’s underlying dog whistle. It also led to serious pearl-clutching by feckless Republican leaders such as Sen. Cory Gardner.

The conventional thought about why such so-called leaders cower from doing the right thing by unequivocally condemning their Dear Leader’s hateful rants is that they tremble before his base.

His base. Hmm…the 90 percent of Republicans that approves of him. But I wonder about that. Are 90 percent of Republicans churls like the POTUS, who George Conway, mincing no words, described as “boorish, dim-witted, inarticulate, incoherent, narcissistic and insensitive” and “a pathetic, equal-opportunity bully”?

The POTUS has boasted many agree with him. But how many is many? And who are they?

Certainly, among the “many” are those whom he described as “fine people,” neo-Nazis, the progeny of those our Greatest Generation gave their full measure and devotion to destroy. But it’s difficult to believe 90 percent of Republicans hold such contemptible un-American values. Not the Republicans I know, friends and community members among them. Unless I’m not picking up on something.

An Ipsos-USA Today poll found 68 percent of Americans consider the POTUS’s tweet egregiously offensive. What is troubling, however, is that 57 percent of Republicans do not. Still, that leaves 43 percent unwilling to do the Gardner bootlick.

In addition to the grievous harm it engenders, racial animus conflicts radically with the principles our Founders inscribed in the Declaration of Independence. It’s no stretch, then, to state the thoughts expressed by the POTUS and supported by the “many” of his ruminating imaginings are not only un-American but also anti-American. Which causes one to want to demand that he, in turn, go back to Kallstadt, Germany, the village his grandfather Friedrich emigrated from.

Except that they don’t want him either.

“I can only wish Americans will elect someone who turns on his mind before saying something,” said Beatrix Riede, a Kallstadt town leader.

The proverb Mill expressed echoed one by Edmund Burke, the founder of modern conservatism, expressed in the late eighteenth century. Timeless in its wisdom, it resounds powerfully today.

In this Trumpian dystopia, it causes one to ask: Why are good men and women, specifically local and state Republican political and community leaders, doing nothing while their leader fosters and foments anger, discord, and demonization? To speak out against his divisive language would be a simple act, one John F. Kennedy would call a “profile in courage.”

I am unable to fathom that they agree with him or that he personifies their values. Unless I’m slow on the uptake and not getting something after all.

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