Stay Angry, my friends
November 15, 2016 1 Comment
This column from Leon Wieseltier may be my favorite post-election take yet. You really should read all of it. Or, at least the bit below:
But Trump’s victory, we are told, was owed mainly to the hatred of Washington, which is plainly dysfunctional. It is indeed hard to say a kind word about Congress, which could not even find a way to act against Zika when it mattered most. But this, too, is rich. Republicans contribute significantly to the breaking of the system, and then they thunder to the country that the system is broken. They refuse to govern, and then they denounce government. They seem to confuse governing with having their way. And more to the point, how does this vast alienation from Washington excuse this vast contempt for whole groups and races and genders? [emphasis mine] The same question must be asked of the anti-elitism upon which Trump based his campaign. Never mind the bad joke of the billionaire from Fifth Avenue and Palm Beach pretending to be an outsider, a man of the margins. The real issue is the relationship of social status to decency. There is no such relationship. It is not elitist to respect Muslims and Mexicans and African Americans and women and immigrants and Jews, and a blue collar is not a moral pass. A college education is not a requirement for, nor a guarantee of, a moral compass: There are educated members of the American elite who spectacularly lack one, such as the man who was elected president Tuesday. And there are “poorly educated” Americans who abundantly express kindness and solidarity for Americans unlike themselves. Neither the elites nor the masses have a monopoly on qualities of character. But Trump’s American vision despises people at the top and people at the bottom. It is an inclusive vision.
The demons that have haunted our society for decades and even centuries, the vile illiberalism that currently disgraces other governments in the West, will now inhabit the White House. Difficult times are giving way to dark times, and dark times require a special lucidity and a special vigilance and a special ferocity about principle. We must not lose our faith in moral progress and in social progress, but we must remember that moral progress and social progress are not linear and unimpeded and inevitable. There will always be reversals and setbacks, because change rattles the world that preceded it. If you demand justice, prepare for instability, and for the exploitation of instability by political reactionaries who weaken the wounded with nostalgia and fantasies of exclusiveness. The struggle for reform is often succeeded by the struggle to repeal reform. Trumpism, insofar as it is coherently anything, is a great promise of repeal. If Trump succeeds in his repeal, then the fight for the repeal of the repeal must begin. There is nothing Sisyphean or cynical about this. It is the abiding condition of a democracy comprising conflicting ideals. The fight is never over.