Cruelty is central to Trump’s appeal

Cruelty is central to Trump’s appeal May 14, 2018

• “Cruelty is the defining characteristic of Donald Trump’s politics and policy

The NPR interviewer was wrong to suggest the policy is “heartless,” which implies indifference to the human suffering involved. The Trump administration’s policy toward Puerto Rico is heartless. The separation policy is anything but indifferent. It’s cruel.

The point is to find a route within the bounds of the various applicable legal constraints for security forces to inflict as much suffering as possible on people seeking entry to the United States. The harmfulness of the policy isn’t incidental — it’s the whole point, and it’s par for the course from an administration for whom cruelty is a watchword.

Matthew Yglesias there is employing a precise definition of cruelty, following Judith Shklar, who clarifies what she means by “cruelty”: “The deliberate infliction of physical, and secondarily emotional, pain upon a weaker person or group by stronger ones in order to achieve some end, tangible or intangible, of the latter. It is not sadism, though sadistic individuals may flock to occupy positions of power that permit them to indulge their urges.”

It’s the politics you get when you think life is a game of musical chairs. And this, more than anything else, explains its enduring appeal to the 81 percent.

• “The third choice is to let the English reader see what Matthew and what Jesus have been doing with the Patriarchy, with the male-superior hierarchy, as the Greek gospel goes along.”

• I learn via Grist that EPA administrator Scott Pruitt just turned 50 last week. I turn 50 next month. This is causing me to re-evaluate my life and to ask what I’ve been doing all these years. I have so much flagrant corruption to catch up on.

As of today, I am designating Willow as the first member of my personal security team. An 18-pound Yorkie-poo with patellar dysplasia doesn’t quite rival Pruitt’s taxpayer-funded 30-person entourage of armed goons, but at least it’s a start.

Joel Duff is still blogging about ostriches and I am still here for it. I remain in awe of his ability to take the nuttiest strains of young-Earth creationism — “baraminology!” — and to patiently evaluate them in good faith and total seriousness, with greater care and attention than any of the YECs themselves is able to muster.

• David Mislin manages to write about “How Vietnam War Protests Accelerated the Rise of the Christian Right” without ever addressing — or even considering — the question of whether those Vietnam War protesters were right.

This makes his thesis — that a backlash against liberal mainline clergy opposing the war led to an exodus of conservative laypeople from Protestant denominations — literally amoral. If those clergy were wrong to criticize the war then it seems morally obtuse to ignore that, focusing instead on the effect that opposition had on church attendance. And if those clergy were right to criticize the war, then his thesis seems perverse — an argument that they ought not to have done what was right.

This is the sort of thing that makes me insist more than ever that Letter From Birmingham Jail needs to be formally, officially adopted as part of the New Testament canon. Because until that happens, everybody is going to act like that mealy-mouthed, lukewarm, white-clergy “Call to Unity” it was written to refute is itself holy writ.

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