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What We Learned About Each Other

What We Learned About Each Other

It was definitely over in July 2015. Donald Trump stood onstage and stated in front of God and everyone that John McCain is, “not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” As we all know, Republicans respect service and sacrifice. Republicans are people who still fly that MIA flag. Republicans may tolerate many things, but insulting the sacred obligation of service to country is the highest blasphemy.

His poll numbers rose. His comments only grew more erratic, racist and offensive. Within a few months he was the clear leader in the GOP race for President, a position he’s never relinquished. A ‘Time for Choosing’ arrived, and our Republican neighbors, almost all of them white (or aspiring to be), chose badly.

What followed of course was a series of disasters that haven’t yet rolled to a halt. In the month before Trump took office I wrote, “It is difficult to map out any credible end to the Trump era that does not place a sad new national holiday on the calendar to remember those we lost.” Our pandemic death toll now approaches a million, a death toll rivaling the poorest, most disorganized nations on earth and Republicans still clamor for more.

Americans cultivate a strange mythology of niceness. We have believed that all our public endeavors are somehow separate from questions of personal decency or morality. We should never lose friends over politics, any more than we would lose friends over our favorite football team or food preferences. For Americans, politics is supposed to be a value-free space, a land of sterile administrata with no real consequence for our lives. This was always a lie. Politics is always, at all times, a matter of life and death. Our cult of civility was a lovely delusion. I’ll confess that I miss it.

What I hate most about the past half decade is what we learned about each other. Call me naive, but I never imagined that uncles, cousins and friends I loved and respected would so effortlessly embrace Fascism. I never imagined they would elevate some TV conman to a deity. I never would have believed that they would threaten my life or sacrifice their own to appease some tawdry, pop-culture god. Anyone who has followed this space for some time knows I’ve long warned of trouble from America’s core of committed racists and religious nuts. I didn’t know how bad it was. I had no idea that my friends, family and neighbors would be willing to kill me for a lie. This lesson cannot be unlearned.

How bad is it?

Back in the fall a maskless, unvaccinated high school friend died suddenly from a COVID infection. He was an impressive, well-loved figure claimed before his time, leaving behind a young family and a burgeoning business. In normal times, one might imagine such a tragedy might inspire introspection. These are not those times. His funeral was held in a church with hundreds of maskless people crammed together. It’s a statistical certainty that his family killed others by holding this event. You can calculate the risks here. This was not an unusual occurrence. As a white Southerner, I can name dozens of these cases. None of them created any evident change of heart.

What have we learned about each other? We’ve learned that Republicans will not only kill you, they’ll kill each other or even themselves over politics without the slightest hint of concern. They need have no reason at all beyond group loyalty or obedience to their god. No rational intervention, no evidence, not even a consequence falling on them personally can be counted on to dissuade them. We are beyond the value-free politics of the past. Our Republican friends and family are playing for keeps.

Elections don’t matter anymore. Laws don’t matter. Respect for flag, country, service family or honor can no longer be trusted. Republicans will literally kill their grandparents if their leaders tell them it’s right. This is not a guess or a projection. It’s what they’re saying in public, on television.

What have my white uncles and cousins and friends taught me in recent years? They taught me that I can’t trust them not to kill me.

COVID brought all these lessons home, transformed them from suspicions to established fact. However, let’s not forget the demonstrations of horror that built up in the preceding years. Those early days of the Trump campaign were confusing. Republicans appeared to have betrayed everything they valued in favor of a skeevy conman. No more loathsome creature could have been conjured from a witches’ cauldron of human darkness. The best that can be said of Donald Trump is that he had never murdered anyone, at least until the pandemic started.

Trump was a party buddy of Jeffrey Epstein who frequently commented on the sexual attractiveness of his underaged daughter. He was sued by one of Epstein’s victims for raping her when she was 13, in a strange case quietly hushed up in 2016.

Married three times, his first lady is a former nude model whose original visa status is, at best, suspect. He made a living through money laundering and shady real estate deals, drawing his first money laundering fine in the 90’s and his most recent just as his campaign was kicking off. While running for President he settled a fraud case related to his phony university, then lost the ability to run charities due to his family’s unapologetic embezzlement from those charities. He got explicit, open help on his campaign from the Russians, part of an espionage case that would land several campaign aides in prison while yet another scam earned him the title “Unindicted Co-conspirator #1.

Donald Trump is a professional criminal. A horrible, miserable human being with no redeeming qualities. He was a lousy businessman, a failson who turned his massive inheritance into a cascade of failures. His only successes came through fraud or outright crimes. All of this happened out in the open. None of it was hard to discover. My white Republican friends and family just don’t care.

Why? It was never that hard to understand. I just refused to believe that people I otherwise loved and respected had this dark strain in their souls. Donald Trump made his appeal plain in his very first campaign speech, blaming the problems of America’s good, honest white people on “Mexicans.” Apart from his crystal clear appeals to racism, every other element of his campaign was a word salad. One day he promised universal health care, the next he railed on socialism, but he was always consistent on his determination to be the savior of the poor, mistreated white race. Trump is America’s White Messiah.

My white friends and family have proven they’ll kill for no reason more meaningful than the vague suggestion of restored white supremacy. Along the way they’ll tear down everything that works, from public schools and libraries to the environment on which we all depend, to satisfy their white god.

When confronted with the realities of what they’ve done, they called the truth lies. They have done this all in service of an archaic white nationalism, a unifying mythology that can never bind this nation together again. Republicans are not “deceived.” They have the same access to the Washington Post that everyone else has. They have chosen the Orwellian reality they want to experience. They will destroy anything and anyone that threatens their cult reality.

Republicans have already seceded, quite openly and publicly, from our democracy. No common ground can be reached. We will defeat them or they will destroy the American experiment and kill many more of us along the way. We are beyond the reach of electoral politics, regardless what reality we’d prefer to live in. Being nice, appealing to a lost civility, hoping for the protection of the law, none of these plans will work. We have been warned. Our Republican friends, family and neighbors have warned us in the clearest possible terms.

Whatever we thought we might have done in Germany in 1933, it’s time to do that now. What do you do when “Never Again,” comes again, when a toxic political cult threatens to destroy democracy? You fight.


  1. Chris – Thank you for saying so eloquently what I have been saying for years now. I am horrified by seeing my well-educated family members and community surrender their critical facilities to follow Trumpist, racist, fascist policies and propaganda. I am beyond grief stricken to see this happening not just to me, but to families and communities across the country.

    Sending you affection and hope in your illness. I am a cancer survivor (so far) and resonate with your experience.
    Be well.

  2. I really don’t know what historians will be left to write about the end of the U.S. as a superpower, but we are all front row seats to it.

    Someday, perhaps academics, somewhere, will be able to frame the damage done by the tyrant to world democracy. Would china and russia be anywhere as powerful and confident in their reach if the loser party had put forth a candidate other than Hillary, or more so, if the american people had the sense not to install the tyrant in 2016?

    As bad as the tyrant has been, and will be, for the U.S., the global implications are oh so more far-reaching, lasting long after the tyrant’s reign and likely his children/ disciples’ reign ends. Democracy has taken 10 steps backwards, and is teetering on the precipice.

  3. I assume most who are commenting here are White. Think we have worries? Imagine the fear (and anger) of members of the Black community. They know clearly who will get the shortest end of an already short stick.

    I don’t know what to do but I do know there are people who are still down in the trenches trying – going door to door (TX) to make sure people are checking their voter registrations, registering new voters, attending redistrictricting/gerrymandering hearings, getting on the phone/email/texting with elected officials. Is it enough? Probably not, but at least they are trying to do more than just send a donation.

    The Ukraine situation is fraught with danger. Biden is steadily losing American’s support – many believe – deservedly so. Between the current internal mess managing Omicron (we expected far better than T), the Afghanistan fiasco, the lackluster (to say the least) performance of AG Garland and the DoJ (please, Mr. President – “do” kick a little ass here!) inflation (not all his fault but on his watch, and very real to every American), the very real potential of war with Russia, all on the presipace of mid-terms, I’d say there are problems ahead…..Can you imagine the hayday for Republicans when they take control of both houses of Congress, aided and abetted by this Scotus, reinforced by the Republican led states – gubernatorial and legislatively?

    Yes, the future looks bleak to me but not reading about it in Political Orphans or elsewhere because it is depressing, is foolish. Thanks Chris, for ploughing on. I know my comment lacks hope but it’s where I am. Too few people are aware of the danger all around us. I, for one, have never underestimated Republicans. As for T, if he is not the Republican candidate, we are looking at DeSantis – a much smarter, equally mean alternative. If Biden isnt’ the Democratic candidate – who in the party can/will step up?

  4. Jon

    According to Newt, they will first come for the members of the Jan 6th Committee.
    After that, they will come after Biden with impeachments. By the time they come for me, there will be no representatives left to speak for me.

    I believe a lot of people are placing a lot of hope in the Jan 6th Committee – but the worst they can do are criminal referrals to the Justice Department. Bannon flouts a subpoena, and his trial isn’t until this summer. The instigators know they can run out the clock, and a get-out-of-jail-free card is theirs as long as they don’t roll over on Trump. And he’s re-elected (which is a safe bet given the rigged playing field that has been prepared for 2024).

    True, the Committee can show the American public exactly what happened on Jan 6th, in excruciating detail before the mid-terms, but will it make one iota of difference to the true believers? They will literally give up their lives to “own the libs” rather than accept vaccinations. The ongoing Covid crisis is one of the main factors in Biden’s disapproval ratings being so low, compared to what he has managed to accomplish even with GOP resistance.

    I don’t see many Democrats, at the national or local level, with that same level of insanity. I think many of us have fooled ourselves into thinking we’re playing the long game, and will run out the clock with demographic change. That may be so – but what sort of country will the multi-ethnic youth inherit?

  5. DFC

    We’re in a political telling of “Lord of the Flies”. Everyone has that dark strain in them, but for some, it’s an objectionable, regrettable side of our characters and we keep it under tight rein. For others, it’s a crawling animal always testing its cage. It just needs permission to do what it wants to do. Trump lives his life like that, an opportunistic predator. He preys, takes, burns, and moves on, always taking advantage of the naïve decency of his victims who can’t imagine such depravity wearing a suit and charming his audiences.

    His followers love him because he gives them permission. He sets himself up as an example they can follow. He sells them the promise that you can be like him.

    That Trump should be their political leader now is their admission that in their minds, democracy has failed; which is only to say that it has actually worked. By the majority’s standards, Trumpists have lost.

    History is rhyming here. The CSA fired on Fort Sumter only when their political loss was certain and their ideological arguments had collapsed. January 6 was the Trumpists’ Fort Sumter, for the same reasons. Like the example of their forebears, this secession has already failed. They have no place to go. They can’t reverse history by standing athwart it yelling stop. The GOP has fed its herd on logical fallacies for fifty years, and now they live in a place and a time when the currency of their thinking is like Confederate paper, unbacked by any real value. Their irrationality, their rage to make reality reflect their beliefs, thrill them in Trump rallies, but when they break their formations and try trading on that thinking in any real setting, they’re rejected. They can’t transact with these mindless lies. They’re surrounded, owned, split in their own lives with one side paying their bills, holding jobs, living in the enemy’s world on the enemy’s standards; and on the other, furiously insisting that conservatives have a right to their own reality, and if the rest of us don’t honor their currency, they have a right to strike back.

    They know they can’t win. They’re not after victory now. They’re fighting reason and empiricism applied so ubiquitously there’s no retreat from it anywhere. They want romantic failure, with the most noble-seeming sacrifice.

    How the Democrats fail to see this is a mystery. They represent the “reality-based community” that the Right has tried and failed to leave or defeat. Their failure of imagination keeps them stuck in the trench war that buys time for the Right. They need to talk straight past their enemies across the aisle and talk about property rights with Texans whose water is being poisoned by someone else’s fracking, and with Floridians who can’t monetize the sunlight–their sunlight–that falls on their roofs. They need to talk with the high school educators and students whose libraries are being culled for anything that might broaden their minds, and parents of kids who need to run active shooter drills in their schools. They won’t convert people who’d die before getting the vaccine, but they can appeal to the common sense of voters on issues where the GOP reveals itself to be by, of, and for the wealthy few. The dark side is morally wrong, yes, but it’s economically impractical and costly first and worst to the people who embrace it. The GOP in Texas and Florida are dumping billions in surcharges on ratepayer bills so the utilities can stay in control of supply. That’s the war these people are in every day, and it’s where they’re cannon-fodder for the Right. They live and work in enemy’s world on the enemy’s standards. They have to pay their bills with reason and empiricism like it or not. If we’re expecting war, let’s have our war our way, the war we have won already. The Trump side’s biggest problem should be desertion from inside the rank and file.

  6. Ukraine is about to be invaded by russia. china just did its 2nd largest flyby of Taiwan (of course, the 4 U.S. and one Japanese aircraft carrier exercising east of Taiwan may have had something to do with that). china and russia routinely imprison political dissenters, or they fall out of windows.

    The U.S. “justice system” and military will be in the hands of the same kind of people in 3 years. Yeah, people should look up what old newt said yesterday.

    There is only one way to mitigate the damage. Cutting off the head of the snake will trigger all kinds of violence. But the alternative is far worse. Are the lives of the tyrant and his inner circle worth more than the republic?

    I also note the steady drop-off of people responding to, and I assume reading, Chris’ blog, as his views become more bleak.

    1. I have been a steady reader of Chris’ site since early 2016. I always read every entry. I do not always respond, however. Unless I feel I can actually add to the conversation. So, there may be others like me lurking in the weeds, looking for common sense in an insane world.

      I try to take heart from those around me who have not lost their collective minds. But some days really scare me. I live in CA in a very blue county surrounded by like-minded folk. However, I have friends who have moved out of the Central Valley because they fear their neighbors since Trump and COVID.

      California is by no means an all blue state. We have the far north trying to create a new state of Jefferson, southern counties where no one votes, LA, well LA is a country of the mind unto itself. The Bay Area is diverse, friendly and only a little nuts. Anyone able to maintain a majority representation in our local governments has to do a little horse-trading. But that gets harder and harder as the opposition wants to trade sawdust for a thoroughbred and won’t take no for an answer.

      Right now I am delving into the history of how Germany’s conviction of Hitler and sentencing him to prison for five years ended up with him finally controlling the country. What I am seeing so far: even his jailers thought well of him and favored him. So even if we send TFG and his cohorts to prison, will we really be free of this fascism on the rise? I cannot believe this is where we are.

      Bleak am I.

  7. Aside from supporting and urging political candidates, donating to causes that fight anti-democratic action, speaking up when I am personally interacting/affected, supporting others who do, and working for a new world in my day to day work, I find the hardest thing for me to think about is exactly how else I can fight.

    What actions actually amount to an effective resistance? I live in a blue state in a very blue city and county and wonder what else should I be doing?

    Would love to read a post about proposals for effective action, otherwise I feel like I am just biding time till some ultimate civil war to break out.

    1. I would too. Though it makes me feel ashamed, I have a lot to lose from taking direct action. I’d be risking my job, my home, and if my state’s prosecutors are anything like those in some other states, I could get arrested at a protest and charged with dozens of felonies with an aim for a life sentence. And they’re still doing that under Biden.

  8. I have always loved the truth and mostly never followed the herd. Which is why this old deep south white senior sees it the same way. Surprisingly we are not alone. Trust me plenty of others see too. In my southern extended family most agree with us. With minorities our cohort about 40% of whites makes up the majority. I want the multiethnic cultural coming Democracy.

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