Good Guys Bad Guys

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President Donald Trump confronted one of the most perilous moments of his presidency Tuesday after two onetime members of his inner circle simultaneously were labeled “guilty” of criminal charges.
Daily Herald 8/21/2018

Did the Good Guys Just Rescue America From the Bad Guys?
What Fixing, Saving, or Rescuing America Really Means (to Me)

By Umair
August 21, 2018

I dont often writeabout daily political events - noise, not signal - but I’ll reluctantly make an exception, given toda’s spectacular ones. Could they be a turning point for a beleaguered America?

The good news is that Americas proven (finally) that it has one working institution of governance: the judiciary. The bad news is that America is that it has two profoundly, badly, perhaps fatally broken ones: the executive and the legislature. Now, that might seem obvious. But itҒs more significant than you might think.

This is a not uncommon position for failing states to find themselves in. The judiciary becomes the last bulwark of governance, something like the last piston in the engine of democracy. And so a nation can limp along, for decades, often, with just a functioning judiciary, while executives and legislatures are deeply corrupt - just as many Latin American and Asian countries have. It doesn’t go much of anywhere - it sputters, rolls forward in inch, moves backward, and so on. In many ways, that’s what a kleptocracy is - a place where there are so many, so flagrant, crooks in government, the judiciary, which is the last functioning institution, overloaded, can barely keep up.

So the first way to answer the question is: the judiciary might have SET A KIND OF FLOOR to American collapse, putting a safety net in place just above the bottom of the abyss. Thats a welcome development. But will America hit it?

What about the executive and the legislature? Well, history suggests that authoritarians and FASCISTS hardly give in and exit shamefully when theyҒre challenged - precisely because they dont have a sense of shame. In fact, they double down - bellowing even more preposterous excuses, rationales, and justifications for misbehaviour. Why is that? Because the only way that a narcissist really knows how to relate, much like a mafia, is through the raw exercise of egoistic power. If you canҒt rub it in peoples faces, and get away with it, make a public spectacle of it - then you haven’t really intimidated anyone at all, and therefore, you are nothing, worthless, laughable, the proverbial “loser” and that is the worst thing of all to be, something that strikes clawing fear into the heart of a narcissist. So while you might hope for apple-cheeked resignations, and walks of shame, its probably unlikely to be the case. One can always dream, though - and IҒd be delighted to be proven wrong.

Now, they might seem absurd to you and to double down on absurd excuses, at this point of moral outrage. But that is missing the point. Remember, the minds of the people who’ve become proto-fascists have stopped working at this point in the cycle - they are seething, instead, with imaginary grievances, illusory persecution complexes, in which they’ve become the victims of fictional, nightmarish enemies, with the power to destroy them whole. Of course, little Mexican kids cant destroy anyone, really - but that’s not how the fascist mind sees it. And so the excuses - the more absurd they are - will be lapped up by the faithful, which is precisely what the authoritarian mind seems to intuitively grasp.

I think this point is often misunderstood, so I want to make it clear. The more that an authoritarian or fascist is attacked, the more support hardens into a kind of unbreakable bond. The authoritarian is the surrogate parent, and taking them away from the regressed child, who fears imaginary monsters, is to remove all safety. Just as a kid attacks the person attacking their parent does - no matter how abusive the parent might be. They believe in the goodness of their protector all the more. So American politics, which are already polarized, are likely only to polarize more (as incredible as that might seem.)

And that brings me to the third branch of government - the legislature. We might well imagine that the modern-day GOP will come its senses, and do the needful. But we are decent people, and they are opportunists and scoundrels to a degree that calling them kleptocrats would be a compliment. They are hardly likely to act out of concern for either the republic, or even their own good names. Instead, its more likely that as they see support for the authoritarian hardening, they follow the political tide -and offer their own preposterous excuses and justifications for not doing what is right, in order to please extremists. Again, Id be delighted to be proven wrong. But as I ask myself: what would they gain from doing the right thing? The answer seems to me to be: nothing at all. And they are more self-interested creatures than any piranha has ever been.

So where does that leave us? Did the good guys just rescue American from the bad guys? Not yet, my friends, not yet. But I feel you probably already know this - as much as you might not want to admit just yet. I think its wiser to say: the good guys have set off a kind of chain reaction now, whose effects will be as inescapable as they will be explosive. Only it’s hard to know whether that fire will consume the republic, or whether it will cauterize its wounds.

(If you understand all the above, then the chain reaction thats been set off tonight, by hardening fascist support, by pushing authoritarians into a corner, by making the legislature fall into line all the more easily, might just cleave America apart even more than it is already is. ThatҒs not to say the good guys shouldnt have acted. Of course they should have. ItҒs only to say that political choices often have perverse consequences. And yet if all that energizes Americans to vote in the mid-terms, then, by a circuitous route, democracy will have worked to shield itself.)

Now, if you want to really talk about saving America, then the challenges only really barely begin with a shift in political tides. The really hard work comes after the bad guys leave office. What happens then? Americans have to catch up with the modern world - they are at least half a century behind, when it comes to a working social contract. They must develop a working economy - not just a predatory machine. A polity which represents people - not land. And so on - all the institutional changes which I and many others have discussed over the years.

But most crucially of all - and I think this is the part that too few really get, and even fewer discuss - Americans must build a society in which this can never, ever happen again. Ever. Do you know how hard that is? What it took in Germany, South Africa, or Argentina?

That means a period of self-examination and self-reflection. How did we get here? Why have we diverged so far from our ideals? How did we become the kind of nation that is universally mocked and feared and scorned? Why do we always seem to take the low road, as a people - cruelty, greed, rage, violence? What will it take to be able to take the high road, of gentleness, wisdom, truth, and liberation? What is it in us that is so ashamed, afraid, and wounded, that it leads downwards, where it can unrestrain itself to do its worst, again and again - and more and more often now - not upwards, where we can all struggle mightily to be our best? What is that part of us? What happened to hurt it so?

Because a society is a living thing, too, my friends. And living things do not lash out in rage and shock unless they are hurt, wounded, bitterly, desperately afraid for their very being, in some way. That is where America is, and has been, for far too long. And yet no one at all seems to ask why, in a gentle way, in a giving way, in a compassionate way - in the way a loving parent might, to a little frightened child. What is it that has wounded America so badly that - even though it is the most powerful one of - fearing for its very being, it acts out a deep, deep sense of rage, shame, fear, and humiliation, over and over again?

Americans don’t like questions like that. I don’t say that to condemn them. I say it, if anything, with empathy. I hardly blame them. They are difficult, painful, piercing questions to ask of ones self. And yet it is the hallmark of a mature, confident society - just as it is a person - to be able to ask them, and laugh, not just through the pain, but or at the pain, or even despite the pain. But with a kind of happiness. Because the pain of self-revelation is precisely what contains all the characteristics of maturity - curiosity, courage, compassion, self-awareness. These questions of shortcoming and limitation and frailty are how a person, just as a society, develops, flourishes, really becomes itself.

America has spent too long acting out its childhood traumas, if you ask me. Like an abandoned, neglected thing, it became a society which endlessly took its rage, sparked by an all-consuming, soul-crushing fear of annihilation, out on the most vulnerable and weakest among it - and when that wasn’t enough, around it. But now it’s time for America to grow up. Because a society cannot stay a childlike thing forever - it ends up where America has gone for the last two years, forever.

The good guys, bless them, cannot make anyone do all that. That part is up to a society, one day, and one step, at a time.