Culture Magazine

The Civility Issue

By Fsrcoin

The civility issueActor Robert DeNiro shouts “Fuck Trump!” Comedians Samantha Bee and Kathy Griffin, respectively, call Ivanka a “cunt” and pose with a (fake) severed Trump head. Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen is heckled in a Mexican restaurant; Sarah Sanders is refused service in another eatery. And I’ve labeled Trump a “stinking piece of shit.”

Welcome to American political culture 2018.

Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high.” A fine sentiment. And indeed the candidate against Trump in 2020 must not join him in the gutter, but should instead embody a contrast against the boorish degradation of Trumpism. (Even if the better angels of our nature are out to lunch.)

It’s Trump we can thank for all this. He’s the one who really has pulled American political culture into the sewer; it’s one of the very things that so outrages opponents and provokes them to obscenities. Political nastiness does have a long history; but as a close student of that history, I can say Trump represents a stark discontinuity. It’s bizarre that Trumpists take offense at incivility toward him and his lackeys, such as I’ve mentioned, and even say it strengthens his support; when he, like, invented horrible behavior.

The civility issueJordan Klepper’s Comedy Central show, The Opposition, tried to be an over-the-top parody of Trumpism. But it was ended basically because the parody had a hard time topping the grotesque reality.

I never voted for Obama, and often, as a Republican,  harshly criticized him here. That’s politics in a free country. But never in talking of Obama did I use the kind of language I use for Trump. Obama was an honest, virtuous, dignified man who, even when wrong, was a credit to America’s civic culture. Trump is a stinking piece of shit.

The civility issue

Example of a metaphor

Now, when I say this, it is a metaphor. And I am someone for whom language is very important, and I use it with care. My metaphor reflects careful consideration for its verity.

We are endowed with reasoning minds that make judgments, based on facts and evidence (well, some of us). As a longtime political junkie, faced with a phenomenon so dramatically altering our political landscape, I worked hard to learn the facts about Trump. And even before the election, it was clear that he is a very bad man. Far worse than I could ever have imagined in a president. Bad through and through, in every aspect of character and personality. Columnist Thomas Friedman used the words “disgusting human being.”

I have supported that judgment by marshaling facts, and was ringing the alarm bell before the election. Afterward, I was actually prepared to be surprised — hoping Trump might rise to the magnitude of the responsibility thrust upon him. Yet I also warned that power doesn’t make bad men better. Alas, it’s the latter that has proven true.

In contrast to my own carefully considered judgment, grounded in judicious evaluation of all relevant facts, Trump flings around verbal bombs in utter disregard of them. One of his most odious traits. Like his insulting John McCain’s war hero status. Accusing Obama of bugging him. All that “weak on borders, weak on crime” garbage. Calling numerous honest people “liars,” day in and day out. His “spygate” accusation against the FBI, deliberately and falsely undermining public confidence in our institutions of rule of law. The list goes on and on. Res ipsa loquitur.

So —

Kathy Griffin’s severed head? Tasteful it wasn’t. But she’s a comic, after all. And this was another metaphor, for what would be Trump’s just comeuppance for what he’s done to this country — removal from office in humiliation and disgrace.

The civility issue

Nielsen (I tried to find the nastiest looking picture)

The Nielsen episode? In this democracy, public officials — especially the highest — are answerable to citizens. That comes with the job. Calling her out in a restaurant may not have been polite and decorous but those citizens had a right to express disapproval of her official conduct when an opportunity arose. A cabinet member cannot expect to leave it all behind at the office at 5 PM. In this case, the irony of her eating in a Mexican restaurant was too rich. And in the moral balance, does Nielsen’s being shouted at compare with taking children away from parents? (And Trump’s falsely blaming Democrats for it?)

The civility issue

Sanders

The Sanders episode? The 1964 Civil Rights Act assures equal access to public venues for racial minorities and the like. Its protections don’t cover public officials who are bathed in lies. That restaurateur had a right to express her political opinion by kicking Sanders out.

DeNiro? When I call Trump what I call him, it’s always in the context of some specific transgression, my disapproval of which is fully explained (as here), with an effort to persuade readers to my point of view. This was not true of DeNiro’s ejaculation, making it kind of pointless.

The civility issueBut finally, once more, if all this rawness is not your cup of tea, you know who’s to blame. The malodorous defecation product.

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